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CDC, NCIPC launch first national definitions of elder abuse

February 5, 2016
by Pamela Tabar, Editor-in-Chief
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What constitutes elder abuse? A new joint effort between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control has now taken the first step to publish national definitions for the various aspects of elder abuse. The “Elder Abuse Surveillance: Uniform definitions and recommended core data elements” outlines specific definitions for several categories of elder abuse, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional/psychological abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.

The report marks the first national foray into defining the violations of an elder’s expectation of trust. For years, states have relied on their own definitions of elder abuse. But, without some national definition lines carved in the sand, data sets aren’t comparable across state lines when attempting to record and measure instances and trends in elder abuse. “The creation of uniform definitions and data elements for use in collecting [elder abuse] data is essential…to promote national level public health surveillance,” the report states.

The new report tallies all previous research and definitions on what constitutes neglect, physical and emotional abuse, financial abuse and the age-ranges defining an “elder.” The new report outlines a core data set of definitions for the various aspects of elder abuse—including what constitutes financial abuse. For example, the new data set includes not only “financial misappropriation,” but also “undue influence” and breach of conservatorship.

Valuable data collected by state adult protective services, long-term care ombudsman offices and law enforcement have encountered the barriers of siloed data, partly because the terminology isn’t standardized, the report explains. “Characteristics such as the use of different terms and jargon and behavioral categories that are not conceptually or operationally compatible make efforts such as cross-walkingiv for the purpose of data aggregation very difficult.”

Most agree the report, a joint effort by the CDC and the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, is a good first step toward defining lines that can lead to measurable national data sets, and a better understanding of the scope of the problem.

Read the entire CMS report here.