The Case That Prompted this Blog
December 31, 2007
Who are these people? Are they psychologically abnormal? Are they crooks who would do anything to get what they want?
Are they from a particular economic or social group?
Just like other forms of abuse, elder abusers transverse across all economic and social groups.
I do not profess to be an expert in psychology, psychiatry, sociology or other qualifications that will help me to make empirical findings or comments.
However, the Frank Punito case: one that I have most information on and have witnessed some of the evidence of this case; has got me extremely upset about the abusers and of our society.
The abusers in this case, and I suspect in many elder abuse cases, exploit the humanity in most of us and yet, they showed NO humanity in their treatments of the victim.
How does that work?
As the case involved emotional/psychological abuse, neglect and withholding access to assets; there were no obvious signs of the abuse.
Well, we will never consider sacking the abusers from their day jobs. We will not even reveal their real names. And, we will not stop treating them with kindness and humanity.
The abusers believe that it is not their fault and that what they did, or did not do in the case of their father did not amount to elder abuse.
Curiously, some of the abusers relatives believe them!
Can these relatives look at the case objectively? I doubt that.
Why can’t they see the truth?
Perhaps the truth is too unthinkable or too painful to bear.
More unbelievable is their lack of interest in looking at the evidence. There is a boxful of documentary evidence ready for their perusal if they wanted.
The other unbelievable thing is their expectation for the victim to forget about what had happened to him in almost a decade and just “get back” with his children.
Would they expect a victim of child abuse to return to his/her abuser?
Obviously, there is no consideration for the victim’s emotional and psychological health?
The Frank Punito case is not just about money. It is about how an aging father was treated by his adult children.
It is imperative to ask ourselves the question:
Why would a man of 77 years of age not want to get back with his family?
My impression of this man when I first met him was that he was very proud of his children and really cared for them.
I believe that that are many, many more victims like Frank but they are “invisible”.
Society has let them down. We don’t care enough. There is no encouragement for would-be-whistle-blowers to expose this sort of elder abuse. I know from my own experience that it entails a lot of work in gathering evidence. The more discouraging factor is that no one really cares. Society tends to classify these cases as “family matters”.
Sound familiar? Wasn’t that what we used to say about child abuse and violence against women?
Until society class elder abuse in private homes as UNACCEPTABLE and inhuman; this state of affair will continue.
We have a lot more work to do!
I would appreciate information on similar cases. Email me if you have come across similar cases
Robin Evans, Special to The Chronicle
The first "senior village" is open in the Bay Area, bringing to the West Coast a popular new model of care for the elderly. This village is not a place but a membership program that helps people stay in their own homes by providing support - everything from the medical to the mundane.
The concept was developed by a group of elderly neighbors in Boston trying to line up in-home services their insurance didn't cover.
"People end up moving because they can't change the lightbulbs or (they) get isolated when they get home from the hospital and can't coordinate everything," said Judy Willett, director of Beacon Hill Village in Boston, which opened five years ago. "The reason it's so popular is it's what everyone wants: to stay in their own homes. ... It's unbelievable the impact of such a brilliant and simple idea."
That simple idea is being developed in San Francisco by the Rev. Mary Moore Gaines, and is a reality at Avenidas Village in Palo Alto, which opened in October.
Mary Minkus, 74, a retired family law attorney in Palo Alto, was the force behind the village after she hurt her elbow five years ago and discovered what many seniors do: Her health insurance covered a nursing-home stay, but she didn't have coverage for the in-home help she'd need to stay at home during recovery.
For the first time in her adult life, the self-sufficient paraplegic couldn't lift herself from her wheelchair to her bed. She couldn't drive her specially equipped car and needed help dressing. What seemed at first like a nuisance had become a major obstacle, and she had a short stay in a nursing home.
"I was in the hospital for two weeks because I couldn't figure out how to do this," she said, referring to coordinating the cooking, cleaning, transportation and other daily tasks. "It changes your life."
The experience planted a seed. After hearing about the Boston village, she and some friends hooked up with Avenidas, a private nonprofit agency that has provided help and programs for seniors in the mid-Peninsula area for more than 35 years. It took almost two years, but the group developed the village program. In the past two months, it has signed up 187 members.
Here's how it works: Avenidas Village members pay an annual fee - singles pay $750, couples, $900. This buys them access to services that are often discounted for members: someone to cook, clean, do the laundry, fix the air conditioner, pick up groceries, make doctor's appointments, help them dress or get in and out of bed when they're laid up. It can even provide limited nursing care.
Members pay the providers, often from the community, but the village staff and volunteers select and screen them, and can help coordinate these appointments. Avenidas Village also provides a social outlet, linking people with similar interests. It's one phone call away.
Minkus, who still serves on the advisory committee, hasn't yet felt the need to take advantage of the village services - although she does occasionally volunteer to help others. She regards her membership as a safety net.
"Peace of mind is what goes with it, knowing someone is there to find answers for you at times you're not quite up to it or when it's faster and easier for someone to do it for you," she said.
