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Elder Abuse Prevention Harmed By Under-Diagnosis in Emergency Rooms: Study

by John Gomez | Last Updated: October 20, 2016
Elder Abuse Prevention

Elder abuse is becoming more and more of a problem in the United States and around the world.  Everyone with an older person in his or her life needs to exercise constant vigilance in order to recognize this situation.  The reason is that it can happen to anyone at any time.  Family members, friends and anyone else who has regular contact with someone who is older needs to do everything possible to put a stop to elder abuse when they suspect that it’s occurring.  While our society has become more aware of the existence of this problem, elder abuse prevention remains a challenge.  Researchers recently published a study regarding the recognition of elder abuse in emergency departments across the United States.  That study revealed a problem with the level of recognition.  Below you’ll find the details of this study.

About the Elder Abuse Study

Researchers from the University of North Carolina, the University of California at San Diego and Weil Cornell Medicine collaborated on the study.  Those interested in reading the study’s abstract can find it here.  The researchers reviewed national databases that related to older people reporting to emergency rooms in the United States.  The study concluded that emergency departments diagnosed elder abuse in 1 out of every 7,700 visits to emergency departments.  The researchers also found that:

  • Neglect accounted for 32.9 percent of cases recorded.
  • Physical abuse accounted for 32.2 percent of cases.
  • Women were much more likely to be diagnosed with elder abuse than men.
  • Elder abuse was badly under-diagnosed overall.

The researchers also stated that they are developing a text that emergency departments can use to help identify elder abuse when it’s occurring.  This test will expand upon the number of questions that emergency department personnel ask older patients when they arrive at the hospital.  Facilities in North Carolina, Michigan and Alabama will test this expanded elder abuse detection tool.

Elder Abuse Prevention and Warning Signs

The study reveals problems regarding the recognition of elder abuse.  It also reveals that we as a society need to continue to work to improve our prevention and recognition of this terrible problem.  Elder abuse prevention requires constant involvement in the lives of older people.  Loved ones, friends and other contacts need to regularly ask questions of anyone who is receiving care.  Asking questions about the quality of care will help to more quickly identify a problem when something is wrong.  People also need to recognize the warning signs of elder abuse.  Examples of these warning signs include:

  • Unexplained physical injuries
  • The appearance of bed sores
  • Sudden and radical changes in personality
  • The refusal to see people
  • A change in a person’s financial situation
  • Weight loss

There are others, but the bottom line is that if you suspect that a loved one is suffering through elder abuse, you need to act on that suspicion instead of telling yourself that everything will work out.  Older people who require care are often extremely vulnerable to harm.  Every instance of abuse can inflict serious if not permanent damage.

You also need to take action to restore a loved one’s dignity and safety if he or she suffering through elder abuse.  Contact an elder abuse lawyer at Gomez Trial Attorneys as soon as possible to schedule a free initial consultation.

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