Concept analysis: abuse of ageing caregivers by elderly care recipients


Martha Ayres, College of Nursing, University of Arizona, 1305 N. Martin, PO Box 210203, Tucson, AZ 85721-0203, USA. E-mail:


Concept analysis: abuse of ageing caregivers by elderly care recipients

Purpose. The purpose of this article is to clarify the concept of abuse within the context of ageing women who are at risk for or experiencing physical or emotional injury inflicted by elderly family members for whom they provide care.

Background. The study of abuse of ageing individuals in family caregiving situations has traditionally focused on abuse of the dependent care receiver. However, evidence supports the health risks related to abuse of ageing caregivers as well. Women, usually spouses, daughters, or daughters-in-law, most frequently assume the caregiver role.

Methods. A modification of the strategies for concept analysis proposed by Walker and Avant (1995) is used to clarify the concept of caregiver abuse. Searches of the professional literature reveal that caregiver abuse is rarely addressed; therefore, the broader concept of elder abuse is reviewed and then placed within the general context of family caregiving. Audiotapes of the first session of a community based intervention research study entitled Intervention for the Abuse of Ageing Caregivers (Phillips et al., NIH Grant No. R01 DA-AG11155-01, 1996), in which ageing women caregivers described abusive caregiving situations, were analysed qualitatively using the principles of concept analysis. The audiotapes serve as a second source of data for the concept analysis process.

Findings. Antecedents, defining characteristics, and consequences of abuse of ageing caregivers were identified through the process of concept analysis. Model, contrary, and borderline cases are presented to illustrate the findings.

Conclusions. Findings supported the need for awareness that ageing caregivers can be placed at risk by verbally and physically abusive behaviours of the elders for whom they provide care. Use of the term ‘abuse’ by health care professionals has potentially negative consequences for identification and intervention in cases of potential or actual caregiver abuse.