A leading geriatrician is encouraging the ICGP to develop a new programme on elder abuse following the release of new survey findings.
Prof Desmond O’Neill of Tallaght Hospital praised the College for rolling out a ‘very impressive’ programme on domestic violence, and believed something similar should take place in the area of elder abuse.
Prof O’Neill will present an overview of a 2010 ICGP survey of elder abuse and self-neglect at the College’s Summer School in Kilkenny this Saturday.
He told Irish Medical Times that preliminary analysis from the survey revealed that just over a third of GPs had seen a case of elder abuse in the previous year.
“I think if we had asked this 10 or 20 years ago we’d have got a much lower figure, so I am encouraged that over one third of GPs have seen elder abuse, rather than being concerned that two thirds haven’t seen it. I would say overall this is a sign that elder abuse is on the menu,” he told IMT.
GPs considered self-neglect (85 per cent) to be the most common problem they saw, followed by psychological, financial and exploitation amongst the elderly. “Much less common was physical [23 per cent] and sexual abuse [3 per cent],” Prof O’Neill explained.
The most common intervention used by two thirds of GPs surveyed to deal with elder abuse was discussing the abuse with the victim. “Half of all cases of abuse were dealt with involving the elder abuse care worker — they are an important filter here and very appropriate,” Prof O’Neill commented.
One third of all those who experienced elder abuse or self-neglect sought home help and a quarter of cases discussed the abuse with the alleged perpetrator, the survey revealed.
“I think what is interesting is that one-in-12 people reported being threatened by their alleged perpetrator, so this is quiet a challenging area, and the perpetrators are generally family members.”
With the development of nursing home standards and regulations for the care of the elderly by HIQA, Prof O’Neill — who authored the Leas Cross report — believed there had been ‘definite improvements’ with the independent inspectorate.
HIQA, he said, had made a big difference. “By increasing peoples’ expectations and practice, I think they’ve been very helpful and should be strongly supported.”
The ICGP survey highlighted that GPs felt the older persons situation had improved in 75 per cent of cases.