In San Francisco, Moore Gaines, the pastor of St. James Episcopal Church, has spent the past year working with seniors and organizations to bring a village for people 50 and older to her Richmond District neighborhood. She hopes to develop programs to connect people with the help they need to stay in their homes as they encounter the physical limitations of growing older and the loss of family and friends. She expects the village to open by the middle of next year.
She also looked to Boston's Beacon Hill Village as a model and sees a silver lining for givers - from businesses to volunteers - as well as receivers: bringing back a sense of belonging.
"It creates community is what it does," Moore Gaines said. "We're talking friendship and an appropriate level of intimacy and trust, where you would be willing to ask someone for something and they would be delighted to be asked."
As the huge Baby Boom generation begins to retire, more people will be coming face to face with the demands of aging. By the year 2030, people 65 and older will make up 20 percent of the population (a growth of 104 percent over 2000), according to Census Bureau projections. In San Francisco, and the Bay Area, that figure is put at roughly 23 percent.
"Every country is looking at large growth in the elder population and greater longevity," said Philip McCallion, director of the Center for Excellence in Aging Services at the State University of New York at Albany. "They're looking at quality of life and ways of prolonging the ability to live where we've always lived - and contain costs."
As employees care for their aging parents, business has a stake, too. Adult children still provide the majority of elder care, a value the National Institute on Aging puts at about $60 billion a year. The stresses and distractions of that extra, unpaid work can hurt on-the-job productivity.
"Everything in this country is already being affected by the growth in older adults," said Tom Miller, president of the National Research Center in Boulder, Colo. Its 2004 survey of Colorado seniors showed that those whose communities provided them social and practical support were less likely to be in a nursing home and happier with their quality of life.
"That's why aging well is going to benefit the entire community as well as the individual," he said.
"Successful aging means being able to do the things you want to do," McCallion said. "But it's also about being able to find support when changes happen. Many of these programs, their real intention is to delay that moment."
Most seniors want to stay in their homes as they age, studies show. But many find themselves alone and isolated as their spouses die or children move out of state for jobs or, in the case of the Bay Area, cheaper housing.
The Richmond Village program, she said, could help people avoid lurching from crisis to crisis until they're in even bigger trouble. "I'm really interested in how it plays out and if there is a role for us. This is so creative. It has a lot of possibilities."
One thing the city may be able to do, Hinton said, is help pay for individual village memberships through the $3 million Community Living Fund, created by the city last year to bring institutionalized people back into the community.
San Francisco Chronicle
The idea of villages is great, and is a working model for communities where elders are living nearby one another already. The concept makes sense economically, just as "buying in bulk" does for any commodity. One of the most expensive components is physical care or assistance. If one worker can fill his/her day with visits to numerous homes, giving help with basic "activities of daily living", such as bathing, cooking, walking, etc., everyone is a winner. Connection to and access to qualified, licensed nursing help is crucial. Aging usually leads to decline in overall health, and the assessment of a licensed professional can go a long way to preventing disasters. Connection to community health agencies should be a part of any village plan.
Carolyn L. Rosenblatt, R.N., Attorney HelpWithElders.com
December 19, 2007
As we take a break from our normal activities to celebrate the festive season of Christmas and New Year, let us spare a thought for victims of elder abuse.
This group of frail and vulnerable seniors have worked hard all through their lives and should by now, be feeling relaxed and be able to enjoy the fruits of their labors.
Sad to say, those victims of EA cannot take a break from the trauma and emotional pains of elder abuse. Even if the physical wounds have healed, the emotional/psychological scars remain.
Many reports on aftermath of elder abuse have stated that those victims often just give up and die.
In an over-populated earth, such occurrences go unnoticed and un-reported.
Who cares! Some may say.
Old age brings along, for many of us, all kinds of health problem. In spite of that, many of us in this category have a lot to give. We contribute of volunteering work; saving the community countless amount of money. We have experiences to pass on to others.
It is not too much to expect safety and dignity in our twilight years. It is our rights as human beings.
Elder Abuse is not just an issue for government departments or senior groups. Ignore the issue if you want. Do not forget that it will one day become your issue if you live till old age.
For those of us, who are still in relatively good health and are independent of external assistance:
- Keep healthy, busy and happy;
- Ensure that you are not isolated in any way.
- Maintain you social network.
- Even cyber-networking is a good way to be connected.
If you require help through the holiday break, PLEASE CONSULT THE SIDE- BAR LINKS, RELEVANT TO YOUR COUNTRY.
December 17, 2007
Neglect/Abandonment – deliberate isolation
Psychological Abuse – name calling, etc
If you want a good example of elder abuse by adult children, check out the Frank Punito case. The victim has ‘lost’ his family through neglect, financial and psychological abuse.
There are absolutely nothing that can be done for such victims.
These ‘hidden crimes’ are committed around the world; in the privacy of the victims’ homes. No one can or want to intervene. They are often ignored as such cases are branded family matters/dynamics.
Most victims of this category, just ‘disappeared’. That is, they often just give up and die.
Some may even say that that is one way of solving the over-populated earth problem.
Well, that is, if you are not the victim, I guess.
The Second-Class Victims of Elder Abuse
I define this as those who have attempted to “rescue” victims of Elder Abuse; be it one of rescuing a friend or relative.
