While research has shown that one out of every ten elderly people suffers from abuse, only one case out of every 7,700 emergency room visits by elderly people results in a diagnosis of elder abuse, pointing to the fact that many cases are not being diagnosed and reported. More than 23 million older adults visit hospital emergency departments each year, making them important settings in which abuse could be recognized and reported. A recent study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill demonstrates that instances of elder abuse are drastically underreported by emergency room personnel. A Chicago nursing home abuse attorney helps families to understand what signs to look for so that they may report suspected abuse.
Problems Identifying Elder Abuse
The researchers believe that several issues lead to doctors failing to identify and report nursing home and elder abuse when older people seek care in emergency departments. Doctors and other medical staff may have a difficult time determining whether or not an elderly person’s bruises are the result of falling or of physical abuse. They may also be uncertain whether hygiene issues indicate a lack of care by a provider or an issue with the elderly person’s own self-care. Older people have medical needs that are often quite complex, and determining the underlying causes is more challenging than doing so for younger patients. Medical staff have duties of care to report suspected abuse, because they are mandated reporters under the law. When they breach their duties, elderly patients may suffer further harm.
Improving Awareness of Elder Abuse
In order to address the issue of failures to diagnose elder abuse during ER visits, doctors and medical staff should be trained to spot the signs of abuse and neglect of elderly patients. They should also be trained to report potential abuse even if the doctors and staff are not completely certain that is what has happened. Elderly people often do not self-report abuse that is happening to them. Sometimes they are afraid to do so. In other cases, they may simply be unable to report ongoing abuse. A Chicago nursing home abuse attorney believes that such training for hospital staff is important.