There are approximately 44 million Americans who are caring for an elderly loved one. Between one and two million people over the age of 65 have been abused by someone who cares for them. During the eleven years that I have owned my senior living consulting business, I have one story involving elder abuse that really stands out in my mind. Here it is:
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. When I called and spoke to one member of the couple, I was told that he and his wife were not interested in senior living communities, but would rather speak to someone who could help them integrate back into society via participation in activities at a senior center. He also expressed interest in having a personal trainer come into the home and exercise with them. I told him I would get back to him in several days.
When I contacted him a few days days later with potential resources, his conversation with me went in several drastically different directions. I felt that an onsite visit was in order, so I made an appointment with him for visit.
Upon my arrival, I found him and his wife in a very lovely living room filled with artifacts. He was having a lot of trouble ambulating due to swelling in his legs. His wife was extremely thin and she sat with her head back and eyes closed during my entire visit. After conducting a routine visit with them, I was told by the man that an accident had occurred that killed several of the woman’s family members. She had never been able to recover from the trauma caused by the incident. 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. By my own interpretation, she wanted to die and go to heaven. The man reported to me that he had fallen, and was admitted to one of the local hospitals for treatment. He claimed his doctor also had his wife admitted because there was no one else to watch her. In the same discussion, I was told that they were admitted to one of the local nursing homes for rehab. They were dismissed due to the bad behavior of a relative who was named as their Power of Attorney for Healthcare and Finances. The man said that relative was subsequently dismissed as Power of Attorney and he was handling all of his own care and finances. Their personal care was being managed by 2 unlicensed caregivers who he hired on his own because that was, “the only way he could keep control of things.”
Frankly, I didn’t see any 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 administering to his wife’s medications and medical needs. He said, “I am not calling the doctor because he will lock her up.” He also said that the online banking system at his current 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 asked the man if he was handling his own finances, the caregiver said, “When his checking balance is low, it sends a message directly to my cell phone.”
My perception was that the whole situation needed some investigation as the proper care wasn’t being delivered. He was not in any condition to be handling his own finances. The texting and response about the checking account made me nervous. In the end, the caregiver couldn’t get me out the door more quickly enough.
When I called my colleague and reported the results, the situation was discussed at their office, and the case was subsequently reported.
Here are the numbers to call to report elder abus
Cook County – Aging Care Connections – 708-354-1323
DuPage County – DuPage County Human Services – 800-942-9412
All others – 800-252-8966