Perceptions are changing, reflecting results from studies in many countries. 7 Elder abuse is starting to be recognized as a seri- ous social and (public) health issue. e occurrence and severity of elder mistreat- ment are likely to increase markedly over the coming decades, as the population ages, as caregiving responsibilities and relation- ships change and as increasing numbers of older people require long-term care.
e United States National Research
Council (National Research Council, 2003) recognized that substantial research is needed in order to improve and develop new methods of screening for possible elder mistreatment in a range of clinical settings. Moreover, it strongly recommends system- atic studies of reporting practices and the effects of reporting.
Although a comprehensive health-care re- sponse is the key to a coordinated commu- nity-wide approach to family violence, phy- sicians report only 2% of all reported cases of elder abuse, compared with reports from family members (20%), hospitals (17.3%) and home health aids (9.6%) (Rosenblatt et al., 1996). Even though the detection of el- der abuse is an issue in some hospitals, only a few hospitals have appropriate protocols and follow-up guidelines for dealing with the problem (Ahmad & Lachs, 2002; Lachs, 2004).
It is central to understand the nature and value of increased and more refined medi- cal and social surveillance and screening practices and their effect on geographically based elder mistreatment rates. ere is no doubt that health-care settings are particu- larly important. For instance, in the United States, each year approximately 85% of people aged 65 years and older use formal ambulatory care services and 16–20% are hospitalized (National Research Council, 2003). erefore, physicians need to be able to recognize risk factors and to apply the diagnostic techniques specifically involved in the detection of elder abuse. Many physi- cians and other PHC professionals, howev- er, are not yet familiar with the definitions, epidemiology, diagnosis and intervention strategies associated with elder abuse, since it is usually not a problem that can be as- sessed quickly. Nevertheless, emergency rooms, walk-in clinics and family doctors practices are commonly used by victims of elder abuse. Similarly, the busy primary care office, although hardly the ideal setting for a time-consuming examination, may be the victim’s only hope of detection and protection. In each of these settings, an un- derstanding of good assessment practices is necessary for the physician in touch with the potential victim. ’
e medical profession is only now be-
ginning to turn its attention to research, detection and prevention of elder abuse. Since physicians are in a unique position to detect elder abuse and neglect first- hand, they have a special responsibility to promote greater awareness and effective
For example, PubMed delivered 1111 hits for “elder abuse” in February 2006.