Saturday, January 6, 2007

Older People are Open Season Year Around

Elder Abuse in the United States
by Catherine C. McNamee with Mary B. Murphy
To most people, Charles Cullen was an experienced nurse attending to the elderly in hospitals and nursing homes. The perception of Cullen as a devoted caretaker came to an abrupt end in 2004, however, when he admitted that he intentionally administered fatal doses of medication to almost 40 patients in various institutions over a 16-year period. Because most of Cullen’s early victims were elderly and seriously ill, and because toxicology and other tests were not done to detect whether there had been wrongdoing, medical examiners did not classify the deaths as homicides.[1] As a result, no criminal investigations were initiated for several years, which resulted in the loss of valuable forensic evidence.[2]

Doctors caring for elders often fail to recognize how psychological conditions—such as depression and dementia—place an individual at greater risk of falling victim to elder abuse..

The vulnerability of this population places them at unusually high risk for severe traumatic reactions to assault, researchers assessed, noting that 11 of the 20 victims died within 12 months of the assault.[10] Many of the victims remained silent about the attack—the incidents came to light only after suspicious signs or evidence were noted by a staff or family member.[11]

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