I am speaking from my own experience. In exposing the Frank Punito Case I have been accused of exposing the case because I have a ‘hidden’ agenda and that I was spreading “lies and deceits”. I have to laugh those accusations off because the victim has given me a box of documentary evidence on that case. Still, my experience in that case have truly affected my health and almost plunge me into emotional despair.
From the emails I received through the last 6 months, since the case was publicized, I now know that I am NOT alone.
To my fellow ‘Second-Class’ Victims of Elder Abuse; Don’t Give Up. You have done the right thing. We do not get anything other than a satisfaction that we have done our very best to help one other human being.
As the festive holidays of Christmas draw near, let us spare a thought on this issue. For those of us who still have our independence and capacity, perhaps we should get together in the new year to act on helping the ‘forgotten ones’.
Meanwhile, keep active, healthy and connected (even through Cyberspace) lest we become victims ourselves.
Risk factors that may lead to social exclusion include bereavement, loss of work and poor health. Age discrimination, sometimes alongside other forms of discrimination, can also contribute to the social isolation of older people. The very elderly are particularly likely to experience isolation.
Although older people living alone are most likely to experience social isolation, those who live in residential care are also at risk, especially if they lack opportunities to participate in the community outside the residential home. Care home residents can be encouraged to develop social connections through contact with local community centres, schools and volunteer organisations. A person-centred approach to activity planning should help to ensure that older people feel that they are valued members of their local communities.
The promotion of social inclusion features prominently in current policy across government departments. The white paper Our Health, Our Care, Our Say acknowledges that social exclusion, isolation and loneliness contribute to the incidence of mental illness, particularly depression. The report emphasises the need for a universal approach to inclusion from services such as transport, health and housing.
The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing looks particularly at social isolation in older people and uses seven measurement criteria to assess the extent to which an older person may be experiencing isolation. These are:
● Social relationships.
● Cultural trips (cinema/theatre/concerts).
● Civic activities (such as being a member of a local interest group, undertaking volunteering or voting).
● Access to basic services (shops and health).
● Neighbourhood exclusion (feeling safe in your local area).● Financial products (banking, savings).
● Material consumption (being able to afford household utilities and annual holiday).
The Department of Health has established the Dignity Challenge as part of its Dignity in Care campaign. The challenge lays out the national expectations of what constitutes a service that respects dignity and focuses on 10 different aspects of dignity, including social inclusion. A series of "dignity tests" under each of the 10 headings sets standards for meeting the expectations of the Dignity Challenge. The tests can be accessed on Scie's practice guide.
The involvement of older people at all levels of service planning and delivery is key to social inclusion. Participation will, in itself, provide meaningful activity and a role in the community for those service users who become involved. The inclusion of older people from diverse communities will ensure that they can contribute their own knowledge and expertise and that their needs will not be overlooked. Local authorities need to ensure that support is available to local communities to enable individuals and groups to develop the skills and confidence to facilitate active participation.
Scie's practice guide has been developed to ensure all people who receive health and social care services are treated with dignity and respect. It will be of interest to people who use services and their carers, as well as those working in social care, because they will be able to find information on what they can expect from services.
The guide has recently been updated to include information for those working in mental health services and mental health service users, following the DH's extension of its Dignity in Care campaign to cover other groups of vulnerable adults.
SOURCE: Community Care UK
December 16, 2007
Elder financial abuse has become a hidden national epidemic
THE JURY DIDN'T BUY Ronald Brock's defense: That a 76-year-old-San Mateo man who had mental problems all of his life had voluntarily given his former legal adviser $661,000. We don't buy it either.
Brock flew Norman Roussey to New York to be evaluated by a psychiatrist - who happened to be his sister. She wrote a letter stating that Roussey had the mental capacity to change his will and leave everything to her brother.
He took a hypnotist to Roussey's house to perform "relaxation techniques" on the senior - prior to having him sign the new will, a will that Roussey later didn't even remember signing.
Roussey's self-professed close friend also convinced him to take out a mortgage on his late mother's house and give him $175,000 of the money. When Brock failed to make the mortgage payments like he'd promised, the bank foreclosed. Roussey lost his mother's house and wound up living in an apartment.
The jury looked at all that damning evidence and convicted Brock of elder abuse. A judge sentenced him to five years in prison. He also was ordered to repay the money.
But then, last October, the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco threw out the conviction. Why? Because Superior Court Judge Joseph Bergeron had instructed the jurors that they could convict Brock if they believed he had taken advantage of Roussey's weakness of mind.
Under California law, intentionally exploiting the mental vulnerabilities of someone to steal their money or property - the legal term is using "undue influence-" isn't against the law.
That's right. So, the appellate court tossed out Brock's conviction. It ruled that Bergeron's instructions allowed a conviction for conduct that was "little more than overpersuasion."
The justices in effect followed the letter of the law. Undue influence is not listed as a crime under California's penal code.
Yet how can an elder consent to a financial transaction if he doesn't have the mental capacity to understand the implications?
Elder abusers seek out and "groom" vulnerable seniors. They target the lonely, the grief-stricken, the physically or mentally ill. They use deceitful tactics to loot their assets - all the while keeping victims in the dark about what is really going on.
