12 April 2013

The Impact of Elder Abuse Hits Hard

I don’t know about you, but when I hear people talking about “impact”, I usually think they’re referring to things bashing into each other like cars, bodies, or heads.  With all of the talk recently about sports and concussions, my mind immediately goes to physical impact.  In our field of elder abuse prevention, there has been a lot of talk about impact lately. It turns out that the impact of elder abuse, even in the absence of any physical bashing, is just as deadly as any crash or concussion.

Just yesterday, results of a Rush University Medical Center study (entitled ‘Elder Abuse as a Risk Factor for Hospitalization in Older Persons’ by XinQi Dong, MD, MPH and Melissa A. Simon, MD, MPH) found that elderly people who suffered psychological abuse, financial exploitation, caregiver neglect, or two or more types of abuse were hospitalized more frequently than those who had not been abused. The annual rate of hospitalization was more than double for those who reported elder abuse than for those who did not.

Earlier work (entitled ‘The Mortality of Elder Mistreatment’) by Lachs and colleagues at Weill-Cornell Medical College in New York had determined that abused elders die at three times the rate of non-abused elders. This held true for elders regardless of the type of abuse or its intensity. The authors noted: “…It seems plausible that experiencing elder abuse is an extreme form of negative social support. In the same manner that social integration reduces mortality, it may conversely be the case that the extreme interpersonal stress resulting from elder abuse situations may confer additional death risk.”

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