Screening Might Catch More Cases of Elder Abuse
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Screening elderly adults for signs of abuse may catch many more cases than otherwise would be, a new study suggests.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Screening elderly adults for signs of abuse
may catch many more cases than otherwise would be, a new study
Israeli researchers found that while 6 percent of older adults in
their study admitted to being abused by a family caregiver when asked
directly, many more had evident signs of abuse or were at high risk of
The findings suggest that older adults should be routinely screened
for signs of abuse, or risk factors for it, when they enter a hospital
or a community service, the study's lead author told Reuters Health.
The study, which is published in the Journal of the American
Geriatrics Society, involved 730 men and women age 70 and older who
were hospitalized in two major Israeli medical centers. All were living
at home, but relied on a family member for help with day-to-day living.
When asked directly, 5.9 percent acknowledged that they'd suffered
some form of abuse from a family member. The types of abuse ranged from
physical and verbal abuse to neglect to financial exploitation.
However, when the researchers used two additional methods of
detecting potential abuse, the results were significantly different.
When nurses and social workers assessed the patients after they
entered the hospital -- interviewing them and conducting physical exams
-- they found evidence of abuse in 21 percent. These signs included
suspicious bruises and burns; angry or indifferent behavior in the
caregiver; and evidence that the patient was being neglected at home,
such as poor hygiene or dehydration.
What's more, the third measure of abuse -- which looked at risk
factors for abuse -- indicated that one-third of patients were at high
risk. Risk factors for abuse included problems such as emotional
instability and poor family relationships, in both caregivers and
The findings point to a need for routine screening of elderly adults
to "rule out the possibility of abuse," said lead study author Dr. Miri
Cohen, head of the department of gerontology at Haifa University.
Screening could be done at hospitals, Cohen noted, or at centers
that provide social services to the elderly. Because few older adults
may admit to abuse when questioned directly, it's "most important" to
look for evident signs of abuse, as well as risk factors for it,
according to Cohen.
Elderly adults judged to be at high risk could then be assessed further to see whether abuse is in fact taking place.
SOURCE: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, August 2007.