The appellate court ruled that Brock's conduct was nothing more than "overpersuasion." However, we believe Brock crossed a line that went far, far beyond aggressive salesmanship.
San Mateo Deputy District Attorney Melissa McKowan who prosecuted Brock believes it's time that the Legislature changed the theft laws to help protect elderly victims of financial abuse. She is lobbying for a bill that would make undue influence a crime.
McKowan had convinced the jury to convict Brock on the grounds that he had knowingly taken advantage of Brock's mental impairments.
Many had hoped that McKowan's novel use of "undue influence" in a criminal case (it is already part of civil statute) would break ground for prosecutions of elder abusers across the state.
The victory was short-lived, though Brock did serve his full prison sentence before the appellate court reversal.
His attorney said Brock was guilty of nothing more than "aggressive panhandling," and that we can't create a crime to fit every behavior that we don't like.
Even some prosecutors are reluctant to tinker with the current theft laws. Yet we believe that using undue influence to commit a crime should itself be a crime.
It's time that the Legislature amended the penal code to make undue influence as prosecutable kind of theft.
The California District Attorneys Association is working on plans to introduce such a law.
Any law would first have to establish a clear definition for undue influence. It would also have to determine what kind of medical evidence would be required to establish that an alleged victim was susceptible to it, and establish what other conditions must be met.
We use such a process to determine if an accused defendant is mentally incompetent to stand trial. So why can't we do it to determine if an elder was incompetent when he gave consent?
Any law would first have to establish a clear definition for undue influence. It would also have to determine what kind of medical evidence would be required to establish that an alleged victim was susceptible to it, and establish what other conditions must be met.
We use such a process to determine if an accused defendant is mentally incompetent to stand trial. So why can't we do it to determine if an elder was incompetent when he gave consent?
If what Brock did to Roussey wasn't against the law, it certainly should be. There are far too many elderly Californians like Roussey who are being "overpersuaded" out of their life savings.
It's time to close the legal loophole that makes it so easy for elder predators to go scot free.
SOURCE: Contra Costa Times
December 15, 2007
Pensioners are being attacked in their own homes every other day - even though police insist they are less likely to be assaulted than other age groups.
The rise in attacks over the past five years reflects all kinds of incidents - from thugs who break into a home and threaten the elderly occupant for cash to assaults from their own family.
The attackers leave behind a catalogue of misery and fear.
Brothers Bill and Tommy Killen, aged 82 and 89, became victims of a robbery gang earlier this year.
Three robbers, wielding a baseball bat, broke into their house in Drumaness, Co Down, and struck one of them on the head before escaping with cash.
In February, 92-year-old Charlie Stead was murdered by an attacker who slipped into the Dundonald home where he had lived for 40 years.
The former Royal Navy sailor had suffered a blow to the head - but police said there was nothing to suggest he had been robbed.
In January, it emerged that a hood in Clabby, Co Tyrone, had attacked 73-year-old Gerald Storey, punching him in the face when he answered a knock on his front door. Youths later threatened him when he reported the attack to police.
In December last year, a 68-year-old Castlederg man was tied up and beaten in his home.
In November 2006, an 80-year-old man was punched repeatedly by an intruder to his Newtownabbey home. His drunken attacker was jailed for two months.
Arthur McMaster (66) was attacked in 2004 with a hammer and knife by his daughter-in-law, Jacqueline McMaster. She was jailed for five years.
Nearly 500 elderly people were abused at Japan's nursing homes in the space of nine months last year -- 10 times the number of cases reported by the government for a whole year, Japanese media reported on Tuesday.A survey conducted by experts on elderly care earlier this year revealed 498 cases of nursing facilities employees abusing the elderly between April and December last year, the Yomiuri newspaper reported.Of the 498 cases, 190 involved psychological abuse, such as cursing and ignoring the elderly.
More than 130 cases involved physical abuse and 110 involved tying elderly people to a bed or otherwise restraining them, the paper reported. Survey respondents listed personality clashes between nursing home employees and the elderly and a lack of knowledge among staff for the abuse. The survey drew responses from some 1,800 nursing home employees around the country, the Yomiuri said, adding this suggested that many more abuse cases were probably going unreported.
A government report in September recorded 53 cases of abuse against elderly people in nursing homes in the year to March -- around one-tenth of the figure that the new survey revealed for part of that period. The Sendai Dementia Care Research and Training Centre, which issued the survey last month, could not immediately be reached for comment. Rapidly ageing Japan, where a tenth of the population is aged 75 or older, is confronting cases of abuse against the elderly.Government data showed that nearly 13,000 elderly people were abused by their family members in the year to March.
December 14, 2007
By Robin Fields, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
December 13, 2007
WASHINGTON -- After a string of chilling reports detailing abuse of the elderly, lawmakers and advocacy groups will unveil recommendations today to strengthen oversight of adult guardianships.
Members of the Senate Special Committee on Aging called for nationwide data collection on guardianship cases, mandatory quality standards for guardians and an infusion of federal funds to boost local court supervision programs.
"Seniors need more options, more rights, more protection at a national level than they are now receiving," said Sen. Gordon H. Smith of Oregon, the committee's top Republican.
