Elder abuse has become increasingly relevant for intervention and study in the context of an aging population. One of the major barriers to progress in the field is underreporting of elder abuse by victims. This systematic literature review aimed to synthesize the available findings regarding victims’ help-seeking behavior to inform practice, understand the limits of the evidence, and identify research gaps. A comprehensive search of published and unpublished literature was undertaken, and studies were included if they addressed help-seeking behavior from the perspective of elder abuse victims aged 60 and older. A total of 19 studies met inclusion criteria for review. Findings are presented as a narrative synthesis organized according to help-seeking barriers, facilitators, sources of help, the responses of others, and the characteristics of victims more likely to seek help. Although barriers and sources of help received detailed attention across all studies, findings regarding victim characteristics and facilitators for and responses to help-seeking were limited. The results suggest that there are many barriers to help-seeking and that some victims only seek help when the abuse is perceived as unbearable or they fear for their safety. Results are discussed in relation to implications for intervention, including suggestions to enhance help-seeking behavior. Future research should identify facilitators of help-seeking among victims of elder abuse and victim characteristics associated with early disclosure. Research efforts should frame help-seeking as a continuing process and study ways in which the responses of others may impact future help-seeking or service engagement.
- elder mistreatment
- elder neglect