New Elder Abuse policy for Cork University Hospital



A new policy for Cork University Hospital (CUH) on the management of elder abuse will be launched by Dr. Michael O Connor, Chairperson, Division of Geriatric Medicine at CUH on 15 October 2008.

The policy, entitled ‘Policy and Procedure on the management of elder abuse by all healthcare staff in Cork University Hospital, Mercy University Hospital and South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital’will be given to front line staff in the Geriatric and Emergency Departments and also made available in other departments in the hospital.

It is anticipated that the policy will be rolled out in the Mercy University and South Infirmary Victoria Hospitals in the coming months.

The document outlines the various forms of abuse and provides step by step instructions on how hospital staff should proceed if a disclosure of abuse is made or if they have concerns regarding a patient.

Elder abuse, which includes physical, emotional/psychological, acts of neglect/omission, financial/material, sexual or discrimination, is defined as; “A single or repeated act or lack of appropriate action occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person or violates their human and civil rights.” (Protecting Our Future: Report of the Working Group on Elder Abuse 2002)

Elder abuse can occur anywhere. Early analysis of referrals of alleged elder abuse received by the HSE in 2007 indicates that most abuse, by far, occurs in the home.  Patterns indicate that; 85% occurs in the home, 3% in an acute hospital setting, 4% in private nursing homes, 4% in relative’s homes, 3% in public continuing care units and 1% in boarding/lodging facilities.

Elder abuse can be perpetrated by anyone but figures indicate that those most like to carry out this form of abuse are family members.  Again, 2007 statistics indicate that a family member is most like to abuse an elderly family member - 82%, neighbour - 4%, carer - 6%, service users (other patients) - 1% and other – 7%.

A city wide committee with representatives from Cork University Hospital, Mercy University Hospital and the South Infirmary/Victoria Hospital was formed to develop the policy. Eileen Sheehan, Senior Medical Social Worker, CUH, said  “It is hoped that a clear policy in the hospitals will help staff at ward level to respond appropriately to a disclosure or concern regarding elder abuse. Disciplines represented on the committee included medical, nursing and medical social work personnel. The policy will also provide standard processes on the management of elder abuse in order to ensure a consistent approach throughout the three hospitals.”

Raising the awareness of elder abuse is vital if people are to understand what it is and how to respond if they suspect someone is being abused. Elder abuse is a very sensitive issue but there are now trained staff working in the HSE whose role it is to assess these cases and put in place the necessary steps to support and protect older people.

Further information from: National Communications Unit, HSE South.Tel: 021-4923567/3736   Email:

Last updated on: 14 / 10 / 2008