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.

Advertisements

CHINESE LAW REQUIRING ADULT CHILDREN TO CARE FOR THEIR ELDERLY PARENTS

Taking of an elderly parent should be done in love not by laws. It is hard to believe that a government has to by creating of a law to make someone take care of their parents.  China has passed a law in July requiring  that adult children provide mental support, in addition to financial support and life care, to their parents once they reach the age of 60.

This law was enacted as a result of  rising concerns that China has evolving into a more modern society and its tradition values of family are suffering. Elder abuse is a relatively new concern for China. In fact, most families are outraged by this growing health issue.

To date, over 1,000 elderly parents have sued their children for financial support. Of course, the elderly parents subject themselves to reprisals from their children.

In addition to China, India, France and the Ukraine have similar laws.  In the Spain under the Civil Code, spouses and children of elderly dependent people are responsible for their maintenance and care which covers everything that is essential for sustenance, shelter, clothing and medical assistance. The extent of the maintenance to be provided depends on the means of the providers and the needs of the dependent person. The obligation to provide maintenance comes to an end when the provider dies or when their wealth has fallen to such a level that continuing to do so would mean having to neglect their own needs or those of their family.

In the United States, there are  30 states that have laws requiring mandatory care of indigent elderly parents. These laws are seldom enforced while others of those 30 states ignore them.

I just want to remind everyone that if you live long enough, you will grow old. You reap what you sow.

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.

PROSECUTING ELDER ABUSE CASES

Elder Law and Estate attorneys hear elder abuse horror stories daily. Many times the hurdles they face in having these cases prosecuted are ridiculous. One attorney complained that the biggest problem handling these cases is that most of them involve family members. George Johnson, a Paducah, Kentucky police detective sergeant said that it is complicated because when you have someone in a caretaker role and there’s a guardianship, they’re the one spending the money. He also noted that bank records can show patterns of behavior, but it’s difficult to prove any wrongdoing. Many victims often refuse to testify against a loved one, or do so only to later recant their testimony.The victims often cannot communicate, have diminished mental capacity or die.

Attorneys seldom receive support from the local authorities. Loved ones file complaints with the local police and will not receive a return phone call and also it unlikely an investigation will ensue. For many police departments, it is a matter of manpower and resources. Also, if the suspect of the abuse files a probate court matter, the district attorney’s office will more than likely drop its investigation.

The American Bar Association has not received enough credit for its work in trying to have these cases heard by a judge. The ABA has stressed the need for special units dedicated to elder abuse and training prosecutors on the kinds of crimes committed against the elderly and the particular issues the elderly may present as victims, improving victim aid services, educating the public and professionals, and forming multidisciplinary teams.

A recent study showed that the training of prosecutors is still lacking, only taking cases that they believe will result in conviction and finally, “systemic problems in the interplay between prosecutors, law enforcement, Adult Protective Services, nursing homes, and the roles each is to play.”

Many prosecutors are more concerned about having a winning record rather than seeking justice for the victim. This type of attitude only empowers the perpetrator, ensuring them no accountability.

We need to acknowledge attorneys like Jeff Lewin at http://www.lewinlaw.com and E. Nego Pile at http://www.pilelaw.com, located in the Greater Philadelphia area, for having the compassion to fight for the elderly. Elder Law and Estate attorneys are the unsung heroes of elder abuse.

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.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF NOT REPORTING ELDER ABUSE

I have noticed that my mother’s generation believed in silence. Today’s generation share too much information via social media. It would be wonderful if we were all more forthcoming about reporting elder abuse.

It is estimated that 84% of elder abuse incidents go unreported. Think about it. Eighty-four percent of incidents go unreported. Many view it as a family matter or the classic, “it’s none of my business.” I have news for you. It is all of our business.

Elder abuse is costing taxpayers billions of dollars. In 2012, $2.9 billion was the estimated loss of the elderly as a result of financial fraud.

The reality is that many know of incidents of the mistreatment of the elderly and refuse to report it. I find it irritating when those who witnessed incidents relay details of the incidents after it is too late.

Families keep quiet about it but become proactive when it relates to loss of an inheritance. I can tell you firsthand that the authorities will not invest time in investigating a claim of financial exploitation after the senior has passed. It requires a lot of time investigating and many of the law enforcement officers are not trained in elder abuse investigation, particularly elder financial abuse.The result of not taking action has resulted in loss of homes, cars, and money. A detective serving in the elder abuse unit in Delaware County, Pennsylvania said that it makes his job difficult trying to convince his superiors to pursue a case when the victim is deceased. For a detective who cares, this is frustrating.

There are also social consequences as well. The message that is sent to the younger generation is one that allows tolerance of the mistreatment of the elderly. This should strike fear in the baby boomers who are raising a generation that many feel are probably the most disrespectful, irresponsible and feel a great sense of entitlement.

