THE ELDERLY AND THE HOLIDAY SEASON

Every year I update this post because of the different scams that are happening every year. It is important to keep our seniors and ourselves abreast of what is happening during this time of year.

The holidays tend to bring out the best and the worst in our society. People tend to become more generous than usual. Unfortunately, this is what scammers are counting on. Scammers also are searching Facebook and other sites for personal information to sound as if they know you.

According to the Better Business Bureau, Christmas is the time that scammers rely on the elderly to be more generous, concocting elaborate schemes and “sad stories” to tug that their heartstrings. One of the most recent scams targeted at seniors is the distress call regarding grandchildren. The caller tells the victims that he/she is their grandchild or calling for their grandchild. He/she tells them he/she or the grandchild is in trouble out of state and needs cash wired right away. The caller also tells the elderly victims not to tell his/her mother or father, according to police.

Another cruel scam is the Funeral & Cemetery Scams.  Scammers read obituaries and call a grieving widow or widower claiming the deceased had an outstanding bill with them and then try to extort money from relatives to settle the fake debt. In another tactic, disreputable funeral homes will attempt to capitalize on family members’ unfamiliarity with the cost of funeral services to add unnecessary charges to the bill or attempt to sell high-end products or services.

The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that dishonest telemarketers take in an estimated $40 billion each year, bilking one in six American consumers — and the AARP claims that about 80% of them are 50 or older Older adults can protect themselves by:

1. throwing junk mail away;

2. question the caller, usually this will deter him/her from speaking further;

3. when you are on the internet, make sure that you are on a secure site, particularly when making online purchases;

4. make sure that you do not select “remember me”or the “keep me signed in” to prevent anyone from accessing your online banking or shopping accounts;

5. do not give personal information over the phone;
contact the Better Business Bureau if you have questions about a potential contractor;

6. visit the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.ftc.gov, the National Consumer League at http://www.nclnet.org and AARP at http://www.aarp.org for the latest financial scams and reports.

As I always mention, please report all incidents to the proper authorities. You can also find information on the National Center on Elder Abuse’s website at http://www.ncea.aoa.gov.

If you live in Philadelphia, PA or the surrounding areas or in the State of New Jersey, you may contact the Pile Law Firm at 610-718-6368 for assistance in elder law and estate planning matters. The website is http://www.pilelaw.com.

Please feel free to leave your questions or comments.

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MY LIFE AS A CAREGIVER, PART II

My boss told me the other day that he was proud of me. He complimented me on how I managed to pursue another graduate degree, work for two law practices and care for my mother. The “old” me would have luxuriated in the praise. The “new” me realizes that I am doing exactly what I ought to do. The “old” me would have said I achieved this juggling act in spite of being a caregiver. The “new” me realizes that I achieved this juggling act because I am a caregiver.

My professional career revolves around caring and protecting the elderly. I could not, in good conscience, not do the same for my mother. As I mentioned previously, I used to browbeat myself, wondering if I am doing this right and worrying whether she feels loved and wanted .

I would like to share with you what I have learned through this journey:

  • Do not get caught up on who is not pitching in to help. You will drive yourself to distraction and heartbreak. Stay focused on what you are providing for your loved one. Trust me, it is appreciated.
  • Allow yourself to have a moment. Believe it or not, it will pass. It takes too much energy to keep up a facade.
  • Tell yourself the truth about your situation. Making up a story to appease yourself is lying. Period.
  • People are always cautioning to ask for help. They may mean well, but unless they have a working knowledge of your daily interaction with your loved one, it can turn ugly. I experienced those who tried to help. Even though it “may” not have been intentional,  the “helpers” created a mess, leaving me to clean up the collateral damage  when they went home.
  • I have been fortunate enough to work from home. Please be clear; there will be a push back. You will have to make sacrifices. People will stop by  to “keep you company” knowing that you are home because you are working and you are not able leave your loved one alone. Note: As long as you are managing, those who promised to help, will not.
  • If someone offers you a few minutes to take a walk, take it. You will feel better and you will be able to exhale.
  • If you want to vent, vent to the social worker and the healthcare professionals your loved one sees. You will find that many people will not find talking about your challenges as a caregiver good conversation. I have had even family members cut the conversation short.
  • This may sound like shade, but I am going to say it. Unless one is in the trenches or can offer you insight from experience and/or training, their input is useless. You will be offended and may lose it.

