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St. Michael’s protecting elderly patients at risk of harm

Toronto, June 15, 2015

By Greg Winson

What is Elder Abuse? Older adults may experience one or more of the following types of abuse: Neglect, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Financial Abuse.
Millie guides users through the elder abuse elearning module. Click on each image for a larger version.

Elder Abuse Awareness: An eLearning Module. Learn how to make a difference.

Learning Objectives: After you complete this module, you will be able to: 1) become more comfortable with the topic of elder abuse, 2) learn what the types of elder abuse are, 3) know who to ask for help.

Elder abuse is a serious and often unreported health issue. It is estimated that as many as 10 per cent of hospital patients age 65 and over are victims of abuse. For every case that is reported, an estimated 23 cases are not.

Up to 30 per cent of inpatients at St. Michael’s are elderly, with most on the cardiology, medicine and orthopedic units.

“We’ve come up with a multi-pronged approach to raising awareness of elder abuse,” said Marisa Cicero, professional practice and education leader in Social Work. The first step has been to raise awareness of elder abuse with elearning modules, lunch and learn and facilitated sessions. More than 375 staff members have received training.

The social work team also created an elder abuse algorithm, providing tips for working with elderly patients and contact details for resources that are available 24/7.

There has also been a telephone pilot program offering a telephone consultation with a social worker. This service is available Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“We encourage staff to call,” said Cicero. “No question is too small or insignificant. We’ll do our best to help.”

The World Health Organization defines elder abuse as a “single or repeated act or lack of appropriate action occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.”

Some of the risk factors of elder abuse are poverty, functional impairment and social isolation.

“The things that make you most vulnerable also make it difficult to report,” said Cicero. “There’s also the shame and stigma of being a victim of any type of abuse, but particularly for elder abuse, that makes it difficult. It’s difficult to say I need help in the first place.”

Another complication is that in many cases, the abuser is often the victim’s adult children or spouse, someone the person relies on for support.

The telephone pilot will continue for six months, along with more facilitated training sessions that will be advertised in the Daily Dose or by calling the Social Work office directly.

Did you know...

  • June 15 is Elder Abuse Awareness Day
  • The symbol for elder abuse awareness (and domestic violence in general) is a purple ribbon
  • Up to 10 per cent of older adults are abused
  • Only in 1 in 23 cases are reported
  • 30 per cent of patients at St. Michael’s are elderly
  • 40 per cent of those show signs of depression
  • Nearly 1 in 2 people with dementia are abused
  • 60 per cent of those abused show signs of dementia or confusion
  • 2/3 of those abused are women
  • More than half of those abused are older than 80

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.