Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Study Shows Elder Abuse Rarely Discovered at Emergency Rooms
The chances of elder abuse being recognized during an emergency room visit are extremely slim, according to a study published in last month’s issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of California San Diego and Well Cornell Medicine indicated that elder abuse is identified in only 1 in 7,700 cases involving the aged in emergency department visits. The study focused on emergency room data to estimate the frequency of how often doctors make formal diagnosis of elder abuse.
Data from emergency room (ER) visits of adults of 60 and older, recorded in the 2012 Nationwide Emergency Department Sample or the 2011 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, were examined. The study sample for 2012 encompassed 6.7 million ER visits of older adults representing approximately 29 million visits. Of those, researchers found diagnosis of elder abuse was made in only an estimated 3,846 ER visits.
According to prior research, approximately one older adult out of ten is a victim of elder abuse. The recent research data indicated that only 1 in 7,700 cases of elder abuse is discovered, indicating that most cases are not recognized or reported.
“The proportion of U.S. emergency department visits by older adults receiving a diagnosis of elder abuse is at least two orders of magnitude lower than the estimated prevalence in the population,” the study authors wrote. “Efforts to improve the identification of elder abuse may be warranted.”
Neglect was the most common type of abuse diagnosed, accounting for 33% of cases, followed closely behind by physical abuse, which accounted for 32%. The most likely to be abused were women who experienced contusion, urinary tract infection and sepsis.
Victims of elder abuse will often depend on ER care only in the case of emergency, rather than depend on the care of primary care doctors. Older adults account for more than 23 million ER visits made each year, which means that most of the abused go unrecognized by the healthcare staff.
Know the Signs of Elder Abuse
Some of the signs of elder abuse include physical injuries such as broken bones, bruising and cuts as well as anxiety, emotional distress, withdrawal, sudden changes in financial situations, bedsores, poor hygiene and weight loss. In addition, physical frailty and cognitive impairments make the elderly more vulnerable and less likely to report abuse.
Injuries such as bruises can appear to be from a fall rather than abuse making it difficult for ER personnel to determine the true cause.
Anyone who has an older loved one in an assisted living facility or receives in home care, should remain vigilant for any signs of elder abuse. Any suspected cases should be reported to the local licensing and district offices. A complaint supported by your documentation will trigger an investigation. You should, at this point retain the services of an experienced elder abuse attorney. The attorney may suggest that you hire your own investigator as well. In the
case that no abuse is found by the initial investigation you have the right to appeal. Your attorney will help you through the complicated appeals process.
If elder abuse is discovered to have occurred, it is important that you pursue legal action on behalf of your loved one. All citizens have equal civil rights regardless of their age. Elder abusers must be held accountable for their actions. Elder abuse happens with unacceptable frequency and it is the duty of everyone to bring an end to it.
Dolman Law Group is committed to stop the abuse of our older citizens. If you believe a loved one is the victim of elder abuse call Dolman Law Group today at 727-451-6900, to arrange a free consultation.