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Radiologists are Positioned to Detect Elder Abuse

Posted In: Info

Radiologists and radiographic technologists have a lot of roles. They are the users and maintainers of complex equipment, they are students of advancements in radiologic science, they are physicians to people of all ages, and they are on the frontlines to notice instances of abuse.


Radiologists are sometimes the first to notice signs of abuse. Radiologic technologist training in this regard usually focuses on child abuse. As America's population grows older, however, there is a growing need for radiographic technologists to understand the signs of elder abuse.


How Can Radiologists Spot Abuse?


In every case of physical abuse, there are important warning signs. Because radiologists and radiographic technologists come in close contact with patients' bodies, and take detailed images of their inner workings, these physicians often see signs of physical harm that no other person has access to.


It is estimated that as many as 10% of senior citizens are the victims of mistreatment every year. This abuse may come from direct caregivers or other individuals. It is especially dangerous for frail seniors, who may not be able to live independently, comprehend their situation, or defend themselves against mistreatment.


Unlike children, where physical signs of abuse correlate strongly with specific age and maturity levels, age isn't much help when considering older adults. For example, one 80 year old may be swimming twenty laps a day, while another may not be able to stand or feed himself.


Another difficulty is distinguishing injuries from abuse from injuries associated with old age and weakness. Older adults frequently fall, or have other strength and coordination related accidents.


How to Teach Radiologists to Spot Elder Abuse


Very few radiology professionals receive any training, formal or informal, about elder abuse injuries. Even so, early research suggests that there are certain injuries which are uncommon in older adults, except as the result of mistreatment. Once a radiologist understands what these injuries are, it is easy to distinguish them from the common injuries that occur from slips, falls, and other accidents.


As America's population gets older, elder care will have to become more internally focused on the problem of elder abuse. Some radiology practices will start to see more and more senior citizens, and others may cater to them exclusively. For practices that deal with large numbers of older adults, it is important to be very well versed in the signs of elder mistreatment.


If your radiology practice and professional network does not presently offer training in this matter, seek it out from an independent source. It is recommended that all professionals who come in contact with older adults receive some form of formal training in this regard. It is also important for your colleagues to practice informal communication about elder abuse, reminding one another about the signs, and working together to help an older adult who seems to be the victim of mistreatment.


Techno-Aide doesn't get the chance to work with these problems directly, so we have to raise awareness and hope that our clients will take on this responsibility. Patient-focused radiology isn't all about building safer lead aprons and lead gloves, it's about a diagnostic imaging experience that considers the complete health and safety of the patient in question, even as it pertains to abuse that may have occurred at home.


 

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