A report by the committee and a study conducted by AARP and the American Bar Assn., also to be released today, set out a blueprint for making model practices now used by a few pioneering jurisdictions the norm nationwide.
The joint study showcases six programs -- from Tarrant County, Texas, to Broward County, Fla. -- that monitor guardianships with special vigilance.
Some have established teams to check on wards' assets and welfare. Several are creating computer programs to flag signs of trouble in reports filed by guardians, much as the Internal Revenue Service flags suspicious tax returns.
Their innovations show that effective oversight is more a matter of will than of money, said Naomi Karp, the study's co-author and the strategic advisor for AARP's Public Policy Institute.
"It's not really rocket science and it's not really expensive," Karp said. "In all cases, there's at least one person who's a real visionary who is dedicated to getting it done."
Issues related to adult guardianship are drawing increased attention as baby boomers age. America's over-65 population is expected to reach 55 million by 2020, and one out of eight in that age group has Alzheimer's disease, the AARP report said.
Every state has a system to protect adults no longer able to care for themselves. In California, probate courts appoint conservators -- usually family members, but sometimes paid professionals or county public guardians -- to manage wards' affairs.
Courts are supposed to make sure conservators act in wards' best interests, but a 2005 Los Angeles Times series showed that they often fail to do so, allowing some guardians to neglect or exploit those in their care.
Similar failures have surfaced elsewhere: Earlier this year, the son of the late New York philanthropist and socialite Brooke Astor was charged criminally with looting her estate while acting as her guardian.
California officials tightened oversight of adult guardianships after The Times report, but only federal reform can produce uniform protections for vulnerable adults across the country, said Smith, who plans to introduce guardianship legislation next year.
"The obligation that we owe to older Americans is pretty obvious," he said.
Excellent news indeed. However, I hope that the senators and those involved in studies and writing recommendations, should listen to or contact those who have suffered greatly because of Guardianship Abuse. The National Association t0 Stop Guardian Abuse blog has data regarding this sort of abuse. I am sure they will welcome some input into the new legislation
THE $23,095.58 WIRE transfer from Jack Whittaker's savings account at the Antioch Schools Federal Credit Union was the first sign something was fishy.
A day after the money had left his account, the 82-year-old widower went in to the credit union to make a withdrawal. He was shocked to learn that his account was nearly empty. The money he thought was there had gone to purchase an annuity he knew nothing about.
After that, credit union CEO Rob Greaff and his staff started keeping a close eye on the World War II veteran's account.
According to Lynn Uikema, Contra Costa deputy district attorney, the credit union's vigilance foiled an ex-felon's elaborate scheme to steal everything that Whittaker owned.
Thanks to alert employees, Uilkema was able to put Joe Gonzales where he belongs - in prison, serving a 10-year sentence for elder theft.
Gonzales had "befriended" Whittaker at Pinky's Car Wash in Antioch. Gonzales was washing cars. The senior, who lived alone and had no family nearby, was a regular customer.
In a little more than a year, Gonzales had drained four of Whittaker's bank accounts and run through more than $100,000 of the senior's savings.
There was $50,000 for a down payment on a half-million dollar house; more than $20,000 to buy new furniture; thousands more to pay off his truck and fix up his wife's Cadillac; $20,000 for a 14-day Hawaiian cruise.
Gonzales had convinced Whittaker to set up a trust naming him sole beneficiary. He stood to inherit the elderly man's $400,000 home and more than $200,000 in annuities that he'd gotten him to buy from a shady cohort.
It's because of shameless predators like Gonzales that the state Legislature passed the Financial Elder Abuse Reporting Act, which went into effect in January.
It requires all employees of financial institutions - banks, credit unions and savings and loans - to contact the police department or Adult Protective Services if they suspect that an elderly person is a victim of financial abuse.
Those who fail to do so face fines of up to $5,000.
Financial institution employees now join other so-called mandated reporters who often come into contact with elderly people and are in a position to detect hidden abuse.
They include health care workers, state and county employees, nursing home staff, clergy, and law enforcement.
Our financial institutions are an important early warning system for detecting elder abuse. Their employees can spot unusual activity on an elderly customer's account, such as a $150,000 wire transfer going to a foreign lottery, or a $135,000 check written to an accountant for a bogus tax bill.
California law makes it easy for financial institution employees to do the right thing. They don't even have to worry about getting in trouble if they make an honest mistake. They can't be prosecuted unless they knowingly make a false claim.
Since January, law enforcement agencies throughout the state have been deluged with invaluable tips from financial institutions. We believe state lawmakers should look at expanding the list of mandatory reporters.
It's a shame that we even need a law to compel people to do what is so clearly the moral thing to do.
Elder court is crucial
Contra Costa Times
TO GET A SENSE of the horrible things that happen to defenseless elderly people behind closed doors, visit Alameda County's Elder Protection Court in Oakland on a Friday morning.
Department 4 looks like a scene from a nursing home. White-haired men and women hunch over walkers with yellow tennis balls stuck to the legs. Others with long plastic tubes dangling from their nostrils drag green oxygen tanks on wheels. Those who can't get around under their own power use motorized wheelchairs.
