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Paths to perdition: exploring the trajectories of care staff who have abused older people in their care

Steve Moore (Birmingham, UK)

The Journal of Adult Protection

ISSN: 1466-8203

Article publication date: 23 July 2019




The purpose of this paper is to present findings from face-to-face interviews with three former care staff who were proven to have abused some of the older people living in the care and nursing homes in which they had once worked. The research sought to explore the intra-personal dynamics, personal characteristics and work experiences that led these staff to perpetrate abuse.


Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with three former care and nursing home staff who had committed abusive acts and the data secured subjected to thematic narrative analysis.


None of the three people interviewed had intended to become care staff and reported that the interview and induction processes they experienced did little to establish their suitability for the work they would be undertaking or to prepare them for its demands. Participants expressed their generally negative perceptions of older people, particularly those living with dementia, and told of how they also felt that they were under pressure to conform with the often abusive care home regimes that they had entered. They also recounted some specific abusive practices developed to allow them to manage the constant tension between the time available to complete all of the tasks required when “caring” for older people, and revealed their perceptions of external scrutiny of care home conduct and the behaviours developed to deflect the effectiveness of this oversight. Two interview participants also revealed their unfavourable attitudes to some of the people they were employed to care for that were based upon perceptions of ethnic differences, and of how this had contributed to the abuse they perpetrated.

Research limitations/implications

Though the research draws upon the experiences of only three former care staff, the data reveal some of the intra-personal dimensions of individual staff who have engaged in abusive acts, and illuminates how the care home environment with which they interact can engender conditions under which abuse is more likely to occur.


Unusually, the paper explores the characteristics, perceptions and experiences of care staff who have actually committed abusive acts against those entrusted to their care.



Moore, S. (2019), "Paths to perdition: exploring the trajectories of care staff who have abused older people in their care", The Journal of Adult Protection, Vol. 21 No. 3, pp. 169-189.



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