Volume 49, Issue 1 (January 2004)
Abuse and Neglect: A Ten-Year Review of Mortality and Morbidity in our Elders in a Large Metropolitan Area
Elder abuse and neglect refers to an act or omission resulting in harm, including death, or threatened harm to the health or welfare of an elderly person. Between one and two million elderly Americans experience some form of mistreatment annually. A ten-year (1992–2001) retrospective case review of morbidity and mortality among elders (age ≥ 60 years) was conducted at a State Medical Examiner's Office serving a major metropolitan region in Kentucky and Indiana. This study addresses cases of two categories: 1) medicolegal autopsies and 2) examinations of living subjects pursuant to a Clinical Forensic Medicine Program. The authors present 74 postmortem cases, in which 52 deaths were attributed to a homicidal act and 22 deaths were suspicious for neglect. Of the 22 living victims of elder abuse and neglect, 19 cases constituted physical and/or sexual assault and three individuals suffered from neglect. This study summarizes the characteristic features of elder abuse in both postmortem and living cases and underscores the necessity for multi-agency collaboration in order to reach an accurate conclusion in case work. Policies established by a well-established elder abuse task force promote the collaborative interaction necessary to formulate criteria for prevention of abuse and death within this vulnerable population.