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Be Prepared To Act if You Suspect Elder Abuse

There are approximately 44 million Americans who are caring for an elderly loved one. A recent article written by Terry Savage and published in the Chicago Sun Times cites that between one and two million people over the age of 65 have been abused by someone who cares for them. During the six years that I’ve owned my senior living advising business, I have never been witness to any suspected elder abuse until recently.

A respected colleague called me and said that a couple in their 80’s were in a very tenuous position, and asked if I would assess their situation with regard to recommending some senior living communities in the Du Page County area. When I called and spoke to one member of the couple, I was told that he and his wife weren’t interested in senior living communities, but would rather speak to someone who would help them integrate back into society via participation in activities at a senior center. He also expressed an interest in having a personal trainer come to the house and exercise with them. I told him I’d call back in several days with some contact information.

When I contacted him several days later with potential resources, his conversation with me headed in a drastically different direction. I felt that an onsite visit was in order, so I made an appointment with him.

Upon my arrival, I found him and his wife sitting in a lovely living room filled with artifacts. He was having a lot of difficulty ambulating with a walker due to the swelling in his legs. His wife was extremely thin and she sat with her eyes closed during the entire visit. She didn’t move. During the conversation, I was told by the man that an accident had occurred that killed several of the wife’s family members. She had never fully recovered from the trauma caused by the accident. I was told that she experienced extreme anxiety whenever he left the room and that she consistently asked to, “go home.” I asked where home was and he didn’t know. He told me that he had fallen recently and was admitted to one of the local hospitals for treatment. He claimed the doctor had his wife admitted to the hospital at the same time because there was no one to watch her. I was also told that upon discharge from the hospital. they were admitted to one of the local nursing homes for rehabilitation. Supposedly, they were dismissed from the nursing home due to the bad behavior of a relative who was acting as their Power of Attorney for Health Care and Property. The man said the relative was subsequently dismissed as Power of Attorney, and he was handling his own health care and finances. After admitting to dismissing a licensed non-medical home care agency, their personal care was being managed by 2 unlicensed caregivers. He claimed that hiring his own caregivers was the only way he could keep control of things.

Frankly, I saw no logic in his story, as no doctor could have anyone admitted to a hospital because there was, “no one to watch her.” I asked about the “bad behaviors,” of the relative and he could give me no facts. I asked who was monitoring wife’s medical needs and medications. He said, “I am not calling the doctor because he will lock her up!” He also said the online banking system at his bank was “really screwed up.” I also noted that one of the caregivers was in the room listening intently to my conversation and feverishly texting on her cell phone the entire time. When I the asked if he was handling his own finances, the caregiver said, “When his checking account is low, it sends a message directly to my cell phone.”

My perception was that the whole situation needed investigation since the proper care wasn’t being delivered. He wasn’t in any condition to be handling his own finances. The texting and response about the checking account made me very nervous. In the end, the caregiver couldn’t get me out the door quickly enough.

When I called my colleague and reported the results, the situation was discussed at his office, and the case was subsequently reported to the local agency on aging. Stay tuned for the results.