Did you know that Virginia law requires doctors to report evidence of elderly abuse? The statute (Va. Code § 63.2-1606) requires doctors to immediately report suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of adults to the local department or the adult protective services. Why? Because physicians, often emergency room physicians, are uniquely situated to observe and detect elder abuse before it becomes deadly.
Are doctors complying with the reporting law? Apparently not. According to the Rhode Island News, physicians report just 2 percent of the elder abuse and neglect cases recorded each year by state protective service agencies, according to medical and legal experts and recent articles published in medical journals. One study, published in 2005 in a journal focusing on geriatric medicine, says that the actual figure may be even lower.
Every year, an estimated 2.1 million older Americans are victims of physical, psychological or other forms of abuse, according to the American Psychological Association. Congress says the number could be closer to 5 million. Most of the abused or neglected elderly live in the community — not in nursing homes or assisted-living facilities –– and 90 percent of the time, the perpetrator is a family member, most often an adult child or spouse, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse.
Come on doctors….lets stop elder abuse now by reporting what you see and know!