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Tackling elder abuse

Photo by Mary Knox Merrill.

Neglect accounts for as many as 80 percent of the cases of elder mistreatment, according to studies conducted in emergency rooms and primary care settings by Terry Fulmer, dean of the Bouvé College of Health Sciences.

Fulmer — a nationally known expert in geriatrics who was elected to the Institute of Medicine in 2010 — shared her research findings with more than two-dozen students, faculty and staff at the semester’s first Faculty Works-in-Progress Colloquium Series on Monday in Meserve Hall. The series — which features inspirational discussions with Northeastern’s leading scholars and distinguished visitors — is sponsored by the Northeastern Humanities Center in conjunction with the Dean’s Office in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities.

Fulmer’s next research project will focus on intervention strategies to reduce elder mistreatment and neglect. “There is not an intervention study going on in the United States right now and that’s a problem,” she said.

The best way to reduce cases of neglect, Fulmer noted, is through a combination of empowerment and self-management.

She plans to explore ways to help patients identify neglect by asking them to consider what care they are not receiving — such as getting enough water or taking regular trips to the restroom — and then cue them to remind their caregivers of these needs.

“You don’t want to catch it,” Fulmer explained. “You want to prevent it.”

Georges Van Den Abbeele, founding dean of the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, welcomed attendees to the lecture.  Fulmer, he said, “brings real expertise in questions of health care for the elderly.”

For her part, Fulmer plans to collaborate with faculty in the humanities and social sciences on future research projects. “There are so many natural alliances when you think about the research that we do,” she said.

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