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Wednesday, 12 February, 2003, 12:41 GMT
Abuse of elderly widespread
Elderly
Abuse can be verbal, physical, financial or sexual
Almost nine out of 10 nurses working in the community have come across cases of abuse of an elderly person, a survey has found.

The research, by the Community and District Nursing Association (CDNA), found that in most cases the abuse was inflicted by a family member - most often the chief care giver.

The results of the survey are very alarming

Rowena Smith
In 78% of cases the abuse took place in the home.

More than 700 nurses took part in the survey.

One in eight said they came across elderly abuse on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

But 39% said they only came across it less than once a year.

The abuse was most likely to be verbal, but could also be physical, financial or sexual.

No training

The CDNA survey also found that less than half (44%) of the nurses who responded had been formally trained to recognise abuse of the elderly.

Less than half said their employer had a policy on elderly abuse and only 35% felt they were equipped to deal with the problem.

The CDNA is calling for mandatory training of nurses to help them prevent, recognise and manage abuse of the elderly.

It has also launched interim guidelines to its members to help them spot and appropriately deal with such cases.

Alarm

Rowena Smith, CDNA chairman, said: "The results of the survey are very alarming.

"It is clear from our members that there is an urgent need for training."

Ann Keen MP, a former district nurse and honorary general secretary of the CDNA, said: "The findings of this survey provide clear first-hand indications of the scale of elder abuse throughout the UK and serve to highlight the often difficult and sensitive working conditions under which nurses have to carry out their duties."

Gary Fitzgerald, chief executive of Action on Elder Abuse, said the results were not a surprise.

"Calls to our national help lines and previous research in the UK and worldwide all indicate a worrying level of such abuse."

He backed the call for mandatory training of all nursing students in the protection of vulnerable adults.

Jonathan Ellis, of the charity Help the Aged, said abuse of the elderly was the "hidden relative" of child abuse.

"The scale of the problem all too often goes unrecognised. This survey lifts the lid on a national scandal.

┐District and community nurses are on the front line in identifying instances of abuse.

"Appropriate training and clear guidelines are essential first steps in helping to prevent such a wide spread problem."

Paul Burstow MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesman on Older People said: "Will it really take a Victoria Climbie death of an older person before there is action taken to stem the tide of abuse that faces most vulnerable elderly in our society?"

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11 Feb 03 | Health
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