I am not trying to scare anyone from being a caregiver. Personally, I have found it rewarding and I have grown personally and professionally. But that is my experience.  My dining room is now a bedroom for my mother with a hospital bed (see picture above).  I had to move her downstairs because of the stairs. Also, I now have alarms on my doors so that I can hear her when she decides to venture off or open a door when she has an episode.

I would have never imagined having a hospital bed and a commode in my home, let alone in my dining room. For many of us, this is our new normal. Be honest with yourself. If you do not feel that you can be a caregiver on a regular basis, please do not torture yourself. It is better that you tell the truth rather than to become resentful and then later abusive to your loved one.

As I always mention, please report all incidents to the proper authorities. You can also find information on the National Center on Elder Abuse’s website at http://www.ncea.aoa.gov.

Please feel free to leave your questions or comments.

MY LIFE AS A CAREGIVER

I never thought that I would have to take care of my mother who is now suffering from dementia and psychosis.She was the rock of the family. I will never taste her cooking again. I will never receive her sound advice again. There are days that I cry wondering if I doing it right,worrying if she feels sure that I want her with me. Every day is a journey because I don’t know how she is going to behave. In the morning when she wakes up, I kiss and hug her and tell her I love her. She holds my hand and thanks me for taking good care of me. I hold back the tears because I don’t want her to think she is a burden. I think back to what the actress Swoosie Kurtz said about her mother. Her mother, is in her 90’s, she asked her if she was in the way. She responded, you are the way

As a caregiver, I have to manage obtaining by second Master’s in Human Services, my job (I am grateful for working with two supportive attorneys), cook, clean and do laundry. I caution anyone that if you do not have patience, please do not take on this task. You sacrifice so much to be a caregiver. They are days when I do dress her. As a son, I was so uncomfortable doing it but it had to be done.  I sometimes cannot sleep in my bed because I am so worried that she will elope. One day I was awake from midnight to morning watching her walk around the house “cleaning” and “decorating:” My mother has managed to break chairs and destroying my furniture. She tells me to “clean it up”. I have learned to laugh about it and accept that she is my mom. I would say this, my neighbors think that I am the best man in the world because I take care of my mother. They also know that if manages to sneak out of the house to bring back home. The police in my neighborhood are also on alert if she elopes.

The hardest part is Sundowning. Like clockwork, at 3 p.m., she goes into wanting to wander and her personality changes. You have to be mindful of certain TV shows. DO NOT WATCH MAURY, JUDGE MATHIS, DIVORCE COURT OR REALITY TV around this period. One day when I had Divorce Court on the television, she heard the program and punched me and accused me of cheating on my wife and abandoning my babies. I have taught my nephews and nieces about Sundowning.

When they visit, they will warn me, “Ii’s almost three o’clock.” We have found ways to distract her by singing to her, dancing with her, I play jazz piano for her, reading the Bible and giving her a coloring book. My nieces and nephews are a great help in keeping her calm during this period. Despite the challenges I face, I am honored to share a moment in her life others do not share. I caution that if you cannot handle this responsibility, do not accept it, One can become resentful and it can then turn into elder abuse.

If you have any questions, please contact the Pile Law Firm at 610-718-6368 or visit our website at http://www.pilelaw.com. If you witness elder abuse, please report it to the local authorities.

THE REALITY OF ELDER ABUSE AND THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM PART I

Elder abuse has become a growing health issue around the world. In fact, on June 15, 2015, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day will be held. The World Health Organization, which works in conjunction with the United Nations, initiated this day in 2006. Despite many of the myths that this happens only in certain cultures, reports are showing that this issue has all cultural groups.

Prosecuting these cases have many roadblocks. Many District Attorneys are more concerned about their “win-win” records rather than going after the abusers. When one is more concerned about having a successful track record as opposed to prosecuting those who afflict elder abuse, it is a travesty. Attorney Generals have Elder Abuse Task Forces in place. The reality is that in spite of that, you have to wait for action taken by the local authorities for they will intervene.
In order to understand why elder abuse is difficult to prosecute, it is necessary to review the literature that detail the issue of elder abuse, but also the underlining problems that are connected.

