FraudJournal Blog

September 20, 2010

Seniors For Sale – The Elderly At Risk


This post is to bring awareness of how important it is for all of us to protect our senior citizens. The Seattle Times has investigated and published their findings on elder abuse in Washington. It is a four-part series and I have put the links through out my post.

The Elderly At Risk

Seniors citizens who now include the “Boomer” generation, are the men and women who have spent a life time as mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and neighbors and friends. Their lives are rich in history, experience and knowledge. They remember horse-drawn-buggies, the first television set (in black & white), the first man on the moon, and how fast typewriters became computers. They fought in world wars and foreign conflicts that defined the countries we now see on every map. Many remember the Great Depression and can still stretch a dollar today as well as they did back then. Many are proud to state they were born into the territories of Alaska and Hawaii before statehood. All of these men and women accepted the label as senior citizen when they retired from companies after decades of employment. They worked hard to prepare for a future of self-sufficiency with a hope that when the time came, when they could no longer properly care for themselves, family and friends would be there as they were for them.

However, times have changed. We are living longer, and most families are now spread out from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Our grandparents and parents no longer have easy access to immediate family and most households require two-income earners to care and manage a home. Living longer than planned for, and without the ability to have immediate access to family, most seniors have joined the ranks of the “Elderly at Risk”. These men and women once self-sufficient, have trouble with basic home and health tasks not to mention paying bills to cover the growing medical needs. They get lost easily and struggle to understand the world around them. Families struggle to keep up with their care and eventually seek out help. Some connect with local community groups and state agencies. Others locate and make arrangements for adult daily caregivers, either at home or away.

Due to monetary constraints, many families opt for more intimate care in a residential house set up to care for four to six elderly residents. These Adult Care Homes are usually someone’s personal residence that is transformed into a business designed to meet the needs of families in search of intimate care and attention for their loved ones. Many of these elder care businesses are run by people who have the patience and skill sets to feed, bathe and properly monitor the emotional and medical needs of our elderly loved ones. Unfortunately, there are also homes and caregivers that only see the elderly as a source for income.

It is important that all of us, and I do mean all of us, to understand the role we all play in this situation. We as family members, need to learn that when we entrust an elderly member of our family to someone else, we must remain vigilant in our effort to follow-up on the level of care they receive. Not just visually, but the under current of what happens unseen on a daily basis. When you visit a home or facility, you need to use all your senses to determine if this location understands the ethical and moral expectations to provide a caring and conscientious environment focused on the needs of your loved one. This includes the emotional, spiritual, mental and physical needs.

And, if you have any concerns, these need to be addressed then and not later. What do you smell? What do you see? What does the kitchen look like, the rooms, the bathrooms? How many residents? Can you contact the other resident families for references? What are the caregivers’ backgrounds? ┬áDo they do background checks on any of the other caregivers working there? It is okay to trust, but verify the information given.

And take the time to go and visit unannounced, often. Check to see if there are any bedsores and what they are doing if they do develop. If the caregiver is in your own home, don’t be afraid to have your home monitored to ensure care. If your loved one suddenly seems nervous or emotionally withdrawn, check into it. Don’t be afraid to contact any of the police departments if you are worried in any way. One of law enforcement’s biggest concerns is that they don’t find out about a serious situation until it is too late. In June of this year, new laws were enacted to help protect victims of elderly abuse.

When we become numb to the plight of our elderly, we become numb to the value of life. While a parent may no longer be a joy to be around, they do not deserve being treated as a commodity. They are still someone we love, but whose physical and sometimes mental abilities have transformed them in our eyes into someone we can no longer relate to or connect with. This is what makes them the most at risk – they can no longer communicate what they are experiencing on a daily basis.

I would like to report that the there are only a minor group of instances where our seniors have become victims of abuse. But this is not the case. More and more of our loved ones, are unnecessarily being harmed by fears of caregivers loosing their reputations and thus loosing income. The Seattle Times investigation revealed that many instances of neglect or abuse remain hidden and not reported to the proper agency.

The adult care homes have suddenly become a business that can be sold as such, with residents included. This business transaction is not any different, than when a hospital is sold and the patients become under new management. Except for when a hospital is merged or purchased, there is a level of transparency expected. When an adult care home is sold or placed on the market with a real estate agency, the residents can be included as part of the asset or value of the home.

So it is important, that when you choose to entrust your loved ones to a facility or residential adult care home, you do your homework. Understand the area, the home and the owners and caregivers. Apply the same level of due diligence to find the right care for an elderly parent as you would with your baby or child. Value age and the vulnerability it brings as you do with youth and its vulnerability.

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