GPs' Experiences of Managing Elder Abuse: A Qualitative Study

Caroline McCaughey, Liz/ EA Laird, Bernie Reid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Internationally, elder abuse is underreported. Health professionals have statutory responsibilities to intervene when action is required to safeguard older people living in the community. The GP is often the first health professional that an older person will turn to, when they want to report abuse perpetrated by a family carer. Currently, there is little research available in Ireland, the UK and internationally on GPs’ experiences of managing elder abuse of this nature.Aim: To explore GPs’ experiences of management of elder abuse perpetrated by a family carer.Design and Setting: Two focus groups were conducted, involving nine GPs in primary care in Northern Ireland. Method: Purposive sampling was used to recruit the GPs. The focus group discussions were audio-recorded and transcribed. Date were analysed using a process of thematic analysis.Results: The overarching theme of GPs feeling under-prepared for management of elder abuse perpetrated by a family carer permeated through all the data. Three subthemes were identified. These are ‘intervening to minimise potential for abuse’, ‘confronting challenge and isolation’, and ‘taking ownership of the responsibility to report abuse’. GPs highlighted learning needs relating to the practical application of safeguarding legislation. A number of important issues were raised that have implications for nursing practice. These include a sense of frustration that nurses distance themselves from GPs when elder abuse is suspected, a perception that some victims of elder abuse will encounter challenge in being believed, and the rising prevalence of medication misuse for financial gain in the community. Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate a need for greater collaboration between GPs, nurses and social workers in the management of elder abuse. An inter-professional elder abuse training programme may have value in enhancing knowledge and clarifying the role and responsibilities of GPs, nurses, social workers, and pharmacists in the prevention, identification and management of abuse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-31
JournalJournal of the All Ireland Gerontological Nursing Association
Issue number1
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 12 Mar 2018


  • Elder abuse
  • family caregiving
  • general practice
  • primary health care
  • qualitative research.


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