Researchers examined national data and found that emergency physicians make a formal diagnosis of elder abuse in just 1 of 7,700 visits by seniors, says The Billings (MT) Gazette in “Elder Abuse Often Missed in ER.”
These findings show that the great majority of elder abuse victims pass through the emergency department without the problem being identified, says the study’s senior author Dr. Timothy Platts-Mills, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of North Carolina's School of Medicine.
Emergency physicians try to make sure that all serious and life-threatening conditions are identified and addressed for each patient who comes to the ER. However, for elder abuse, ERs across the country are failing to make the grade.
The study, published recently in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, notes that victims of elder abuse typically don't receive routine care from a primary care doctor, often depending solely on the ER. Each year in the U.S., seniors make more than 23 million ER visits. This means that these departments can play a vital role in identifying elder abuse and taking action to ensure the safety of these patients and fulfill their unmet health care needs.
It can be very difficult to identify elder abuse, because seniors who are physically frail or have mental impairment are prone to injury and may have difficulty caring for themselves. It’s hard to differentiate if a bruise is from a fall or physical abuse … or if poor personal hygiene is from a patient asking to be left alone or from a care provider’s neglect. Nonetheless, the reality is that elder abuse is common and takes a toll on its victims. It’s frequently missed.
Reference: Billings (MT) Gazette (November 25, 2016) “Elder Abuse Often Missed in ER”