Unfortunately, abuse in the elderly community is common. Around 5%-10% of seniors are affected by abuse; therefore, it is vital that there is a rise in awareness among physicians to discuss and alleviate the situation.
Even though there is diminutive proof that screening for elder abuse and hosting interventions are effective, physicians and health care professionals should still take action to help the abuse that is infiltrating our homes.
“Despite the lack of robust evidence to support recommendations, clinicians still need an approach to this relatively common problem,” states Dr. Xuyi Mimi Wang, a geriatric medicine fellow at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ont.”We encourage physicians to be aware of potential risk factors and clinical manifestations of elder abuse while recognizing the limitations of the research in this area.”
Elder abuse can include verbal, psychological and sexual abuse in addition to neglect. And this abuse diminishes seniors’ quality of life.
Here are numerous ways physicians and other health care professionals can look out for elder abuse:
• Elder Abuse Suspicion Index, a two-minute, six-question questionnaire
• Elder Assessment Instrument, a Likert-scale checklist intended for varied clinical settings
• Brief Abuse Screen for the Elderly, which can be used by trained health care providers (not necessarily physicians).
“Elder abuse is probably best considered as a syndrome, similar to the other “geriatric giants” such as falls and frailty, given its complexity. The best intervention strategy at this time appears to be education targeted at increasing awareness of elder abuse among health care professionals, analogous to the incorporation of child abuse training into the medical school curriculum.”
Health care providers have a responsibility to get educated about the warning signs of abuse; furthermore, they must learn how to communicate their concerns and educate their patients about elder abuse, and know where to refer the patient if abuse does occur.