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Elder abuse statistics provide guidance for clinical practice

Release Date: January 3, 2012
Contact: Lisa Hildebrand - 608.442.3765 lisa.hildebrand@wismed.org

Madison, Wis. – Physicians and other health care professionals need to make every possible attempt to recognize elder abuse because failure to do so can have devastating consequences, according to a study in the current issue of WMJ (vol. 110, no. 6). The study identifies key characteristics of vulnerable people 65 and older and of potential abusers based on a cross-sectional analysis of elder abuse and neglect cases reported to the Milwaukee County Department on Aging (MCDA) from 2006 to 2009.

Of the 3,384 elder abuse reports investigated by the MCDA during the time period studied, 23 percent of the reports were made by medical professionals and 58 percent were substantiated. “The patient-provider relationship places physicians in an ideal position to recognize and report suspected cases and prevent abused elders from falling through the cracks,” the authors said.

People older than 75 made up 63.5 percent of the substantiated reports, and women were involved in 63.8 percent of these cases, the study found. Self-neglect was the most common form of elder abuse reported, and medical professionals reported most of these cases (26.3 percent). Of the substantiated self-neglect cases, 12.9 percent were reported as life-threatening and were due to unfulfilled medical needs, unsafe or unsanitary living environments or unmet physical needs.

During the time period studied, 2,022 cases of abuse by a perpetrator were reported, and most of these reports were made by home health nursing and other agencies (22.4 percent), relatives (22.2 percent) and medical professionals (20.9 percent). The perpetrator was the person’s son or daughter in almost half of the cases (48.3 percent).

“The elder abuse burden in Milwaukee County is substantial … and provider awareness of victim and perpetrator characteristics is necessary to increase recognition and response,” the authors said.

Published by the Wisconsin Medical Society, WMJ is devoted to the interests of the medical profession and health care in the Midwest. The peer-reviewed publication, which is available in print and electronic format, is one of the few state medical society-sponsored medical journals that publish a large amount of original research and academic content.

With nearly 12,500 members dedicated to the best interests of their patients, the Society is the largest association of medical doctors in the state and has been a trusted source for health policy leadership since 1841. For details, visit www.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org.

All articles published in the WMJ represent the views of the authors, for which neither WMJ nor the Wisconsin Medical Society take responsibility, unless clearly stated.