Assessing the mental health needs of older people
The Department of Health guidance on policies to protect vulnerable adults, No Secrets (43) defines a vulnerable adult as a person over the age of 18 who 'is or may be in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness; and who is or may be unable to take care of him or herself, or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation'. In 2004 the Secretary of State for Health announced the government's intention of extending this definition by removing the criterion of need for community care services.
Older people with mental health needs are some of the most vulnerable members of society, and there is increasing recognition that they may be subject to abuse or neglect by their families or paid carers or in hospitals and care homes. Much of this abuse goes unreported.
All those who are in contact with older people who may be at risk of abuse have both professional accountability and personal responsibility to take action where necessary to prevent further abuse.
For a more detailed account, see Research summary 7.
- Older people with mental health needs are at greater risk of abuse than other groups of older people.
- The risk of abuse is greater in the following circumstances:
- when older people have cognitive impairment
- when older people are depressed
- when a person with caring responsibilities is drinking heavily
- where household relationships have always been poor
- when the older person is physically or verbally abusive
- when the older person has behaviour problems.
- Training can improve staff recognition of abuse.
- Little information is available on what help people who have been abused would value. Individuals need to be asked.
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