A new study says that older adults who have a report of self-neglect or abuse submitted to a social service agency have an associated elevated risk of death.
The research has been published in the August 5 issue of JAMA, a theme issue on violence and human rights.
To reach the conclusion, XinQi Dong, M.D., of Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, and colleagues investigated the risk of death associated with reported elder self-neglect or abuse in a large and sociodemographically diverse group and across different levels of cognitive and physical function.
The study included residents living in three adjacent neighborhoods in Chicago who were participating in the Chicago Healthy and Aging Project (CHAP; a population-based, epidemiological study of residents age 65 years or older). A subset of these participants had suspected elder self-neglect or abuse reported to social services agencies.
The 9,318 CHAP participants had an average age of 73 years. About 40 percent were men, 63 percent were black, and the average education was 12.2 years. The 1,544 cases reported as elder self-neglect and the 113 cases reported as elder abuse tended to be older, female, black, and have a lower income and education. There were 4,306 deaths (46 percent) during the 14 years of follow-up.
In the fully adjusted analysis, reported self-neglect was associated with a significantly increased risk of death within 1 year. The mortality risk for reported and confirmed cases after 1 year was lower, but remained increased (nearly twice the risk). White participants and men had a higher risk of death relative to others.
"This mortality risk is especially alarming during the first year after the report of elder self-neglect. These findings may have direct implications for health care professionals and social services agencies to promote early identification of elder self-neglect and prompt interventions after the discovery of self-neglect," the authors write.
Analysis also indicated that reported elder abuse was significantly associated with increased risk of overall mortality (about 40 percent). Confirmed elder abuse was associated with about a two times higher risk of death.