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Study: Radiologist Training and Identifying Elder Abuse

by John Gomez | Last Updated: December 21, 2016
Identifying Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is an enormous problem in the United States.  We continue to look for new ways to recognize it because a majority of cases are never reported.  The best way to either minimize or even eradicate elder abuse is for more people to become engaged in recognizing its signs.  Some people are looking for different types of groups to get involved.  Those doing so are looking at people who would come into contact with older Americans anyway.  One group of people who fit this description is radiologists.  Given their contact with elder Americans, researchers have recently completed a study that analyzes the possibility of radiologists identifying elder abuse and perhaps doing something about it.  The study uncovers both promising possibilities and troubling current realities.  An overview of the study appears below along with additional information that may help others in identifying elder abuse.

About the Radiology and Elder Abuse Study

Researchers from the United States and Canada collaborated on the study.  It was recently published in the American Journal of Roentgenology.  Those interested in reading the abstract of the study can find it here.  The researchers interviewed 19 different radiologists at an urban academic medical center.  They then reviewed the data from these interviews in an attempt to locate different patterns.  The researchers asked the following questions:

  • Have you ever received training with regards to identifying elder abuse?
  • Do you believe you have missed cases of elder abuse?
  • Has a referring physician ever asked you to assess images for the purpose of identifying elder abuse?
  • Would you like to receive more training with regards to identifying elder abuse?

The radiologists generally answered the questions as follows:

  • Only 2 of the 19 radiologists had ever been formally trained in identifying elder abuse.
  • Every radiologist believed that he or she had missed cases of elder abuse over time.
  • Most radiologists had never had a referring physician ask about identifying elder abuse.
  • Every radiologist wanted more training so that they could more easily recognize potential elder abuse.

The radiologists also specified certain radiographic findings that could indicate elder abuse, including:

  • Rib fractures
  • Injuries in multiple stages of healing
  • Injuries inconsistent with reported mechanism of harm

Basically, radiologists specified injuries that indicate high-energy impact as those that would potentially lead to better accuracy in identifying elder abuse.

Current Problems in Identifying Elder Abuse

As stated above, it seems clear that society in general needs more people engaged in the effort of identifying elder abuse.  As it currently stands, most estimates indicate that approximately 10 percent of Americans who are at least 60 years old experience some form of elder abuse.  In addition, the National Council on Aging shared a study that revealed that only 1 out of 14 cases of elder abuse is ever reported to authorities, or 7 percent of all possible cases.  While no one is certain about how many older Americans are abused, it seems that every expert agrees that a troubling number of incidents are never properly dealt with because no one but the abuser and the target ever realizes that this is happening.

Current Elder Abuse Statistics

As mentioned above, the population of the United States is aging.  According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, or the NCEA, the following number of people were, are or will be at least 65 years old in conjunction with the following years:

  • 1900 – 15 million
  • 1950 – 30 million
  • 2000 – Over 40 million
  • 2020 – Over 60 million
  • 2050 – Over 80 million

The NCEA also reports the following data for Americans at least 85 years old:

  • 1900 – 3 million
  • 1950 – 4 million
  • 2000 – 10 million
  • 2020 – 10 million
  • 2050 – 17 million

If the estimate that 10 percent of elders are abused is accurate, that means that in 2050, nearly 10 million people will have suffered through some form of elder abuse.  That is nearly the equivalent of the population of the state of North Carolina.

Warning Signs – Identifying Elder Abuse

We have posted before about the warning signs of elder abuse.  Identifying elder abuse is not something that’s limited to one group or one profession – everyone needs to do what they can to make sure that they are minimizing the number of times that this mistreatment occurs.  A more generalized breakdown of these warning signs includes:

  • Sudden appearance of physical injuries
  • The appearance of unexplained financial problems
  • Radical changes in personality
  • An unwillingness to talk about daily life
  • A strange pattern of not being able to see visitors

There are clearly many others, but the bottom line is that people need to be watchful for any warning signs of abuse.  They also need to act on them as quickly as possible if they suspect that something is wrong.  In this situation, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

How Elder Abuse Lawyers Can Help

If you find yourself in the terrible situation where a loved one is suffering from elder abuse, you do have options available to you.  Aside from contacting the proper authorities, you may also be able to recover financial damages from those responsible for this harm.  In order to learn more about your options, contact the San Diego elder abuse lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys as soon as possible to schedule a free initial consultation.

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