Elder abuse: perception and knowledge of the phenomenon by healthcare workers from two Italian hospitals

  • Graziamaria CorbiEmail author
  • Ignazio Grattagliano
  • Carlo Sabbà
  • Giorgio Fiore
  • Sabrina Spina
  • Nicola Ferrara
  • Carlo Pietro Campobasso


With ageing population the number of elderly vulnerable to abuse is expected to grow. Hospital personnel play a crucial role in identifying mistreatment. The aim of this study was to establish the level of awareness and perception of elder abuse by healthcare workers, and to understand if they are able to recognize and properly report elder abuse, as well as to identify the physical signs of abuse and neglect. A 41-question survey was administered to healthcare professionals, working in the Internal Medicine and Geriatric Wards of two different University Hospitals of Southern Italy, representative of the Italian health public system. The data collection resulted in 98 questionnaires. For the majority, neglect represents a type of abuse, whereas 40% of physicians and 37% of nurses considered this concept false. All the professionals recognized the elder abuse as a violation of the human rights, but 46.94% were not sure about the existence of standard procedures for abuse reporting/treatment. The most of the nurses and the care assistants declared they never had suspected or witnessed abuse, while few physicians stated to have suspected/witnessed abuse 1–3 times in their career. In both the suspected and witnessed cases, the healthcare personnel did not made any action, neither reported them to public authorities nor adult protective service agencies. The level of awareness and perception of elder abuse by healthcare professionals are still poor especially regarding the reporting procedures. There is still strong need for education and specific training programs on elder abuse.


Elder abuse survey Institutional setting Education Reporting Forensic medicine 



The authors acknowledge Dr. Scarabaggio Lidia for her help in questionnaire recovery.

Author contributions

GC conceived the study, analyzed and interpreted the data and was a major contributor in writing the manuscript. IG conceived the study and was a major contributor in writing the manuscript. CS assisted with the study and analyses. GF assisted with the study and analyses. SS analyzed the data and was a major contributor in writing the manuscript. NF supervised the study and was a major contributor in writing the manuscript. CPC conceived the study, was a major contributor in writing the manuscript and supervised the study.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare they have no competing interests and no source of funding for this study.

Statement of human and animal rights

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent


Supplementary material

11739_2019_2038_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (83 kb)
Questionnaire of the survey. A 41- question survey dealing with main aspects of the elder abuse phenomenon 1 (PDF 82 kb)


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Copyright information

© Società Italiana di Medicina Interna (SIMI) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medicine and Health Sciences “V. Tiberio”University of MoliseCampobassoItaly
  2. 2.Department of Educational Sciences, Psychology, CommunicationUniversity of Bari Aldo MoroBariItaly
  3. 3.Department of Interdisciplinary MedicineUniversity of Bari Aldo MoroBariItaly
  4. 4.Manchester Royal InfirmaryManchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust ManchesterManchesterUK
  5. 5.Department of Medical and Translational SciencesUniversity of Naples “Federico II”NaplesItaly
  6. 6.Department of Experimental MedicineUniversity of Campania “Luigi Vanvitelli”NaplesItaly

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