Analyzing Reports of Elder Abuse

What is elder abuse? With today’s technology, anyone can post on the internet “elder abuse” “drugging” and totally be mistaken, misinformed or downright deceitful about a memory care or assisted living facility, a specific person, physician or even a nurse. As we all know, these are serious allegations.

Elder abuse under the law must be proven, just like anything else. There are literally cases out there, where family members maybe did not like their loved one’s care or misunderstood what was happening and create online negative reviews, posts, blogs, etc. So, as you are researching places for your loved one to live in their elderly years, how do decipher what’s real and what’s false?

DETERMINING FAKE NEWS

We’ve all now heard of Fake News, and know it to be a real thing.  So, if you see reports of Elder Abuse associated with a facility or organization, who did the person file the chargers with? DA? Department of Justice? Licensing Board? Adult Protective Services? Ombudsmen? Did they file a law suit? Or is their platform just Social Media or online forums? Question why.

First, if there was an official complaint filed, what did the officials come up with? Did they mention elder abuse? Was the abuse formally charged? Was the facility cited, sanctioned or brought up on some type of charges? Agencies don’t take this allegation lightly.

Second, how did harm occur?  Was it “over medication”?  Who administered the medication? Was Hospice or a third-party agency involved? Could hospice or a hospital have given pain medication that was too strong? Or seen agitation and give a sedation medication? The list goes on.

Elder abuse must have caused harm either physical, emotional, financial or sexual abuse. In the case of abuse, the police should always be called and so should Adult Protective Services, as well as the Ombudsmen. So, if there is no list of abuse at those agencies, the accusation is most likely false. Call the Ombudsmen and ask about the facility. They will generally give excellent information.

IS THE FACILITY TRANSPARENT?

Some facilities in the USA have installed cameras in bedrooms to monitor and report abuse better and to improve the quality of the care. This is by far the most transparent way to protect those who cannot speak for themselves and cannot report abuse or incidents accurately.

While choosing a facility for your loved one, or if your loved one is at home receiving care, it is important to monitor for safety. It is equally important to have permission and consent for all who are involved. Camera monitoring in the bedroom is an invasion of privacy and all parties involved including the individual who is living in that bedroom need to give consent.

ORANGE COUNTRY’S IRVINE COTTAGES

Over the Years, Irvine Cottages, (Vista Gardens LLC, is also applying for the waiver) is one of the few memory care facilities in the country to have a camera monitoring program in the bedrooms of their residents. They have found that cameras protect. Camera footage may give excellent reporting to management or nursing to make appropriate decisions. Footage may also give excellent fall data, or even terminate an employee for rushing or not being as kind as you would like them to be. It’s not uncommon for employees to forget the cameras exist and do stupid things. Most likely not causing termination or reprimand, but giving the facility opportunity to continue to improve their service and care through training and education.

Furthermore, cameras in bedrooms, do weed out bad employees from working at a facility. Care staff often will not work for a facility who has cameras, especially in the bedroom. Irvine Cottages reports they have found it is tough to hire employees who will give consent, although it is a requirement for their employment. If you are not willing to be recorded, what kind of care are you giving? Transparency is the key.

THE CASE OF OVER-MEDICATION

As I previously stated, another concern is over medication. Basically, this is defined as a loved one who seems to remain in a sedated-state. I would first ask who ordered the medication? Hospice? House physician? The hospital that discharged the person the day before? Did the professional ask permission from the family?

Second, what types of medications were given? Pain? Sedatives? What were the reasons? Do we know if the medications interacted with each other? Investigate. Question why was it ordered.

Older adults with dementia, brain tumors, post-surgical all have reasons for pain medication and other medications. Sometimes the first week an older adult is given a medication, it can initially cause a sedated effect. Plus, they may have never taken anything but Tylenol to help with pain their whole life so they can be very sensitive to any new medications.

Hospices and physicians medicate the best way they know how, in many cases the power of attorney (DPOA) also does not express the patients wishes to the hospice or physician. It is important if a DPOA does not want medications that they let the physician or hospice know. The overarching view is, it may not be abuse but a lack of communication between all parties involved in the senior’s care.

DO YOUR RESEARCH

Memory Care and Assisted Living Facilities are inspected by the State any time a complaint is registered and a minimum of 1-2 times per year. At the end of the day, if a facility has a recent glowing report from the State and maybe lots of positive reviews on Caring.com, google, yelp or quoted testimonies on their web site, and has an excellent reputation, they are most likely excellent. If there are one or two negative or slanderous posts “out there” due to someone’s personal vendetta then you, as the reader, can generally check it off as Fake News.

Elder Abuse is serious and all of us want to make sure we prosecute and report all abuse. It is my wish and belief as a gerontologist, that every facility place cameras in the bedrooms, then we would create safer environments and better protect our elderly.


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