REAGERA – Responding to Elder Abuse in Geriatric Care


In Swedish studies about 15% of older women and men report that they have been subjected to emotional, physical, sexual or financial abuse or neglect. The perpetrator is most often reported to be an intimate partner, other relatives and/or staff from elderly care. Only a few studies explore older adults own experience of being exposed to abuse.

Elder abuse is strongly associated with ill-health, but the abuse is often unknown to care givers. Health care professionals are reluctant to ask questions due to lack of training, time constraints, and fear of offending the patient. Using a screening instrument as a tool to identify older adults subjected to abuse has been suggested, but a validated instrument in Swedish has been lacking. Also, little is known about what kind of interventions older adults themselves want. 

The long-term goal of the REAGERA (Responding to Elder Abuse in GERiAtric care) project is to improve the identification of abused older adults and the response given to them within the health care system. In other parts of the research project we investigate abuse people suffering from dementia and evaluate the effects of an educational intervention for health care professionals about elder abuse.

Specific aims

Study I: Investigate health care professionals’ preparedness to identify and handle elder abuse
Study II: Validate a screening instrument for elder abuse.
Study III: Explore victims’ experiences of elder abuse.
Study IV: Explore preferred intervention for elder abuse among victims. 

Data collection took place in 2018 and we are currently working with data analyses. 

In study I health care professionals responded to a questionnaire about their experience of meeting older patients subjected to different forms of abuse. 

In study II a screening instrument (REAGERA-S) was tested among Swedish speaking in-hospital patients, age 65 years and older who were cognitively and physically well enough to participate. The results were satisfactory: sensitivity for life-time abuse was 71.9% and for elder abuse 87.5%. More about REAGERA-S and the validation results can be found here.

REAGERA-S is freely available and the English translation can be downloaded here. Though the instrument so far has only been validated in Swedish, it has also been translated to Arab, Bosnian, Farsi, French, Croatian, Polish, Serbian, Somali and Spanish. If you wish to take part of one of the translations, use the instrument on a regular basis or use it for research, please contact the copyright holder Johanna Simmons.

In study III and IV, qualitative interviews were conducted with older men and women who reported some form of victimization about their experience of abuse and their preferred intervention in health care. 

The study is expected to contribute by improving health care response to older adults subjected to abuse by: 
Improving methods to detect abuse among older patients
Explore victims’ own preference concerning interventions for elder abuse

This study is funded by the Swedish Crime Victim Fund and Region Östergötland.

REAGERA-logo-eng Photo credit: Nicolina Wiklund


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