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Adriana Herrera Duarte


Master’s Degree in Social Work (2017), University of Sherbrooke

Baccalaureate Degree in Social Work (2010), University of Sherbrooke.

Multidisciplinary certificate in psychology and social work (2009), University of Sherbrooke.




Countering Mistreatment of Spanish-speaking Older Adults: reflections from an awareness program.




Master’s thesis completed in 2017


Spanish-speaking immigrants coming to Canada are permeated with their own culture and their own standards which may be different from those of the host society. This can result in culture shock, particularly among groups such as older adults. Culture influences the way in which each person perceives mistreatment and behaviours that are associated with it. In other words, what is recognized as mistreatment in Canada is not necessarily the case in other parts of the world. In Canada, it is acknowledged that mistreatment is often perpetrated by relatives and family members. Indeed, the definition adopted in 2002 from the Toronto Declaration states that it occurs within a relationship of trust. The consequences of mistreatment of older adults are numerous: deterioration of their overall health, weakening of relationships and a diminishing social network, isolation, etc. Many Spanish-speaking newcomers may not be aware of this Canadian interpretation of mistreatment and that such wrongdoing is subject to criminal proceedings. This situation deserves the attention and the involvement of the community at large, in order to raise awareness and prevent cases of mistreatment of older, Spanish-speaking immigrants.


The deeper question addressed in her thesis is: Are Spanish-speaking cultural communities aware that certain actions, originally a priori valid in their country of origin, may be considered as mistreatment in Québec?


To reach the goal of her thesis, Ms. Herrara established three objectives:

  • Describe the development and implementation of an awareness program of mistreatment of older adults;
  • Expose the challenges encountered as well as enabling factors;
  • Propose an enhanced mistreatment awareness program intended for older, Spanish-speaking adults. All this in a perspective of gerontological and intercultural social work, which takes into account the complexity of situations of mistreatment.


As part of her graduate studies in social work, Adriana’s internship experience with the Fédération des communautés culturelles de l’Estrie in the fall of 2015 contributed to her thesis. The purpose of this internship was to raise awareness in the Spanish-speaking community of mistreatment of older adults. During her internship, she developed awareness tools adapted to the realities of this community and she had the opportunity to test the tools already developed by Louise Buzit-Beaulieu as part of her work with cultural communities as provincial coordinator in countering mistreatment of older adults.

Adriana was able to collect much data through activities carried out during her internship: awareness-raising workshops on mistreatment, individual interventions with older immigrant women, development of various intervention tools and logbooks. She also carried out a scientific literature review on the representation of mistreatment of older adults in six Latin American countries: Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico and Peru; as well as her personal commitment to various community organizations, including Colombie Estrie.

A cross-analysis of data from literature and data from her internship led to the development of recommendations to improve the awareness raising work of social workers in their practice with older immigrants.


Adriana completed her thesis in the summer of 2017.

At the same time, in collaboration with cultural communities, Adriana was the instigator of an innovative project on the theme of mistreatment of older adults. It gave rise to an awareness walk entitled “We are not invisible”, in honour of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day which took place on June 15, 2016. This project focused on its intercultural and intergenerational aspects to encourage wellness care between generations. In particular, this walk brought together people of all ages and different cultures. This project was supported by various community organizations as well as by the regional coordinator for countering mistreatment of older adults in the Estrie region. This project complimented the data already analyzed by Adriana in her thesis.




Herrera Duarte, A. (2017). La lutte contre la maltraitance envers les personnes âgées hispanophones : réflexion à partir d’un programme de sensibilisation (Essai de maîtrise). Faculté des lettres et sciences humaines, École de travail social, Université de Sherbrooke, 173 p.