Introduction: The aging population is a rapidly growing demographic in the United States. Isolation, limited autonomy, and declining physical and mental health render many older adults vulnerable to elder mistreatment (EM). The purpose of this study was to assess the prevalence and correlates of EM among a sample of older adults using legal assistance services in Atlanta, Georgia.
Methods: Researchers administered surveys to consenting older adults (aged 60þ) in 5 metro Atlanta community centers that hosted legal assistance information sessions as part of the Elderly Legal Assistance Program. The surveys screened for risk factors and prevalence of EM risk using valid and reliable measures and included additional questions regarding demographics characteristics and healthcare use behaviors.
Results: Surveys were completed by 112 participants. Findings reveal that 32 (28.6%) respondents met the criteria for elder abuse / neglect risk; 17 (15.2%) respondents met criteria for depression; and 105 (93.7%) had visited a healthcare provider during the past 6 months.
Conclusion: The rates of EM risk in this sample were higher than those previously reported in research. Findings support continued examination of unique risks that may be present among older adults who may be possibly facing legal issues. Additionally, the reported frequency of healthcare visits among participants reveals a promising opportunity to examine development of a more widespread EM screening approach to be conducted in non-emergency settings. Interdisciplinary collaboration is required to inform screening approaches that account for complexities that EM cases present. [West J Emerg Med. 2013;14(4):309–315.]