Elder abuseBMJ 1999; 318 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.318.7179.278 (Published 30 January 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:278
Doctors must acknowledge it, look for it, and learn how to prevent it
- Alison Tonks, Assistant editor,
- Gerry Bennett, Reader and chair, Action on Elder Abuse
- Department of Health Care of the Elderly, St Bartholomew's and The Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry, London E1 1BB
Two incidents last week brought elder abuse into the public eye: a community trust in London reported that three staff had been sacked (and others disciplined) for physically abusing the elderly people in one of their homes, Beech House, and Lucille McLauchlan, the nurse imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for murder, was convicted of stealing money from a 79 year old patient when she was a nurse in Dundee. The mistreatment at Beech House included slapping, cold baths, verbal threats, intimidation, withholding drinks, and tying patients up. No one doubts that elderly people can be abused by their carers, but despite a series of high profile cases over the past 30 years, 1 2 elder abuse is not widely accepted as a social or medical problem.
The Beech House inquiry exposed ignorance, denial, poor management, low morale, and inadequate training—a litany that defines any poor quality enterprise. These failures still occur because the messages from repeated institutional …