Dialogue Volume 14 Issue 1 2018 - Page 37

PRACTICE PARTNER Talking About Elder Abuse DOC TALK By Stuart Foxman I 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 37