Doctors need to be able to recognise the tell-tale signs of elder abuse, according to theNew England Journal of Medicine, because about 10% of the elderly experience some form of abuse. “Thus, a busy physician caring for older adults will encounter a victim of such abuse on a frequent basis, regardless of whether the physician recognizes the abuse,” write Mark S. Lachs and Karl A. Pillemer.
Those most at risk are women, people living in a “shared living environment”, those who relatively young, the poor, and people who are social isolated. Most abuse in nursing homes comes from fellow residents. However, just living with other people, even family members, is also a risk factor, as there will be more opportunities for conflict.
The authors cateogrise abuse in five ways:
physical abuse, or acts carried out with the intention to cause physical pain or injury; psychological or verbal abuse, defined as acts carried out with the aim of causing emotional pain or injury; sexual abuse, defined as nonconsensual sexual contact of any kind; financial exploitation, involving the misappropriation of an older person’s money or property; and neglect, or the failure of a designated caregiver to meet the needs of a dependent older person.
Financial abuse, they say, is virtually “epidemic”. “Recent studies suggest that financial exploitation is emerging as the most prevalent form of abuse; by the time cases are detected, the older adult’s financial resources have often been drastically reduced — a fact that makes swift detection and intervention critical.”