As the United States’ population ages, elder abuse is a growing problem that health care and law enforcement officials want to know more about. While physical abuse may be a bigger problem nationally, senior citizens in San Diego County may be more at risk for financial exploitation, according to research done by a University of San Diego PhD student in nursing.
The study was one of 67 projects presented at the May 13 Graduate Research Day, hosted by USD’s Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science.
In a study of 155 criminal cases between 1996 and 2009, Amy Carney (pictured, at left) found that more than 80 percent involved financial abuse with 31 percent involving physical abuse and 5 percent involving sexual abuse. Some seniors were victims of more than one kind of abuse, so the numbers added up to more than 100 percent, she explained.
The results were surprising, Carney added, because they deviated from national studies showing that physical abuse is more prevalent. Why San Diego’s population would be different “is a really good question,” perhaps related to the affluence of local seniors, said Carney, who hopes to do further research on the subject. Her research found that in San Diego cases, financial abuse was more likely committed by a non-family member while physical abuse was more likely to occur at the hands of someone related to the victim.
Those presenting research included the first class of graduating students earning doctorates in nursing practice. Sally Hardin, dean of the nursing school, said DNP students also presented results from their research to their employers. “They’re having a major impact on clinical practice,” she said.
DNP student Karen Macauley, for example, presented research on ways to monitor patients who take blood thinners to prevent incidents like heart attacks or strokes from having additional problems with their blood not coagulating properly. Her program already has helped improve care at Scripps Mercy Clinic.
Hardin said she was impressed by the research of PhD, doctorates and masters students. “The science was excellent.”
This year, master’s students from the marine science program and the School of Leadership and Education Sciences also presented at the conference on topics including vocal learning of killer whales, sedimentation of coral reefs and elementary school attendance.
According to the USD graduate registrar’s office, a record number of students, 57, will receive doctorates or PhDs this spring, up from 25-30 in past years. Those include 14 graduates from USD’s DNP program in nursing.
— Liz Harman