In recent years, elderly neglect hasbecome an international growing epidemic that has caught the attention of themedical community and society as a whole. Elderly neglect is defined as “any knowing, intentional, or negligentact by a caregiver or other person that harms or causes risk of harm to a vulnerableadult” (Administration on Aging, 2015). Withincreased research on elderly neglect by medical providers, as well ashealth-service researchers, distressing results have begun to surface aboutthis phenomenon.
In a recent study, ithas been estimated that nearly 500,000 elderly neglect cases occur each year,while 7.6%-10% of elderly patients reported abusive neglect in the past year(National Center on Elder Abuse, 2015). Although these numbers are staggering, numerous cases continue to fallthrough the cracks. Elder neglect hasbecome a rapidly emerging social injustice because it violates provision 4.1 ofthe American Nurses Association Code of Ethics, authority, accountability, andresponsibility (Fowler, 2015), American Nurses Association Scope and Standardsof Practice related to maintaining a social contract with an obligation tosociety (Fowler, 2015), and failing to obtain the Jesuit values of magis and cura personalis (Regis University, 2017). This paper will illustratethe importance of recognizing and acting upon elderly neglect as it has becomea rapidly growing epidemic within our healthcare system, as well ashighlighting some barriers that have made it difficult to reduce the occurrenceof this injustice.
With the inability toabide by these standards, elderly neglect will continue to occur in oursociety, harming the lives of thousands of susceptible elderly patients.Literature Review By failing to properly care for ourelderly population, leading to elderly neglect, this has grown into both amedical and social injustice recognized on an international scale (Pillemer etal. 2015). From a nursing perspective,the scope of nursing practice embodies a nurses “response to the changing needsof society to achieve positive healthcare consumer outcomes in keeping withnursing’s social contract with an obligation to society” (Fowler, 2015). As a registered nurse, the professionmanifests an obligation to lead, educate, and implement their knowledge notonly in the healthcare setting, but also on a daily basis amongst our societyas a whole. With this in mind, provision4.1 of the Code of Ethics for Nurses highlights the independent ability topossess authority, accountability and responsibility. A nurse is independently responsible to be anauthoritative figure in society, being accountable for their nursing judgmentsand actions.
Elderly neglect isinexcusable for any registered nurse who abides by this code of ethics becausethey are failing to address this intentional negligent act that causes harm tonearly one in every ten elderly patients, as reported in the staggeringstatistics (National Center on Elder Abuse, 2015). Neglecting an elderly patient deprives themof their quality of life, puts them in danger and the potential for furtherinjury, and is at the responsibility of the caregiver for causing or failing toprevent it. With relation to theAmerican Nurses Association Scopes and Standards of Practice, implementinghealth teaching and promoting the health of the patient is imperative toperform in a professional manor (Fowler, 2015). However, recent studies have highlighted barriers that make it difficultto effectively report incidences of elderly neglect (Rosen et al. 2017).
For health care providers that haveencountered this mistreatment of elders, some of the barriers mentioned are alack of training for vulnerable patients, time limitations, lack of directcommunication with social workers, and a lack of reporting protocol where thereis a dedicated location for this injustice specifically related to the elderlypopulation. Although these barriers arevery realistic in the real world, a nurse’s scope and standards of practice relyon an independent and accountable ability to communicate, collaborate, andutilize the resources they do have to reduce the scale of this injustice. As this phenomenon continues to grow, withelderly neglect cases exceeding hundreds of thousands, these barriers must bebroken for positive change to occur.Application to Nursing As we apply this code of ethics,while implementing the scope and standards of practice as a nurse, the instilmentof the Jesuit values is imperative to truthfully achieve an honest andwell-rounded understanding that the nursing profession requires. With this approach to thinking, cura personalis translates to caring forthe whole person (Regis University, 2017).
By caring for the whole person, neglect of any aspect is not anoption. Similarly, the Jesuit value of magis translates in Latin to “more” or “greater”(Regis University, 2017). For a nurse,this translates to making a greater impact by doing more, being more, andliving with a greater understanding and greater instilment of these Jesuitvalues. By encouraging these Jesuitvalues, keeping them in the forefront of nurses’ minds and practice, this canlimit the occurrence of this injustice on an independent level, as well asamongst those in the surrounding community. Each and every nurse is responsible for their actions and is accountablefor the actions of others as they are an authoritative figure that has beentaught to implement their knowledge and promote this education to all ofsociety. With a greater understanding ofthe severity of this injustice, nurses are at the forefront of alleviatingelderly neglect in the community, and possess the tools to begin to minimizethe cruelty of thousands of the elder population.
Conclusion As with any international epidemic,effective communication, implementation, and independent responsibility isimperative to improving the injustice of elderly neglect. Our elderly population deserves the right toadequate care, preventing further harm or injury, and continually satisfyingtheir basic needs no matter the circumstance. In order to avoid further neglect and harmful care to thousands ofelderly patients worldwide, the medical community must take responsibility byacting with authoritative and accountable actions, while instilling the Jesuitvalues, to work with and for our society day in and day out. At the end of the day, every human being is independentlyresponsible for their actions, as they must be held accountable to provideadequate care for our elderly population and for all those who are susceptibleto this injustice.