A GLOBAL RESPONSE TO ELDER ABUSE AND NEGLECT
3.5 Workshop with PHC professionals and social workers
e participants discussed existing assess- ment and intervention possibilities but also the barriers that can hamper the prevention and detection of elder abuse in the respec- tive countries. 28
Both professional groups (PHC profession- als and social workers) have encountered abused patients but reacted differently. e social workers appear more willing to get involved and would want to share with each other their experiences in handling and managing cases of elder abuse. Social workers either interview the abused cli- ent and/or find out about the available and appropriate systems of support. General practitioners/PHC professionals usually refer the patients to social workers, when they have the necessary information, but they are more hesitant to become active and often feel powerless. is reluctance may stem from the lack of time that they have with their patients, from the absence of follow-up strategies or from the expected role and responsibilities attached to each profession. In one setting (Singapore), it emerged that older GPs could relate better than younger physicians to elder abuse.
Several problematic areas were pointed out that impede prevention and interven- tion efforts. Policy-makers’ awareness of PHC professionals needs to be increased in all countries. Another issue concerned the legislation in some countries (Costa
Rica, Kenya, Singapore) that does not cover issues of elder abuse adequately. Brazil has mandatory reporting, but concerns were raised on behalf of the PHC professionals as they were worried about their own safety. Further difficulties in the assessment of elder abuse included a lack of (i) training on elder abuse, (ii) interprofessional com- munication and coordination, (iii) protocols for homogeneous interventions, (iv) specific definitions and terminologies, (v) social support for caregivers and (vi) circulation of information regarding the existing insti- tutional resources.
In order to develop PHC professionals’ and social workers’ capacities to deal with elder abuse, the following initiatives were sug- gested:
Sensitizing governments about the issues of elder abuse is one of the priori- ties. Governmental support would help in engaging PHC professionals, espe- cially physicians.
General practitioners need to know how to refer patients to other professionals, such as social workers, for the manage- ment of suspected cases. e establish- ment of a local continuing platform where front-line workers can share information related to elder abuse is recommended.
Similar issues that have already been mentioned in the workshop with the social workers are not repeated in this section.