In our culture as in others that have come before, we think that the elderly among us ought to be venerated and enjoy a position of respect and esteem in the community. Their needs should be provided for by their family members, and friends should be available to help provide support and company when needed. Americans can easily delude themselves in thinking that everyone else holds the elderly in high esteem, and therefore (under this thinking) elder abuse would be an exceedingly-rare occurrence.
Statistics on Elder Abuse Diagnoses in the United States
However, a new study recently published in the sheds some light on how often elder abuse is recognized and diagnosed by medical professionals. The study (unfortunately) found that many elderly individuals who are taken to emergency rooms for abuse-related trauma and injuries are not diagnosed as having suffered abuse by the medical team treating them. In fact, the study found that one out of every 7,700 emergency room visits by senior citizens was diagnosed as having been abuse-related.
This is troubling news for the elderly and their families. Oftentimes, the earlier elder abuse can be recognized the more effective intervention methods are at stopping the abuse and protecting the elderly individual from further abuse. Not only this, but elderly abuse victims may grow tired of reporting the abuse they suffer at the hands of family and/or caretakers in part because they feel these pleas for help are disregarded and are not believed.
Better Care for California’s Elderly Abuse Victims
The study suggested a new tool that consists of targeted questions as a way to better detect elderly abuse when providing emergency care to an elderly individual. For elderly patients who appear in the emergency room with limitations and impairments that prevent them from answering the questions in an appropriate manner, the tool will provide instructions for medical personnel to conduct a more thorough physical exam of the patient so as to uncover signs of abuse.
Can a Medical Professional Be Responsible for Failing to Diagnose Elder Abuse?
When speaking of elder abuse and elder abuse compensation cases, much attention (and rightly so) is paid to holding the perpetrator of the abuse responsible for his or her actions. However, can a medical professional who misses telltale signs of elder abuse and thus fails to take appropriate protective actions for his or her patient’s well-being be held responsible for this failure? This would be a rather novel lawsuit, and absent a clear legal duty on the part of the medical professional to report the abuse, such a suit is likely destined to fail. While the new tool may help professionals detect and intervene in cases of elder abuse, the new tool is not likely to provide the abused elder and/or his or her family any new source from which to pursue compensation.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of elder abuse at the hands of a nursing home staff member or other individual, contact Case Barnett Law at (949) 861-2990 or online through our website to set up a free case consultation wherein you can discuss your legal options with a member of our experienced and talented California elder abuse legal team.