By Steven G. MehtaSteve Mehta

 

For those of you that are involved in elder issues, like myself, I thought this information might be interesting. 

Elderly who are subjected to abuse or self-neglect are at an increased risk of premature death, according to a recent study.

According to researchers, elder abuse and self-neglect are more common than you might expect and are under-recognized public health issues.  According to Dr. XinQi Dong, a geriatrician at Rush University Medical Center there are an estimated 2 million cases of elder abuse and self-neglect in the United States each year.

“Our findings demonstrate the dire health consequences for these vulnerable older adults,” Dong said. “Health care professionals and others who serve the elderly need to identify and report suspected cases of abuse or self-neglect early and act quickly to ameliorate the problems.” Abuse refers to psychological/emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, caregiver neglect or financial exploitation. Self-neglect refers to behaviors that threaten the person’s own health and safety.

The study found that elder abuse was associated with a more than two-fold increased risk of premature death from all causes and an almost 4-fold increased risk of premature death from heart disease specifically. Self-neglect was associated with an even greater risk of premature death, particularly during the first year after self-neglecting behavior was identified. During that year, the risk of premature death from all causes was five times as likely as for elders who did not neglect themselves, and the risk of premature death from heart disease specifically was eight times more likely.

Interestingly enough, the study also found that increased mortality was significant for older adults regardless of what their level of physical or cognitive function, except for elders with the highest level of functioning.

According to Dong, the field of elder abuse is estimated to have lagged more than 20 years behind that of child abuse or domestic violence.  Dong’s hope for the study was that it would stimulate more discussion about these issues as well as raise awareness of this issue in the national forum.

Research Source:

XinQi Dong; Melissa Simon; Carlos Mendes de Leon; Terry Fulmer; Todd Beck; Liesi Hebert; Carmel Dyer; Gregory Paveza; Denis Evans. Elder Self-neglect and Abuse and Mortality Risk in a Community-Dwelling Population. JAMA, 2009;302(5):517-526

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