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Acad Med. 2009 May;84(5):611-8. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31819fb95f.

Elder abuse education in residency programs: how well are we doing?

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Department of Psychiatry, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA.



To understand whether education is at the heart of underreporting elder abuse by surveying Michigan residency program directors to learn about their elder abuse curricula.


In 2006, a questionnaire was mailed to 71 residency program directors in Michigan. Participants responded to closed-ended or Likert-type items about program demographics, elder abuse curricula, desire for additional related program materials, and related clinical experience.


Results are based on 41 usable responses, for a response rate of 58%. Elder abuse education played a major role in residency curricula in more than a third of all programs (15/41). Of the 31 programs that had elder abuse lectures, 77% (24/31) required attendance at lectures. Sixty-one percent (25/41) expressed a need to learn more about screening tools, and more than half (23/41) did not use a screening assessment tool in their clinical care. Of desired additional materials, respondents most frequently requested screening tools at 63.4% (26/41). With elder abuse reporting, 61% (25/41) rated their experience with Adult Protective Services (APS) as "poor." Those curricula with the most elder abuse content topics experienced a more positive relationship with APS than those with fewer.


Elder abuse education is not a consistent or highly prioritized topic in many primary care residency programs. Standardized educational goals and clinical experiences would help educate residents. Many participants voiced a need for additional educational materials, especially around screening, suggesting that future research should focus on the development of valid reliable elder abuse screening tools or protocols specific to medical settings.

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