With ageing population the number of elderly vulnerable to abuse is expected to grow. Hospital personnel play a crucial role in identifying mistreatment. The aim of this study was to establish the level of awareness and perception of elder abuse by healthcare workers, and to understand if they are able to recognize and properly report elder abuse, as well as to identify the physical signs of abuse and neglect. A 41-question survey was administered to healthcare professionals, working in the Internal Medicine and Geriatric Wards of two different University Hospitals of Southern Italy, representative of the Italian health public system. The data collection resulted in 98 questionnaires. For the majority, neglect represents a type of abuse, whereas 40% of physicians and 37% of nurses considered this concept false. All the professionals recognized the elder abuse as a violation of the human rights, but 46.94% were not sure about the existence of standard procedures for abuse reporting/treatment. The most of the nurses and the care assistants declared they never had suspected or witnessed abuse, while few physicians stated to have suspected/witnessed abuse 1-3 times in their career. In both the suspected and witnessed cases, the healthcare personnel did not made any action, neither reported them to public authorities nor adult protective service agencies. The level of awareness and perception of elder abuse by healthcare professionals are still poor especially regarding the reporting procedures. There is still strong need for education and specific training programs on elder abuse.
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