Doctors Receptionist Training: Elder Abuse


Unfortunately we are hearing too much on elder abuse these days. It is and has been in the headlines far too often, on TV in documentaries and even has been a big storyline in Emmerdale recently.

The vast majority of older people live full and active lives, enjoying good health, happiness and independence. Most older people play a valuable role in their communities and society generally. This is a cause for celebration. However, a small number of older people may experience mistreatment, neglect or abuse, and they may also experience more than one form of abuse at any given time.

As a receptionist you will often be privileged to information from patients they that might not chose to share with anyone else. I can recall many conversations with patients that shared some of their most inner secrets, fears and concerns.  If you have a good bond with patients they will often tell the receptionist something they might not want to tell the Doctor or Nurse.

As a receptionist will get to know your patients very well. You will chat to them on the phone, in person when they come to the surgery, and you even might know them if you live local to the Surgery. They will see you as a friendly face and someone who plays an important role in the Surgery.  You will find that you will bond really well with certain patients.

If you are in any doubt that a patient might be in some kind of danger, abuse or other then please share your concerns with a Doctor or a nurse at your Surgery. Do not discuss any of your concerns with anyone outside of the Surgery. Please remember patient confidentiality.

If you are a recepitonist in a Hospital  speak to your Manager/Team leader about your concerns.

What is Elder Abuse?

“A single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person or violates their human and civil rights”

Types of Elder Abuse

There are several forms of abuse, any or all of which may be perpetrated as the result of deliberate intent, negligence or ignorance.

Physical Abuse includes hitting, slapping, pushing, misuse of medication, or inappropriate restraint.

Psychological abuse includes emotional abuse, threats of harm or abandonment, deprivation of contact, humiliation, intimidation or coercion.

Neglect and actions of omission include ignoring medical or physical care needs; failure to provide access to appropriate health, social care or educational services, the withholding of medication.

Discriminatory abuse includes ageism, racism, sexism that based on a person’s disability, and other forms of harassment, slurs or similar treatment

Financial or material abuse includes theft, fraud or exploitation; pressure in connection with wills, power of attorney, property, inheritance or financial transactions; or the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits.

Who might abuse?

Any person or organisation may be guilty of abuse. Most often it is someone well-known to the older person, for example, a family member (as in the story line in Emmerdale), a relative, friend or care provider – a relationship where there is an expectation of trust. In some cases, organisations, through poor work practices or lack of appropriate training for staff in dealing and interacting with and understanding older people can unwittingly allow abuse to happen. Advantage may also be taken of the older person by unscrupulous individuals, such as bogus traders and callers – and of course we have all heard of such sad stories.

 Where can abuse happen?

 Abuse can take place anywhere; most abuse takes place in the home, whether the person is living along or with family. It may also occur within residential, day-care or hospital settings, other places assumed to be safe, or in a public place.

If you hear of a patient that maybe suffering abuse talk to someone you can trust in the Practice – the patient’s doctor or the Practice Nurse or Practice Nurse.

Elder people often cannot stand up for themselves; perhaps they are too frightened to tell anyone –  they often do not want to “worry anyone” such as their doctor or family members. Sometimes they do not even realise that they are suffering abuse of any kind. But one thing is for sure – elder people deserve respect, and help when needed.

How would YOU feel if it was your mum or dad, aunty or uncle, or elderly neighbour that was being abused. You would want it dealt with if it was I’m sure.

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