Talking About Elder Abuse
By Stuart Foxman
magine the severity of a condition that
can trigger depression and anxiety,
cause persistent pain, exacerbate
multiple health issues and lead to pre-
mature mortality. All of these are potential
consequences of elder abuse.
In a 2016 report from Dr. Gregory Taylor,
at the time Canada’s Chief Public Health
Officer, 766,000 older Canadians said they’d
experienced abuse or neglect in the past year.
That was even higher than the 760,000 who
said they’d experienced spousal abuse/con-
flict in the previous five years.
Some studies put the prevalence of elder
abuse as high as 25%. “Very conservatively,
10% of seniors will experience some type of
abuse in their lifetimes,” says Ms. Maureen
Etkin, Executive Director, Elder Abuse On-
tario. “It’s an epidemic.”
Seniors who are abused are often isolated.
“The doctor may be the only external profes-
sional they see with any measure of privacy,”
says Ms. Etkin. That gives doctors a critical
opportunity to pick up on signs of possible
abuse and talk to patients about it.
Awareness is growing, suggests Dr. Mark
Yaffe, Department of Family Medicine, Mc-
Gill University. He devised an Elder Abuse
Suspicion Index (EASI) to help doctors ex-
plore the topic. As Dr. Yaffe reminds us, el-
der abuse isn’t straightforward. It can present
itself in multiple ways, and many symptoms
ISSUE 1, 2018 DIALOGUE