Safety First: Why We Should Care? Part Three

Article excerpt

The first two installments of "Safety First," published in the May and June 2004 issues of Searcher, reviewed selected sites and organizations dealing with the prevention of accidents and what to do should injuries occur. Research for the series uncovered an inordinate number of resources devoted to the abuse, neglect, and maltreatment of precisely those segments of our population that most need protection: the old, the young, the physically impaired, and animals. This third installment of "Safety First" will cover the abuse of these populations as well as spousal or intimate partner abuse.

Maltreatment can include a range of physical abuses, including sexual, as well as psychological/emotional, abuse, in the case of the physically impaired and the elderly, outrageous scares can often result in severe financial losses. The targets for these frauds may be individuals or institutions and the entire healthcare system; abusers can be strangers, relatives, caregivers, and even the medical community. This final installment of "Safety First" will deal with the types of abuse specific to each of these five segments of the population, mechanisms for reporting abuse, legal and medical remedies for both victims and abusers, and specific settings and locales where such abuses occur with alarming frequency.

Beyond the sites specific to the types of abuse discussed in this article, researchers should look for help from general resources concerning crime, criminals, and victims. This is particularly true of annual statistical studies with detailed breakdowns of the types and severity of crimes, age of victim, etc. Reports that come to mind include the Federal Bureau of Investigations' Uniform Crime Reports [http:// www.fbi.gov/ucr/02cius.htm] (1) and the annual Crime in the United States [http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm#cius].

Elder Abuse

Age may be a state of mind, but there is no doubt that additional resources are going toward the detection and prosecution of those involved with abusing our seniors. The abuse has probably occurred all along, but now we have become more aware of the issue. Not only is it being reported with greater frequency, but officials are now taking these accusations more seriously and investigating them with the thoroughness that is deserved.

Government agencies and the media have certainly begun placing more emphasis on the identification of abuse of the elderly. Perhaps it is the sheer number of "baby boomers" now approaching the age when this could become a problem for them which has brought this issue to the fore now. According to a recently released General Accounting Office report, 470,000 cases of elder abuse were reported to authorities in the U.S. in 2001. It is estimated that only one in five cases is ever reported. (2)

Over the past decade, an entire legal practice has sprung up devoted to elder law. Traditional publishers within the legal community have released titles covering this area and you will find a good number of newsletters available through the sites of law firms specializing in elder law. This area of law even has its own association, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys [http://www.naela.com].

The elderly are victims of physical abuse as well as psychological/emotional abuse. Sad to say, abuse by family members comprises 90 percent of all abuse of the elderly in the U.S. (3)

Abuse by healthcare professionals and staff in healthcare institutions is being addressed by intensified employee background checks, similar to those required of child care workers after California's McMartin case. If you must consider a nursing home for the care of a dear one, you will want the best; Medicare's Web site allows you to compare nursing homes in your area [http:// www.medicare.gov/NHCompare]. This site lets one search for nursing homes by geography (state and county), proximity (within X miles of a city or particular ZIP code), or by institutional name. …