The old, sick and desperate have come to see Alameda County Superior Court Judge Julie Conger. Most have come to ask for civil restraining orders that they pray will protect them from people who have been abusing and harassing them.
The sad thing is, most of the time, seniors need protection from the very people you'd expect to be looking after them: their own children, grandchildren, and other relatives.
In court, the seniors speak in frightened, barely audible voices. But their graphic descriptions of the abuse they have suffered is no less gut-wrenching.
The bedridden have been left to rot for days in their own feces. The wheelchair-bound have been left
writhing on the floor for days after a fall. The critically ill have been deprived of their medicine.
But financial abuse, by far, is the most common complaint: Bank accounts looted. Credit cards stolen. Huge loans taken out against seniors' homes without their permission. Property transferred out of their names.
Conger, a no-nonsense 25-year-veteran of the bench, has made fighting elder abuse her personal crusade. She is founder of the elder court - the only court in the country that handles civil and criminal complaints involving elderly victims in the same central location.Restraining order sessions are in the late morning to give seniors time to get up and get going. Case Manager Maria Jimenez helps shepherd seniors through the confusing court process.
All too often, elder abuse complaints fall through the cracks in the judicial system. A lot of judges don't want to be bothered with files as thick as phone books and victims who may not remember what they had for breakfast.
Several years ago, she began noticing more and more senior citizens turning up in her domestic violence court. "They were getting lost in the shuffle," she said.
She hated seeing elderly people who could barely sit up waiting hours for their cases to be called. Forced to sit through violent testimony.
The problem was, there were just too many seniors to move them all to the front of the line.
That's when Conger realized that senior victims needed their own court. In 2002, with the help of a grant from the California Judicial Council, Alameda's Elder Protection Court was born.
It's the only court where the plaintiffs are all 65 or older (or dependent adults with certain mental or physical limitations) and the judge is a senior citizen.
The elder court handles more than 150 complaints a month. Conger issues restraining orders and presides over all felony elder abuse cases.
She runs a tight ship and doesn't tolerate excuses or breaches in courtroom etiquette from criminal defendants, their lawyers, or prosecutors.
Yet she has boundless patience for elder abuse victims. Her voice softens when she encourages an elderly woman to speak up. She shouts for an old man who can't hear. She repeats herself for seniors whose minds aren't as sharp as they once were - making sure that they understand the proceedings.
By Conger's own description, she is part judge, part social worker. She doesn't hesitate to mete out punishment and is adamant that elder abusers pay restitution, serve time, or both for their crimes.
But when possible, she also uses the power of the bench to try to help families repair their damaged relationships. The family dynamics in elder court are similar to those in domestic violence court.
Abusers are often adult children who are alcoholics, hooked on drugs, mentally ill or otherwise dysfunctional. They steal or abuse their loved ones to feed an addiction. Parents still love their kids and want contact with them. They just want the abuse to stop.
Conger also appreciates the need for speed. When a victim is in his or her 90s, there's no time for the typical court delays. Old people die -- quickly and without warning. Once charges are filed, prosecutors must move quickly.
Conger works with the Alameda County District Attorney's elder abuse unit to set up conditional exams as soon as humanly possible. The videotaped questioning, by both the defense attorney and the prosecution, is admissible in court should the senior die or be unable to testify for some other reason.
Without a conditional exam and a dead victim, there is no case.
Conger's court has helped protect thousands of seniors from abuse and helped elderly crime victims get justice. The one-of-a-kind program shouldn't just be a model for the rest of California. It ought to be replicated across the nation.
------------------------Thank you, Judge Conger. There should be more judges like you. We also recognize the difficulties you must encounter in this work.
December 13, 2007
The shocking truth about the care home workers who couldn't care less
Interview by BARNEY CALMAN - 11th December 2007
Residents in care homes are routinely neglected, and as a Panorama report revealed last week, many are kept subdued with dangerous drugs. The Alzheimer's Society says poor training in dementia care is a major problem.
It's a picture only too familiar to HELEN SEYMOUR. For the past five months she's worked as an advocate for elderly people in London care homes, witnessing the shocking treatment of vulnerable residents by inept - and often callous - care workers...
A tiny elderly woman cries out, weeping as she struggles to stand. But a young man has her pinned to the chair by her arms and after 20 minutes she gives up - her wailing drops to a low moan and her red-ringed eyes gaze up hopelessly.
The woman suffers from dementia and had become distressed when her daughter's visit ended. She'd tried to get to the window to wave her daughter off but the care worker had decided this wasn't convenient - and asked a cleaner to hold her down in a chair.
Seeing this shocking act shortly after starting my new job this year left me shaken. But over the past five months I've seen many similar incidents.
I've witnessed a culture of care workers treating residents in a humiliating way - elderly people suffering from dementia being deliberately confused and ridiculed by staff, stripped of their dignity, starving simply because no one is helping them eat, and left in soiled clothes.
And although I've worked in many social care sectors, nothing prepared me for the sheer desperation and neglect experienced by old people in these institutions.
Every week I visit four care homes in London, for around three hours each. Like most residential homes, they are run by a private company, contracted by the local council.
