Detecting and managing elder abuse: challenges in primary care. The Research Subcommittee of the Elder Abuse and Self-Neglect Task Force of Hamilton-Wentworth. Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • OBJECTIVE: To determine family physicians' perceptions of barriers and strategies in the effective detection and appropriate management of abused elderly people. DESIGN: Questionnaire survey; the protocol included an advance notification letter and 3 follow-up mailings. SETTING: Regional Municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth, Ont. PARTICIPANTS: All active nonspecialist physicians who reported seeing elderly patients in their practices were eligible for inclusion. Fifty health service organization (HSO) physicians were randomly selected from among those listed with the HSO Mental Health Program, and 200 fee-for-service physicians were randomly selected from the Canadian Medical Directory. Of the 189 eligible physicians 122 returned completed questionnaires, a response rate of 65%. OUTCOME MEASURES: Physicians' ratings of the importance of potential barriers in assisting older people experiencing abuse and of the usefulness of strategies for dealing with elder abuse. RESULTS: Physicians identified the following barriers as fairly or very important: denial of abuse, resistance to intervention, not knowing where to call for help, lack of protocols to assess and respond to abuse, lack of guidelines about confidentiality, fear of reprisal, and lack of knowledge of the prevalence and definition of elder abuse. Strategies deemed to be helpful included a single agency to call, a directory of services, a list of resource people, an educational package, guidelines for detection and management, reimbursement for time spent on legal matters, continuing education, revision of fee structure and a central library of resources on elder abuse. CONCLUSION: Although the physicians perceived numerous barriers to their detection and management of elder abuse, they identified many strategies that could be implemented at a local level. Preparation of an algorithm to help physicians is the next phase of this work.

publication date

  • October 15, 1997

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