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Could radiologists help diagnose physical elder abuse?

Detecting physical elder abuse may seem straightforward, but most cases go unreported as elderly victims are oftentimes afraid, embarrassed or unable to speak up.

A recent article published to the Journal of the American College of Radiology maps out the possibility of radiologists learning to identify the signs of elder abuse.

According to the article, with more exposure and documentation to elder abuse cases, radiologists may be able to build new imaging strategies and tools for elder abuse detection and management. A possible solution, for example, may be a "mechanism mismatch," meaning radiologists could determine whether an injury pattern is inconsistent with the cause described by the patient or caregiver.

However, using current technology, identifying pathognomonic radiographic findings for elder abuse is difficult. Misdiagnosis of physical elder abuse is common because signs of abuse often look similar to signs of geriatric issues, such as brittle bones and undernutrition. Likewise, what may look like injuries sustained from a fall could actually be a result of physical trauma.

If you have an elderly parent or loved one in your life, you can do your part by watching for possible physical abuse signs, such as:

  • Burns
  • Scratches
  • Bite marks
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Cuts or scrapes
  • Rashes
  • Irregular weight
  • Hair loss
  • Sleeplessness

As we encourage open conversation with our elders and monitor them closely, radiologists can focus on developing definitive imaging correlates of elder abuse cases.

If an elderly parent or loved one has been a victim of any type of elder abuse, contact an attorney as soon as possible to seek justice for this terrible crime.

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  • Canhr | Elder Justice Advocates
  • Super Lawyers
  • The Bar Association Of San Francisco
  • Consumer Attorneys Of California
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