Screening for abuse and neglect of people with dementia

Wiglesworth, A., Mosqueda, L., Mulnard, R., Liao, S., Gibbs, L., & Fitzgerald, W. (2010). Screening for abuse and neglect of people with dementia. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society58(3), 493-500.

Abstract:

OBJECTIVE:

To investigate characteristics of people with dementia and their caregivers (CGs) that are associated with mistreatment in order to inform clinicians about screening for mistreatment.

DESIGN:

A convenience sample of CG-care recipient (CR) dyads were assessed for literature-supported factors associated with mistreatment, and evidence of mistreatment for the prior year was collected. An expert panel considered the evidence and decided on occurrences of psychological abuse, physical abuse, and neglect based on criteria adopted before data collection.

SETTING:

Participants’ homes.

PARTICIPANTS:

One hundred twenty-nine persons with dementia and their CGs.

MEASUREMENTS:

CG and CR characteristics (demographic, health, and psychosocial variables), relationship characteristics, and three elder abuse and neglect detection instruments.

RESULTS:

Mistreatment was detected in 47.3%. Variables associated with different kinds and combinations of mistreatment types included the CG’s anxiety, depressive symptoms, social contacts, perceived burden, emotional status, and role limitations due to emotional problems and the CR’s psychological aggression and physical assault behaviors. The combination of CR’s physical assault and psychological aggression provided the best sensitivity (75.4%) and specificity (70.6%) for elder mistreatment as defined by the expert panel. This finding has potential to be useful as a clinical screen for detecting mistreatment.

CONCLUSIONS:

The findings suggest important characteristics of older adults with dementia and their CGs that have potential for use in a clinical screening tool for elder mistreatment. Potential screening questions to be asked of CGs of people with dementia are suggested.

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Special Thanks to Judith D. Tamkin

We are sincerely appreciative to Judith D. Tamkin for her gift to help establish the USC Center on Elder Mistreatment’s website. Her deep and personal commitment to eradicating elder abuse is helping to reshape our understanding of elder abuse and ultimately save innumerable older adults from abuse and neglect.