Elder abuse is simply the mistreatment of the elderly.According to the National Center for Elder Abuse, it is defined as “any knowing, intended or careless act that causes harm or serious risk of harm to an older person – physically, mentally, emotionally or financially.” According to the National Center for Elder Abuse Administration on Aging, there are seven types of elder abuse. They are the following:

  • Physical Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Emotional or Psychological Abuse
  • Neglect
  • Abandonment
  • Financial or Material Exploitation
  • Self-neglect

Cooper, Selwood and Livingston’s (2007) study the prevalence of elder abuse. Their study included forty-nine studies that were similar theirs. It resulted in discovering that in the general population studies, 6% of older people reported significant abuse in the last month and 5.6% of couples reported physical violence in their relationship in the last year. It also resulted in revealing that five percent of family caregivers reported physical abuse towards care recipients with dementia in a year, and a third reported any significant abuse. Finally, it showed that one out of four seniors is vulnerable to elder abuse and many times not recognized.

Schulyer and Liang (2006) noted that in addition to domestic settings, elder abuse occurs in nursing homes. They stated that occurrences of institutional abuse are relatively small compared to incidences of violence that occur in the home. The reason is that it is estimated that 4.5% of the population age 65 and older live in nursing homes. Dong, Simon, de Leon, Beck,McCann, Farran, Lauman and Evans (2011) cited that the U.S. National Research Council found that there needs to be a comprehensive study of this issue is impacting the country. Dong (2012) found that one out of ten older adults have experienced some elder abuse. Dong’s study also revealed that one in twenty-five cases are reported to local authorities and agencies dedicated for protect the elderly. It is interesting to note the correlation between one’s medical or mental condition and elder abuse. It is believed that elder abuse may impact those suffering from either medical or mental condition (Dong, et al, 2014). It is important to note that Dong is a Gerontologist.

Nakanishi, Nakashima, Sakata, Tsuchiya and Takizawa (2013) noted that elder abuse is now considered a health issue because it is linked with mortality. In Japan, life expectancy has increased which means that it is an aging society, becoming vulnerable to elder abuse.

Peri, Fanslow, Hand and Parsons (2013) found that in New Zealand, researchers are conducting interviews with the elderly, their caregivers, and social service agencies on the impact of elder abuse in its country. They feel that they have not made the necessary strides to contend with this issue. They understand the impact of ageism and older persons’ rights correlate with elder abuse.

Financial Elder Abuse
The fastest growing types of elder abuse worldwide is financial elder abuse. It is estimated that one out of five seniors have experience some financial fraud (Kohl, et al., 2012). In a study by MetLife on Elder Financial Fraud, it showed that in the year 2008, it was estimated that seniors were defrauded in the amount of least $2.9 billion dollars This is a 12% increase from the $2.6 billion estimated in the prior year. It also showed seniors were pawns in Medicare and Medicaid scams. In addition, women were nearly twice as likely to be victims of elder financial abuse as men. The majority of victims were between the ages of 80 and 89, lived alone and were in need of living assistance. The study revealed close to 60% of perpetrators were males. The majority of male perpetrators were between the ages of 30 and 59 while most of the female perpetrators were between the ages of 30 and 49. Perpetrators who were strangers often targeted victims with
obviously vulnerable.

Kemp and Mosqueda (2005) many seniors fall prey to contractors, brokers, attorneys, and salesmen. This study also showed that financial elder abuse will increase in the future for four reasons. One reason, that is the elder population, is growing since 1950. Secondly, seniors own the majority of wealth in the United States. Thirdly, mental and medical conditions and lack of adult children’s involvement make older adults vulnerable. And finally, technology and the lack of interest by many older adults, to keep abreast, will be to their detriment.
Elder Abuse in the United States

In the United States, there are organizations dedicated to the prevention and warning people of elder abuse. One such organization is the National Center for Elder Abuse Administration on Aging. The University of Calfornia, Irvine has a renowned program that works in conjunction with its Medical Center. They have several forensic centers focusing solely on the research, investigation and prevention of elder abuse. The Acierno, Hernandez, Amstadter, Resnick, Steve, Muzzy & Kilpatrick’s (2010 ) study showed that in the United States,that abuse of the elderly is prevalent. The study also found that social support with prevention initiatives could have significant public health concerns.

