The Aging Process: Elder Abuse, Health Assessment, Geriatric Patient, compared to Middle-Aged Adult.

*Describe the characteristics of the aging process. **Explain how the characteristics may lead to elder abuse (memory issues, vulnerability, etc.). ***Describe the types of consideration a nurse must be mindful of while performing a health assessment on a *geriatric patient as compared to a *middle-age adult.
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The Aging Process: Elder Abuse


The aging process impact people in different ways. The various facets of aging do not happen in the same rate for all individuals. The dimensions of aging process include psychology, functional, and physiological. The purpose of this paper is to examine the characteristics of aging process and how they increase vulnerability to elder abuse.


Ageing is accompanied by changes in bodily functions, cognitive and mental state. To begin with, aging is also typified by changes in body composition and loss of bodily functions. Slow but steady functional disability and physical impairment are observed in older age. Physically, the body loses it lean tissue and the net effect of this is reduction in muscle mass (Amarya, Singh & Sabharwal, 2018). This weakens the body and increases disability. Decline in mass strength and muscle mass increases the risk of fall, frailty and reduced quality of life/loss of independence. The skin thins and loosens and is less elastic. The hair grays by losing scalp hair pigment (Amarya et al. 2018)

Aging affect aspects of nervous system, such as sensory and motor function, mental status and reflexes. Aging process is associated with mild decline in cognition. Cognitive function impairments and declines are noticed in older adulthood. These changes are brought about proximal or distal life events. Normal aging is accompanied by changes in affects memory, intelligence and learning (Amarya et al. 2018). Aging also diminishes the functional ability of affects special senses such as hearing, vision, and taste.

Musculoskeletal changes include shortening of height due to shortening of vertebral bodies and flexion at the hips and knees. The capacity to exercise declines due to weakening of respiratory muscles and the lungs losing their elasticity. Psychologically, some older adults may struggle with dementia, grieving, depression, organic brain syndrome and anxiety.

Elder abuse encompasses neglect, financial, physical, psychological and sexual abuse.  Many older adults who suffer abuse are socially isolated, cognitively impaired, functionally disabled, and frail (Lee, Sun, & Chima, 2018). The progressive physical and cognitive decline of the older adult increases the caregiver’s responsibility, taxing the patience of the caregiver (World Health Organization, 2020). The demanding care of functionally dependent older adults causes caregiver burnout and stress and thus arouse abusive behavior. Ageism attitudes place older adults as most vulnerable to abuse. Devastating consequences of elder abuse include poor quality of life, increased mortality, psychological distress and several health problems (Schofield, 2017).

Because of the interplay between physiology of aging and health conditions, the examiner assessing older adult patient must make some considerations. To begin with, the examiner needs to understand that taking history may take considerable time due to the patient’s cognitive or sensory impairment. The patient may also take time to process or accrue several details. As a result, the nurse needs to schedule several sessions in order to obtain complete history. Multiple sessions may relieve patient fatigue and

The patient should be dressed and seated. The examiner must seat facing the patient. It is important to limit the time a patient stays in a supine position otherwise those with osteoarthritis may experience back pain. Provide patients with shortness of breath with pillows to hold on their hands.   Allow the patient to be dressed and seated during the interview. Have the patient wear their hearing aids, glasses and dentures.  

Consider the patient as the primary source of information. To this end, it is best to interview the patient and caregiver separately. Speak clearly and slowly while avoiding use of nursing jargons. In case the patient and caregiver are interviewed together, begin asking questions first with the patient. If the initial responses of the patient are inappropriate, switch to mental status examination immediately.


Amarya, S., Singh, K., & Sabharwal, M. (2018). Ageing Process and Physiological Changes. DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.76249

Lee, J., Sun, F & Chima, E. (2018). Risks for abuse and neglect of elders with cognitive impairment or dementia: insights from three groups. Innovation in Aging, 2(Suppl 1): 960.

Schofield, M. J. (2017). Screening for Elder Abuse: Tools and Effectiveness. Melbourne: Springer International Publishing AG

World Health Organization. (2020). Elder abuse. Retrieved on November 25, 2020

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