The researchers found that elder self-neglect was associated with a 5.82 times increased risk for mortality in the year after a report of self-neglect. For abused seniors, the chance that they would die in the year after the abuse was reported was more than twice as great as it was for seniors who were not abused.
Dong said the researchers controlled the data to account for numerous factors -- such as medical conditions, socioeconomic status, health habits and memory -- but still found a strong association between abuse and self-neglect and the risk for premature death.
That suggests, he said, that it's the abuse and self-neglect that lead to the physical decline that ends in death.
"This degree of mortality risk is usually reserved for acute conditions, like an acute heart attack or stroke, and these findings really emphasize the importance of reporting abuse and self-neglect as well as the need to respond promptly with social service and medical intervention and prevention," Dong said.
The study points to an imminent problem, according to Dr. Karin Ouchida, medical director of the Montefiore Medical Center Home Health Agency in New York City.
"The situation is kind of grim right now," Ouchida said. "The population is going to get larger, and the population of people armed to care for them is getting smaller. I think this study really raises a red flag."
"Whether it was some decline in medical function that led to self-neglecting behavior, or the other way around, these people are in crisis, and social services and medical services need to have more communication and interaction," she said.
Anyone who suspects that an older family member, neighbor or friend is being abused or might be self-neglecting need to report those suspicions, both Ouchida and Dong said. A sudden change in weight, hygiene, or worsening medical conditions,
All rights reserved