Quinn and Benson (2012) estimated that there may be more than five million seniors who are abused. Their research further showed that the abused does not feel safe in his/her environment. This has an impact that senior’s wellness.
Kohl, Sanders and Blumenthal (2012) stated that the Senate Special Committee on Aging and the Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions Committee has been focused on the issue of elder abuse for over last thirty years. At the March Committee hearing,

Mickey Rooney testified about how he was mistreatment by a family member. His words were: “Each one is devastating in its right. Many times, sadly, as with my situation, the elder abuse involves a family member. When that happens, you feel scared, disappointed, angry, and you can’t believe this is happening to you. You feel overwhelmed. The strength, you need to fight it, is complicated. You’re afraid, but you’re also thinking about your other family members. You’re thinking about the potential criticism of your family and friends. They may not want to accept the dysfunction that you need to share. Because you love your family, and for other reasons, you might feel hesitant to come forward. You might not be able to make rational decisions. What other people see as generosity may, in reality, be the exploitation, manipulation and, sadly, emotional blackmail of older, more vulnerable members of the American public”. The Elder Justice Act, signed by President Obama on March 23, 2010, provides federal resources to prevent, investigate, treat and if necessary, prosecute elder abuse cases. This Act is included in the Affordable Care Act.

LOCAL AUTHORITIES AND ELDER ABUSE


There has been many debates on the justification of punishment for the crime of elder abuse. Many law enforcements officers treat elder case incidents as domestic disputes. It is important that the police understand their role in these cases. Their role is to assess, enforce and provide support (Payne, 2003). Many Attorney Generals has instituted a Elder Abuse Unit and hotlines and complaint sites. Despite the fact that there are agencies to help the elderly, there are problems with cohesion between local, state and federal agencies. It appears that they each have knowledge of the other agencies but they do not appear to be versed in their fellow agencies’ policies or procedures. This has resulted in many elders not receiving the protection or services needed. There must be a concerted effort by the local, state and federal governments and financial institutions. Studies have shown that more collaborative effects between agencies and the police reap huge benefits for the victims (Payne, 2003). When there are clearly red flags, they must be addressed in the early stages, not after the senior is deceased.

One issue that has raised concerns is that many home health and nurse’s aides who provide care for those elderly who are home-bound are not trained to recognize signs of elder abuse. Many witness relatives speaking harshly to their relatives, observe blatant neglect and signs of the senior wasting. These are the type of behaviors and signs that need to be reported to facilitate a thorough examination (Klawsnik, 2000).

According to the Pennsylvania’s Older Adult Protective Services, during the 2010-2011 fiscal year, 232 petitions were filed. This represents a decrease of 8% from 2009-2010 fiscal year. Of the 232 from 2010-2011, 167 were granted by the Court and guardianship petitions were filed more than any other kind (54.7%). Involuntary emergency interventions accounted for the second highest number of petitions (24%) filed. Access to records (5%), access to person (2%), protection from abuse (1%) and injunction against interference (1%) account for the remaining petitions filed.

During 2010-2011, 481 protective services investigators were trained to assess, investigate, and resolve elder victimization in Pennsylvania. Additionally, approximately 320 law enforcement, judicial, medical and social service professionals have been trained to identify, refer, resolve and prosecute cases of victimization.

Protective services investigators are provided with numerous and varied trainings. Specifically, new protective service investigators are provided with a 3.5 day basic training. This training is offered bi-annually to accommodate new hires. This course is required by law for staff that will conduct protective service investigations. The training focuses on the basic knowledge and tools provided through the Older Adults Protective Services Act and related Department of Aging regulations. Many of the smaller towns and cities do not provide training for police officers in elder abuse complaints. Many treat them as family squabbles rather than a criminal offense. This has resulted in many seniors’ lives and welfare to be placed in jeopardy.

As I always mention, please report all incidents to the proper authorities. You can also find information on the National Center on Elder Abuse’s website at http://www.ncea.aoa.gov. Please feel free to leave your questions or comments.

References:

Klawsnik, H. (2000). Elder-Abuse Offenders: A Typology. Generations, v24 n2 p17-22 Sum 2000

Payne, B., Berg, B. & Byars, K. (1999). A qualitative examination of the similarities and differences of elder abuse definitions among four groups: Nursing Home Directors, Nursing Home Employees, Police Chiefs and Students. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, Volume 10, Issue 3-4, 1999, p. 63-85

THE ELDERLY, TARGETS FOR SCAMS DURING THE HOLIDAYS.

It is holiday time again. In addition to the good cheer and festive demeanor, it is unfortunately a scammer’s dream. This is the time when predators seek out those senior citizens full of holiday cheer to victimize them. Research has shown that as one ages, the ability to distinguish what is realistic and what is not feasible diminishes. According to the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, financial fraud from the elderly population costs about three billion dollars a year on average, which is a 12% increase since 2008, and in 55% of those cases, it’s perpetuated by a family member.

