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Addressing Elder Abuse

Garcia & Artigliere

It’s an issue that requires dire attention. Although we’re taught to treat our elders with care and respect, many of our parents and grandparents suffer from elder abuse. A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal estimates that 5 to 10 percent of seniors experience elder abuse. Many victims are unable or unwilling to come forward, leading to continued abuse. Health providers and community members alike must raise awareness to stop this shameful crime.

Screening for Elder Abuse

One of the greatest barriers is accurate screening for elder abuse. Without proper evidence, physicians and lawyers have a hard time bringing cases of elder abuse to light. However, this doesn’t mean we should ignore the issue.

Dr. Xuyi Mimi Wang, a geriatric medicine fellow at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, encourages health care practitioners to look for signs and symptoms and elder abuse and take a more active role in the well-being of elderly patients. While there’s no guarantee the cases can be addressed, it’s important that clinicians have protocols in place to address this unfortunately common issue.

Types of Abuse

Elder abuse isn’t limited to physical or sexual abuse. Mental and emotional abuse, neglect and financial crimes are also major concerns. These signs of elder abuse are often harder to detect. If unchecked, ongoing abuse can lead to hospitalization, aggravation of underlying health conditions and mental illnesses, suffering, and death. If you suspect a senior citizen is suffering from abuse, elder abuse attorneys can determine if you have a case.

Resources for Physicians

In addition to workplace policies, there are several ways to screen for elder abuse:

  • The Brief Abuse Screen for the Elderly allows health care providers to assess patients for signs of abuse.
  • The Elder Abuse Suspicion Index is a quick and easy-to-understand survey that patients can fill out.
  • The Elder Assessment Instrument includes various criteria that may confirm elder abuse.
  • Caretakers can refer to the Indicators of Abuse Screen to check for signs of abuse in the home.

While all of the above tools can help, remember the Elder Abuse Suspicion Index is the only one to earn validation in primary care facilities.

Steps to Assess for Elder Abuse

Assessing for elder abuse requires a structured yet friendly approach.

  1. Establish clinical procedures to identify signs and symptoms of abuse.
  2. Evaluate the patient’s ability to make rational decisions before staging an intervention.
  3. Educate the patient about elder abuse without confronting them.
  4. Refer the patient to services such as law enforcement, elder abuse attorneys, support programs and other care options.

Because signs of elder abuse are similar to those of falls and other accidents, it can be difficult to prove a case. Awareness remains the best course of action. Programs should aim to educate senior citizens and medical professionals on signs of abuse and how to get help.

The law firm of Garcia & Artigliere specializes in helping victims of elder abuse get the justice and peace of mind they deserve. If you or your loved one is a victim of abuse, contact us today for a free case review.


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