Even though elderly people often rely on care in an emergency room instead of from a primary care doctor, a study suggests that emergency room staff are failing to identify cases of elder abuse.
It is believed that 10% of American senior citizens are the victims of elder abuse. It can be difficult to catch the perpetrators, because the victims are often isolated and medical care is not regularly sought.
Abusers do not want their victims establishing trusting relationships with primary care physicians since that could lead to the abuse being discovered. As a result, victims often do not receive any care until they have serious injuries and need to go to the emergency room.
Unfortunately, it does not appear that emergency room staff are doing a good job of catching elder abuse. Only 1 in 7,700 visits by elderly patients to emergency rooms results in a report of possible elder abuse, according to CBS News in “Elder abuse often missed in the ER.”
This is alarming because it means that many victims of abuse could be treated for injuries caused by their abusers and released back into the care of those abusers. While the primary job of emergency room staff is not to detect elder abuse, they can and should do a better job making sure that injuries suffered by their elderly patients are not the result of abuse.
This new study will hopefully lead to a renewed focus in emergency rooms on this important issue and to increased staff training about how to detect potential elder abuse victims.
Reference: CBS News (Nov. 25, 2016) “Elder abuse often missed in the ER.”