Most recently, according to the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office, a phone scam is making its way across the county, targeting the elderly. Chief Deputy Max Bartlett said that those receiving calls from people claiming to be grandchildren in need should be wary. “These callers say they’re in trouble and need money wired to them,” he said. Bartlett said that on Friday the sheriff’s office had two fake calls reported in less than 24 hours. The impersonators appear to target elderly people in hopes that they do not easily recognize the voice of their relatives.

The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that dishonest telemarketers take in an estimated $40 billion each year, bilking one in six American consumers — and the AARP claims that about 80% of them are 50 or older. Older adults can protect themselves by:

  • throwing junk mail away;
  • Question the caller, usually this will deter him/her from speaking further;
  • when you are on the internet, make sure that you are on a secure site, particularly when making online purchases;
  • make sure that you do not select “remember me”or the “keep me signed in” to prevent anyone from accessing your online banking or shopping accounts;
  • do not give personal information over the phone;
  • contact the Better Business Bureau if you have questions about a potential contractor;
  • visit the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.ftc.gov, the National Consumer League at http://www.nclnet.org and AARP at http://www.aarp.org for the latest financial scams and reports.

As I always mention, please report all incidents to the proper authorities. You can also find information on the National Center on Elder Abuse’s website at http://www.ncea.aoa.gov.  if you live in the Greater Philadelphia area or New Jersey, you may contact the Pile Law Firm at 610-718-6368 or http://www.pilelaw.com. Please feel free to leave your questions or comments.

THE ELDERLY AND CAREGIVING

Trying to take care of your aging parents is taxing but also a gift. I say it is a gift because you get to repay them for the love and nurturing that they gave you. One of the challenges with dealing with your siblings is knowing that someone with a background is equipped with the training and experience to deal with this type of issue. I had to deal with the questioning and and a sibling posturing for position, trying to prove that one sibling has more influence over my mother. I recently experience this with some of my siblings. I have to admit I was irritated.

Here I am, the trained professional, both from an academic, counseling and legal background getting angry with my younger siblings for their interference. I had everything lined up for my mother and now they had the nerve to question me! I arranged for my mother to attend a day program, see a mental health professional and my aunt convinced her to have knee surgery. I was so angry; I let them take on the responsibility to prove how right I was. Of course, the outcome was exactly as I expected. My sisters, my aunt and my boss said something to me that made me realize that I have to think about securing my mother rather than proving them wrong and incompetent. I was planning to move far away and distance myself so that they could feel the brunt of their transgression.

I was so ready to gloat about how I proved them wrong. I forgot that the real issue at hand is ensuring that my mother gets what she needs. At that moment, I realize that if I am not careful, I could have make it about me being the “expert”.

My aunt also stepped in and did a wonderful job taking care of my mother. Even with her own issues, she loved my mother enough to take care of her. This was later met with interference!

Here are some tips to keep one focused on your parents’ needs:

  1. Pitch in- Ask what you can do to help. One sibling should not take on the whole responsibility.
  2. Don’t criticize- If you are not helping, you are not part of the solution.
  3. Be creative- Think of ways that are going to engage all of the siblings to help.
  4. Stay focused- it is not about you, it is about your parents. Stay clear of the “I’ll show you” mentality. They can be the three most dangerous words in the English language. Also, if you are a professional in this field, this is not the time to flaunt your expertise.
  5. Be transparent; communicate- I learned that you have to explain to your siblings what choices and decisions you are considering. There was an occasion when I had scheduled for a nurse to visit my mother and my mother called my younger brother to pick her up to visit. I was angry that he would pick her up after I scheduled the nurse visit. However, I did not inform him that the nurse was coming. We both realized that my mother was using him to dodge the nurse.
  6. Do not commit if you do not know what the responsibility entails- If you do not have the time and patience to take care of your parents’ needs and your other siblings do, let them.
  7. Love is not being passive- You have to be willing to make the tough decisions to help your parents. You have to know your limitations. My younger siblings thought that having my mother at home with them would help her. They later realized that they were ill equipped to give her what she needed.
  8. DO NOT TRY TO DIAGNOSE YOUR PARENTS. – One must get a proper diagnosis from a trainer professional.There are many similar symptoms

As I always mention, please report all incidents to the proper authorities. You can also find information on the National Center on Elder Abuse’s website at http://www.ncea.aoa.gov. Please feel free to leave your questions or comments.