Towards the development of a screening tool to enhance the detection of elder abuse and neglect by emergency medical technicians

Cannell, M.B. et al. BMC Emergency Medicine. Published online: 1 June 2016

Background: To develop a screening tool to enhance elder abuse and neglect detection and reporting rates among emergency medical technicians (EMTs). Our primary aim was to identify the most salient indicators of elder abuse and neglect for potential inclusion on a screening tool. We also sought to identify practical elements of the tool that would optimize EMT uptake and use in the field, such as format, length and number of items, and types of response options available.

Methods: Qualitative data were collected from 23 EMTs and Adult Protective Services (APS) caseworkers that participated in one of five semi-structured focus groups. Focus group data were iteratively coded by two coders using inductive thematic identification and data reduction. Findings were subject to interpretation by the research team.

Results: EMTs and APS caseworks identified eight domains of items that might be included on a screening tool: (1) exterior home condition; (2) interior living conditions; (3) social support; (4) medical history; (5) caregiving quality; (6) physical condition of the older adult; (7) older adult’s behavior; and, (8) EMTs instincts. The screening tool should be based on observable cues in the physical or social environment, be very brief, easily integrated into electronic charting systems, and provide a decision rule for reporting guidance to optimize utility for EMTs in the field.

Conclusions: We described characteristics of a screening tool for EMTs to enhance detection and reporting of elder abuse and neglect to APS. Future research should narrow identified items and evaluate how these domains positively predict confirmed cases of elder abuse and neglect.

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