There are also physical consequences as well. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “for older people, the consequences of abuse can be especially serious because their bones are more brittle and convalescence takes them longer. Even a relatively minor injury can cause serious and permanent damage.”

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.

ELDER ABUSE IN AUSTRALIA

My goal is to provide information about the growing health issue of elder abuse, not just in the United States and Canada but around the globe. It is important for all of us to understand that this is a global concern.

Australia is facing major concerns in regards to the treatment of the elderly. Elder abuse has increased significantly in the continent (even though many consider Australia a country).  It is estimated that 6% of its population is elderly. It is believed that there are approximately 100,000 unreported cases of elder abuse throughout Australia per year. Ian Yates from COTA (Council on the Aging) in Australia is working to help strengthen laws against elder abuse.

There are no mandatory reporting requirements in any State or Territory throughout Australia for elder abuse that is occurring in the community setting. Experts feel that Australia is 30 years behind in research and policy development. There are no special statutes to cover neglect, mistreatment, or psychological abuse in any State or Territory. It is shocking to discover that elder abuse is not taught in the law school curriculum. Elder abuse is not a specialty area of law with most elder lawyers dealing with wills and estate matters.

Ian Yates in an interview said that “probably the most common is financial, because there’s a strong incentive for people to undertake financial abuse; it’s theft for their own purposes. But, obviously that’s accompanied by emotional abuse, psychological abuse and, unfortunately, physical abuse.”

By 2025, it is estimated that elder abuse will be costing the health system over $350 million dollars per year. In residential settings, 75% of the residents in residential care facilities do not receive regular visits by relatives, are visited infrequently or not at all. This explains why these residents are not well represented in complaints.

Elder abuse cases are extremely difficult to prosecute in court due to lack of specific elder abuse laws.

There seems to be a recurring theme of federal governments acquiescing to state and local governments to address elder abuse concerns. It is fortunate for the elderly that there are organizations whose mission is to address elder abuse in the United States, Canada and Australia.

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.

ELDER ABUSE AND OLDER MEN

Usually when we see images of elder abuse, we are shown pictures of older women. Sad to say, many forget that men as well as women are affected by this growing health issue. In fact, abuse of older men is under-recognized.  Gender stereotyping and biases do not encourage men to admit that they are victims of elder abuse.

I want to acknowledge Canada, who recognized that images of older men were underrepresented in elder abuse awareness campaigns and have used more images of older men to help the public understand that men are also victims of elder abuse.

This fact needs to be seriously examined when you consider that most men have more financial resources than their female counterparts. This means that older men are targets for financial exploitation. In terms of gender biases, society is more tolerant of an older man having a younger girlfriend more so than an older woman having a younger boyfriend. Society labels younger women dating older men for financial gain as “gold diggers” rather than calling it what it truly is, financial exploitation of the elderly.  he term gold digger diminishes the fact that this is a crime.

The back story behind many of these cases is that older men rely on these women as caregivers and companionship. Many of these relationship are also sexual. Studies have shown that older adults still have strong emotional and sexual needs. Many older men, who are under the assumption that the relationship (in those cases that involve opportunistic women) is mutually beneficial. The reality is that they are opening themselves up for financial ruin.

Older gay men have experienced being exploited and financially ruin by younger men who are actually hustlers. Hustlers seek out these men, who many times are financially secure, because they may not have families and are longing for companionship.

I must add that there are many cases where family members of older gay men, who ostracized them, “re-emerge” under the guise of a reunion.

I have to go on record to say that not all relationships between older adults and younger adults are about monetary gain, but my statements are pertaining to those who are exploiters.

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.

ELDER ABUSE AND THE MEDIA

The media has had more impact on how we learn about current events, gossip and news than ever before. Mass media play a critical role in shaping public opinion and public policy formation for various social issues, according to a study done in 2007. Many of us have stopped buying newspapers as a result of the ability to read about various topics on the internet. This mode of communication  and information has proven to be effective and relevant.

Many academics has researched how important a role the media can play in educating society about the growing issue of elder abuse. There have not been any national coverage on the major networks, either as a news report or as a subject matter on a television weekly magazine show.

According to a study by Mastin, Choi, Barboza and Pope (2007), when elder abuse is reported in newspapers, most coverage is often focused on incidents in long-term care settings. This is sad considering that most incidents occur in domestic settings. I must say that the internet news coverage does report elder abuse incidents in domestic settings. Unfortunately, everyone does not research or look for these reports when surfing the internet.

Another finding these scholars observed was that elder abuse has received attention in both social science and media venues. Elder abuse is a major health concern that needs to be approached from that perspective. This health problem has costs the federal, state and local governments billions of dollars. Elder abuse professionals have made strides to use the media to get the message out there.

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 comment.

Reference
Mastin, T., Choi, J., Barboza, G. and Pope, L. (2007). Newspapers’ framing of elder abuse: It’s not a family affair. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, December 2007, vol. 84, no. 4 777- 794