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Elder Abuse, Neglect Make Early Death Far More Likely
Date:8/4/2009

Finding illustrates need to report suspected problems, expert says,,,,

TUESDAY, Aug. 4 (HealthDay News) -- When seniors stop taking proper care of themselves, their risk for death increases nearly sixfold, a new study shows.

In addition, elderly people who are abused physically, emotionally, financially or through withdrawal of care don't fare much better. Their risk for dying more than doubles, the researchers report.

"Elder self-neglect and abuse really have severe consequences," said study author Dr. XinQi Dong, an associate professor of medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Though people often associate dementia or Alzheimer's disease with self-neglect, the researchers found that "it's not just the cognitively impaired" who are affected, Dong said. "Even more capable seniors face a higher risk of premature death from self-neglect."

The findings are reported in the Aug. 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Elder self-neglect is the most common reason that someone is referred to adult protective services, according to Dr. Thomas Gill, author of an accompanying editorial in the same issue of the journal. The inability to care for oneself, which characterizes self-neglect, can include failing to provide adequate food, water, clothing, shelter and necessary medications and not following basic hygiene practices, according to the study and editorial.

Abuse can include physical or sexual abuse, confinement, emotional abuse, caregiver neglect, deprivation or financial exploitation, the study reported.

Dong and his colleagues followed a group of 9,318 Chicago residents, all older than 65, who were participating in the Chicago Health and Aging Project. During the study period, from 1993 to 2005, social service agencies received reports of self-neglect on 1,544 of the participants, and 113 were reported as being abused. During about s
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