Elderly abuse is closely linked to medical problems such as physical injuries, mental health disorders, poor management of chronic illnesses and disabilities. The effects of elder abuse have been determined to be damaging. Most of the abused elderly people are often brought to the emergency room for immediate medical attention for physical injuries. A recent study conducted by Shields et al. (2004) over a 10-year period has indicated that more than 50% of deaths among the elderly are due to homicidal acts, while a 25% of the deaths were possibly due to elderly neglect.
Amidst the increasing number of elderly individuals being abused and neglected, there is an insufficiency of reaction amongst medical practitioners, including physicians and clinicians. It has been estimated that only 2 to 10% of cases of elderly abuse are actually reported to the appropriate authorities. These cases of elderly abuse involve physical and psychological abuse as well as financial exploitation.
Neglect is also another condition that an elderly individual goes through yet is left unable to report such hardship to the appropriate agencies concerned. Specific risk factors have been determined to be strongly associated with elderly abuse, including living with other people, as well as impairment of the elderly individuals functional ability. In addition, depression and excessive alcohol consumption also strongly influence the occurrence of elderly abuse.
A promising prevention strategy for elderly abuse, neglect and exploitation would then be to impose mandatory reporting of cases of abuse in tandem with annual or biannual monitoring of the conditions of an elderly individual. Such mandatory act of reporting would thus put the people who are responsible for the care of an elderly individual to be responsible for any physical, mental, social or financial burdens that the elderly individual would experience.
The people involved with the care of the elderly individual would include the children of the elderly person, as well as the physician, counselor and therapist of the elderly person. It would also be good if the amount of time spent by each person with the elderly individual were determined, so that it would be easier to determine who spends the most time with the elderly individual. Another method that could be incorporated into the mandatory reporting of elderly abuse is to conduct interviews with the elderly individual in order to determine if he has succumbed to memory loss or not.
If the elderly individual is still cognitive enough to interactive with the interviewing officer, it would be helpful to ask the elderly individual if he is aware whether he still keeps some of his financial resources in his bank or some other place. It would also be helpful if the elderly individual knew approximately how much money and other valuable items such as jewelry, real estate properties and automobiles he has so that there is an estimate of the resources the individual has.
The comprehensive interview of the elderly individual should thus be conducted every year in order to monitor how the elderly person if doing as time goes by. In addition, the interview will also provide the social worker or any other interviewing official of the government to determine that conditions of the place where the elderly individual is living. The medical records of the elderly individual should also be checked every year in order to determine whether the physical and mental condition of the elderly individual has been maintained or is deteriorating. Should the condition of the elderly individual be deteriorating, the main cause of this change of condition should be investigated in order to prevent further damage to the physical and mental health of the elderly individual.
The intense monitoring of elderly individual may be tedious, costly and time-consuming, yet it protects these senior citizens from further abuse and neglect. Time has shown that mandatory reporting of elderly abuse is not as effective as expected because most of the medical professionals do not participate or are not serious enough in reporting such conditions and the elderly people will continue to suffer. The tandem implementation of mandatory reporting of elderly abuse with regular monitoring of the conditions of an elderly individual thus seems more feasible in protecting the health of elderly individuals.
In addition, the regular monitoring of elderly individuals lessens the burden of physicians in reporting abuse and neglect of these senior citizens. This proposed prevention strategy also provides a way for elderly individuals to speak out for themselves if they still can. It is actually helpful and enlightening if the elderly individuals are given the opportunity to express their concerns, issues and problems with regards to their senior lives. Should this proposed strategy be tested and later implemented, it may be possible to save more elderly individuals from unnecessary pain, depression and exploitation. These seniors deserve to spend the rest of their lives in peace and harmony.
Kennedy RD (2005): Elder abuse and neglect: the experience, knowledge, and attitudes of primary care physicians. Fam. Med. 37:481-5.
Pillemer K and Finkelhor D (1988): The prevalence of elder abuse: A random sample survey. Gerontologist. 28:51-7.
Shields LB, Hunsaker DM, Hunsaker JC (2004): Abuse and neglect: A ten-year review of mortality and morbidity in our elders in a large metropolitan area. J. Forensic Sci. 49:122-127.