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Objectives: To understand the barriers to recognition and reporting of elder abuse and identify existing opportunities to implement technology to address these obstacles among stakeholders.

Background: The phenomenon of elder abuse, including mistreatment, neglect, and exploitation, is an underreported and growing problem. An estimated 11% of U.S. elders experience some form of abuse or neglect, yet only one out of every 14 cases of elder abuse is reported. With a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant and the support of other major funders, The Jewish Home (TJH) of Fairfield, Connecticut started the Center for Elder Abuse Prevention in 2008 to protect and advocate for vulnerable elders; however, since elders are often isolated, there is a need for scalable, cost-effective tools to increase awareness and enable rapid recognition and reporting of incidents of abuse.

Methods: We conducted individual key-informant interviews with experts on elder abuse and technology and social media to assess barriers to recognizing and reporting elder abuse, and determine the components of the best possible interactive tool to combat these barriers. We held focus groups with current medical, physician associate, and nursing students to assess clinical knowledge and identify opportunities for intervention during medical education.

Results & Conclusions: Based on our interviews and focus groups, we identified several social and institutional barriers to reporting and recognition of elder abuse. These included a lack of proper practitioner education, the limited time of all types of healthcare providers, blurred lines between symptoms of abuse versus symptoms of disease in a population with a tendency to have multiple chronic diseases, a fear of doing harm by reporting a case of abuse, and the possibility of not knowing what happens to a patient once the act of reporting occurs. However, our focus groups yielded information on the possible content and timing of affective intervention via the use of interactive tools. Future initiatives to use such means to help increase recognition and reporting of elder abuse should carefully consider these specific recommendations to ensure successful delivery and adoption.

Publication Date



Community Health and Preventive Medicine

Using Technology to Fight Elder Abuse: Exploring the Potential of Interactive Tools to Increase Health Care Provider Recognition and Reporting (Jewish Home for the Elderly)