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The Growing Epidemic Of Elderly Neglect And Ways To Avoid It

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In recent years, elderly neglect has become an international growing epidemic that has caught the attention of the medical community and society as a whole. Elderly neglect is defined as “any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or other person that harms or causes risk of harm to a vulnerable adult”.

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With increased research on elderly neglect by medical providers, as well as health-service researchers, distressing results have begun to surface about this phenomenon. In a recent study, it has been estimated that nearly 500,000 elderly neglect cases occur each year, while 7. 6%-10% of elderly patients reported abusive neglect in the past year. Although these numbers are staggering, numerous cases continue to fall through the cracks. Elder neglect has become a rapidly emerging social injustice because it violates provision 4. 1 of the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics, authority, accountability, and responsibility, American Nurses Association Scope and Standards of Practice related to maintaining a social contract with an obligation to society, and failing to obtain the Jesuit values of magis and cura personalis.

This paper will illustrate the importance of recognizing and acting upon elderly neglect as it has become a rapidly growing epidemic within our healthcare system, as well as highlighting some barriers that have made it difficult to reduce the occurrence of this injustice. With the inability to abide by these standards, elderly neglect will continue to occur in our society, harming the lives of thousands of susceptible elderly patients.

Literature Review

By failing to properly care for our elderly population, leading to elderly neglect, this has grown into both a medical and social injustice recognized on an international scale. From a nursing perspective, the scope of nursing practice embodies a nurses “response to the changing needs of society to achieve positive healthcare consumer outcomes in keeping with nursing’s social contract with an obligation to society”.

As a registered nurse, the profession manifests an obligation to lead, educate, and implement their knowledge not only in the healthcare setting, but also on a daily basis amongst our society as a whole. With this in mind, provision 4. 1 of the Code of Ethics for Nurses highlights the independent ability to possess authority, accountability and responsibility. A nurse is independently responsible to be an authoritative figure in society, being accountable for their nursing judgments and actions. Elderly neglect is inexcusable for any registered nurse who abides by this code of ethics because they are failing to address this intentional negligent act that causes harm to nearly one in every ten elderly patients, as reported in the staggering statistics.

Neglecting an elderly patient deprives them of their quality of life, puts them in danger and the potential for further injury, and is at the responsibility of the caregiver for causing or failing to prevent it. With relation to the American Nurses Association Scopes and Standards of Practice, implementing health teaching and promoting the health of the patient is imperative to perform in a professional manor. However, recent studies have highlighted barriers that make it difficult to effectively report incidences of elderly neglect.

For health care providers that have encountered this mistreatment of elders, some of the barriers mentioned are a lack of training for vulnerable patients, time limitations, lack of direct communication with social workers, and a lack of reporting protocol where there is a dedicated location for this injustice specifically related to the elderly population. Although these barriers are very realistic in the real world, a nurse’s scope and standards of practice rely on an independent and accountable ability to communicate, collaborate, and utilize the resources they do have to reduce the scale of this injustice. As this phenomenon continues to grow, with elderly neglect cases exceeding hundreds of thousands, these barriers must be broken for positive change to occur.

Application to Nursing

As we apply this code of ethics, while implementing the scope and standards of practice as a nurse, the instilment of the Jesuit values is imperative to truthfully achieve an honest and well-rounded understanding that the nursing profession requires. With this approach to thinking, cura personalis translates to caring for the whole person. By caring for the whole person, neglect of any aspect is not an option. Similarly, the Jesuit value of magis translates in Latin to “more” or “greater”.

For a nurse, this translates to making a greater impact by doing more, being more, and living with a greater understanding and greater instilment of these Jesuit values. By encouraging these Jesuit values, keeping them in the forefront of nurses’ minds and practice, this can limit the occurrence of this injustice on an independent level, as well as amongst those in the surrounding community. Each and every nurse is responsible for their actions and is accountable for the actions of others as they are an authoritative figure that has been taught to implement their knowledge and promote this education to all of society. With a greater understanding of the severity of this injustice, nurses are at the forefront of alleviating elderly neglect in the community, and possess the tools to begin to minimize the cruelty of thousands of the elder population.

Conclusion

As with any international epidemic, effective communication, implementation, and independent responsibility is imperative to improving the injustice of elderly neglect. Our elderly population deserves the right to adequate care, preventing further harm or injury, and continually satisfying their basic needs no matter the circumstance. In order to avoid further neglect and harmful care to thousands of elderly patients worldwide, the medical community must take responsibility by acting with authoritative and accountable actions, while instilling the Jesuit values, to work with and for our society day in and day out. At the end of the day, every human being is independently responsible for their actions, as they must be held accountable to provide adequate care for our elderly population and for all those who are susceptible to this injustice.

10 December 2020

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