Action on Elder Abuse: New abuse research must make difference

Action on Elder Abuse has said research on the abuse of older people launched today must lead to improved outcomes, claiming a predecessor study which reported last June is yet to deliver change.

The Department of Health today announced the first study into the prevalence of abuse and loss of dignity faced by older people in care homes, intermediate care and hospitals, funded jointly by Comic Relief to the tune of £2m.

It follows a similar study into elder abuse in the home, published last year, which estimated that over 340,000 older people had been abused or neglected in the previous year, with half of all incidents involving a partner or family member, including carers.

2007 study yet to deliver

But AEA chief executive Gary FitzGerald said last year’s study was “yet to deliver changes in practice or further work to understand the key messages that arose”.

He raised this issue last month in an interview with Community Care, in which he questioned the DH’s commitment to tackling elder abuse – though he exempted care services minister Ivan Lewis from blame.

FitzGerald added: “We will be scrutinishing this proposal to satisfy ourselves that the funding is being put to the best possible use; after all £2m is a lot of money and research is only of use if it leads to change.”

UK at forefront of research

However, FitzGerald still welcomed the anouncement, saying it put the UK at the forefront of research into elder abuse.

The study, which is likely to last until April 2011, is designed to test the “widespread public perception that neglect is common in institutional care”, the DH said, and will also examine the pressures faced by care staff.

Comic Relief head of UK Grants Gilly Green added that it would be informed by the views of older people with dementia, who she said had been excluded from previous studies due to frailty or lack of capacity.

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