Almost all residents are suffering from dementia or other mental illnesses, or have suffered a stroke that has left them physically disabled.
The first thing that struck me is the inappropriate, patronizing way residents are spoken to.
Most staff interaction with residents is functional - 'Have a biscuit' or 'Let's go to the loo' - but they also ruffle hair, pinch cheeks, and even make baby noises, saying: 'Aren't you sweet'?
In one home I've even seen staff kissing residents on the lips - affectionately, perhaps, but entirely inappropriately.
If a resident spills something, they're scolded like a child and called 'naughty'. This is no way for one adult to speak to another. Once, I saw a staff member bellow at a confused elderly man, who had come out of his bedroom naked, that he was 'disgusting'.
It also shocked me to see some staff deliberately winding up residents who were already confused. I saw one very frail woman suffering from severe dementia ask if she was going to the shops that day.
A member of staff kept egging her on, saying 'Yes, dear, we're going shopping soon', and then laughing to a colleague. The older woman just stood there, coat on, with no idea that it was never going to happen. This went on for almost an hour.
Of course, not all care workers are deliberately cruel - many just don't understand dementia.
Some tell me they press the buzzer for help when this happens, only for an orderly to come in, switch it off and tell them they'll come back later as they're too busy. I often see residents with black eyes and bruises, having fallen trying to get to the toilet unaided in the night.
Every morning medication is handed out. Most residents are given sedatives or sleeping pills although there seems to be no reason for this apart from the fact that
Those whose families visit are always clean and dressed well. However, many have no one. They are the ones in ill-fitting clothes, trousers held up by string, shoes with no socks, soiled, or half-dressed. At first if I saw someone semi-dressed, I would alert a care worker. They would dismiss me, saying 'I'll deal with it when I can'.
Eventually I gave up trying.
One of the most shocking aspects to life in these homes is the lack of regard for privacy. In addition to toilets in rooms, there are two or three disabled toilets accessible from the living area.
Every time I visit a resident is on the loo and either they or the care worker has forgotten to shut the door. I've also seen staff members standing over residents while they go to the toilet, chatting, with the door open, while other residents wander in and out.
I recently discovered a client who has not stepped out of the door once in six months. Put anyone in such a place, without any hope of getting out and about, and is it any surprise they are depressed? But the residents themselves won't speak up or complain. They've lived through the War, and say, wearily: 'Oh well, I've had it worse'. Yet many tell me repeatedly: 'I just want to die'.
I try to convince them otherwise but, in truth, if this is how we are going to treat the most vulnerable and elderly in our society, then they would be better off dead.
Helen Seymour is a pseudonym.
Imagine yourselves living in those environments, in your twilight years! None of us can guarantee that we wouldn't end up in care facilities. What many of us, including myself, are trying to do is to fight to ensure that our twilight years will not be spent in those environments. Elder Abuse is not just a problem in UK, USA or Australia. It is happening all over the world.
Please check the sidebar on this site for information pertaining to your country. If you know of information that you think should be included here please email me. This will ensure that other visitors to this site can get relevant information that will help them or their loved ones.
The Report of the National Seniors Council on Elder Abuse outlines the findings of five regional meetings this fall. The Council met with 50 experts and stakeholders to discuss how to best address elder abuse.
Established earlier this year, the National Seniors Council advises the Government of Canada on seniors' issues of national importance related to the quality of life and well-being of Canada's aging population. Elder abuse is one of its first priority issues.
"This government supports the work of the National Seniors Council in bringing a broad range of perspectives to this important issue," said the Honourable Marjory LeBreton, Leader of the Government in the Senate and Secretary of State (Seniors). "In the recent Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada committed to new measures to tackle elder abuse. So the advice in this report is timely and merits careful examination."
"We were very impressed by the commitment and energy of the participants at the elder abuse meetings," said Jean-Guy Soulière, Chair of the National Seniors Council. "We hope that this report will boost the important work on elder abuse already underway across Canada."
The report acknowledges the complexity of elder abuse, which can be physical, psychological, financial or sexual in nature. Neglect can also be a form of abuse. Building on the momentum for action within the federal government, the report includes advice for action in areas such as public awareness, research, training and information sharing among those who work with seniors.
For more information on the National Seniors Council and the Report of the National Seniors Council on Elder Abuse, please visit http://www.seniorscouncil.gc.ca/
Source: Canada News Centre
I haven’t ever explained the Elder Abuse Forensic Center. A grant allowed the adult protection team at county hospital to develop a team with the district attorney, city prosecutors, civil attorneys, geriatric doctors, police and sheriff’s detectives, advocates, adult protective services workers and my own mental health team. We meet every week to identify ways the team can act directly and indirectly to protect vulnerable older adults from criminal abuse. I also meet with the Coroner/ DA led elder death review team and I am the foreperson of a federal investigative grand jury.
