How to differentiate physical abuse from unintentional personal injury in elderly patients?
A recent study at a New York emergency room compared the injuries of elderly patients who suffered physical abuse with the injuries of elderly patients who suffered unintentional fall. The reason for the study was for the emergency room professionals to be able to identify “red flags” for elderly abuse. Elderly abuse in New York and elsewhere is largely under-reported. Often abused seniors who show up at the emergency room tell the staff that they fell.
“The first place that many vulnerable older patients turn for care is the emergency department,” said lead study author Tony Rosen, MD, MPH, FACEP, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and director of the Vulnerable Elder Protection Team based at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center’s emergency department. “Emergency physicians have a unique opportunity to identify the ‘red flags’ for elder abuse. Improving the ability to recognize, treat, and prevent these incidents can improve the lives of millions of older patients.”
The study looks at a total of 156 elderly patients who showed up at the emergency room of a New York Hospital. The researchers compared 78 cases of injuries related to abuse with 78 cases of injuries related to unintentional fall. They found specific differences between unintentional fall injuries and abuse injuries: