Abuse of elderly people came to public awareness in the 1970s. Since that time, programs have been initiated to help combat the problem. Each state has legislation for reporting abuse. However, abuse of the elderly often goes unreported due to ignorance, fear, or lack of concern. Public education and intervention strategies appear to be the answer to abuse of the elderly.

Nurses, who spend more time with patients than do any other healthcare professionals, are in an ideal position to identify, intervene in, report, and generally lead the way in preventing abuse of the elderly.
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Action on Elder Abuse has put forth a definition on elder abuse in which the World Health Organization (WHO) implemented as “A single or repeated act or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person” (2006). At the forefront of the healthcare team, nurses are primarily the identifiers of elder abuse. The central aspects that nurses have to be aware of are the different types, the possible risk factors and their role and responsibilities as a healthcare professional.

Types Of Abuse

There are five different types of elder abuse that O’connor and Rowe (2005) talk about; neglect, physical, sexual, psychological, and material abuse. Neglect is defined as not meeting patient needs and failure to provide access to support. Physical abuse is any harm, injury, or restraint physically against elderly. Sexual abuse is any sexual acts towards elderly without consent. Psychological abuse consists of any emotional abuse, threats, humiliation and verbal abuse. Material abuse is any such property stolen or elder taken advantage of.

An estimated 700,000 to 1.2 million elders in the United States (U.S.) annually suffer mistreatment at the hands of others or self; 450,000 new cases are identified each year (Fulmer, n.d.). Despite these alarming figures, our awareness of elder mistreatment is sparse.).

A Call to Action for All Nurses

Elder mistreatment is a widespread and significant challenge facing elders and their families today. As a family, your loved one is entrusted to the care of nurses.

It is every nurse’s responsibility to protect the health and well-being of the aging population. And yet, there are still too many instances of the abuse of elderly patients by their caregivers rearing their ugly heads.

In the following video, an employee of an elder care facility in Vista is accused of using her cellphone to take footage of a patient getting in the shower and then posting it on the internet. Abuse or just a nurse having a bit of fun at the expense of a patient?

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