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Author(s): Frazão, SL
Correia, AM
Norton, P
Magalhães, T
Title: Physical abuse against elderly persons in institutional settings
Issue Date: 2015
Abstract: Introduction: People over 65 years old are expected to be an increasing group exposed to abuse. Despite the well-studied intra-familial abuse, institutional abuse still lacks a proper understanding about its determinants and characteristics. Aim: The general objective of this study is to provide a better knowledge about physical abuse against elderly people in institutional settings, in order to contribute to a timely detection, correct forensic diagnosis and prevention of these cases. Methods: A retrospective study was conducted through the analysis of forensic medical exams performed in the North Forensic Medical Services of Portugal, between 2004 and 2013, to elderly persons allegedly victims of physical abuse in an institutional setting by a caregiver (n = 59). Results: All the alleged cases occurred in nursing homes and in most of them (93.2%) the charges were against the institution and not focussing on a particular individual. The alleged victims were mainly female (79.7%), 75 years or older (75.9%), presenting a severe disability (55.9%) and 47.2% being unable to communicate. No injuries or post-traumatic pain were found in 55.9% of the cases to support the charge of physical abuse. Only in 6.8% of the cases were the forensic medical findings suggestive of physical abuse and, although this was not the object of the examination, 69.1% were considered suggestive or highly suggestive of neglect. A statistically significant association was found between the alleged victim's degree of disability and the occurrence of neglect (p = 0.003). Conclusion: The sample's size seems to be underestimated, probably due to lack of detection and/or reporting. The condition of these persons, mainly related with their inability to perceive abusive behaviours and/or to disclose them (mostly by physical and/or mental disability), as well as their reluctance to press charges due to fear of reprisal, affects significantly the detection and diagnosis of physical abuse, particularly in whom injuries are not obvious. In anticipation to the rapid ageing of the population, it is urgent to analyse and understand this emerging issue so that social policies and regulation may be developed, in an effort to protect the elderly, as well as to make improvements in the professionals' skills.
Subject: Physical abuse - elderly
Source: J Forensic Leg Med, vol. 36, p. 54-60
Document Type: Artigo em Revista Científica Internacional
Rights: openAccess
Appears in Collections:ISPUP - Artigo em Revista Científica Internacional

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