I tell you all this to prepare for this message. There is no federal law addressing elder abuse. There isn’t federal policy about the specific crimes committed against older adults. As the baby boom generation begins to age into seniority, I think it would behoove us to support long-needed policies on this type of crime. Why would that be needed?I hear FBI agents, and ICE agents, and NCIS and Postal Inspectors and Forest Service and Internal Revenue testify and give evidence. I speak with City Police and County Sheriffs. They say that there is very specific training on child abuse but not elder abuse. Maybe the fraud investigators or homicide detectives have a smattering of experience that deals with specialty crimes against the older adult.There needs to be policy on a national level. We need to make this an issue in next year’s elections. See www.ncea.aoa.gov for current legislation.On an immediate level, I notice how many of the cases that reach prosecution begin with anonymous tips and reports. If you are afraid someone is being hurt, tell someone. If nothing is wrong, at least they were checked out.
If something is wrong, you may have saved a life. If you are a mandated reporter, you may have saved your job.
ELDER ABUSE HOT LINE (877) 4-R-SENIORS (877) 477-3646
Danny Redmond is a core team member of the LA County Elder Abuse Forensic Center and a regular trainer and consultant to the Department of Community and Senior Services. He is leader of a mental health team for older adults. Danny can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
December 12, 2007
Centerpoint, December 2007
Little data exists on elder abuse in the United States though research shows such victims die prematurely. “We spend billions of dollars lengthening life but not the corresponding resources to make sure those extra years can be lived well,” said Wilson Center Fellow Marie-Therese Connolly.
In recent years, the General Accountability Office (GAO) reported that approximately one quarter of all nursing homes provided insufficient care. In response, the Department of Justice (DOJ), where Connolly had been litigating civil fraud cases for more than a decade, created the Elder Justice and Nursing Home Initiative and asked her to head it. A well-run, properly staffed facility minimizes the dangers and potential for abuse, neglect, and exploitation of residents. But a 2000 study done for the Department of Health and Human Services said 50-90 percent of nursing homes are understaffed.
Although no official incidence or prevalence data exists, Connolly calls the failure to address elder abuse and neglect a “silent scandal.” It can be difficult to discern accidental injury or illness from a malady caused by abuse or neglect, she said. Wounds such as bruises or broken bones can be a sign of either one. A DOJ study on bruising found that accidental bruises usually occur on the extremities with no pattern. Research is underway now to determine how bruises caused by abuse differ from accidental bruises, for example, in their location and pattern.
While federal legislation helps protect children and women from abuse, no such legislation exists for the elderly. Connolly worked with the Senate to draft the Elder Justice Act. Hundreds of organizations and 99 of 100 senators supported it, but the bill has not yet passed.
Elder abuse cases generally are directed to Adult Protective Services, which has no main federal office, no federal standards, no standardized data collection method, and receives less funding for elder cases than for other social services. Moreover, she said, in past years, less than 1 percent of the National Institute on Aging budget has gone toward elder abuse research.
“Elder abuse doesn’t have a name, a face, or a public identity,” she said. “It hasn’t entered the public consciousness. We need to make this issue more accessible.” She attributed the lack of study and interest in the issue in part to denial and ageism. “On some level, we devalue suffering in old age,” she said.
Today, those 85 years and older represent a fast-growing segment of the population. Frail, they are at greater risk for abuse and neglect, but geriatricians are in short supply and care costs are exceedingly high and rising. Connolly said, “We devote $70 billion a year in public money to long-term care but still can’t get it right.”
Connolly advocated collecting reliable data, promoting more research, supporting multidisciplinary efforts, passing enforceable laws and regulations, devoting adequate resources, holding abusers accountable, and prosecuting facilities where exploitation occurs. She said, “As a society, we must figure out how to ensure not just long life, but also quality of life in old age.”
Getting involved early is critical
Contra Costa Times
CARMEN PAREDES SEEMED like such a sweet, friendly person. "You just never would have suspected it," said Kathleen Whittaker, who hired the Peruvian native in 1998 to help take care of her 83-year-old uncle, William Fowler.
The "it" is one of the worst cases of elder financial abuse in Contra Costa County history. During 21/2 years, the $10-an-hour caretaker siphoned more than $600,000 away from the El Cerrito widower.
Paredes, 59, pleaded no contest to felony elder abuse and tax evasion in March 2004. She was sentenced to three years' probation. She got no prison time, although the judge could have given her as many as nine years.
Her two adult sons and a daughter also were implicated in the scheme. They were convicted of misdemeanors.
Obviously, the law in this area is far from robust.
Paredes may have gotten away with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Fowler, but she and her relatives apparently couldn't cheat the tax man. Last year, the Franchise Tax Board ordered them to cough up taxes on the stolen money - $69,000 from Carmen Paredes, $24,000 from her daughter Claudia Paredes, 28, and more than $34,000 from son Alfonso, 31.
This a cautionary tale about what can happen when a vulnerable elderly person is left in the care of an unscrupulous individual. It shows how caretakers can run amok when no one is keeping a close watch.
One brazen caretaker stole $80,000 from a blind 77-year-old mother of a former San Jose acting police chief. Another took more than $35,000 from the ailing mother-in-law of an Alameda County Superior Court judge. It happens all the time to all kinds of people.
Sadly, there comes a time for many elderly people when they are no longer able to continue living at home alone. Perhaps chemotherapy has destroyed their bodies or Alzheimer's has ravaged their minds.
That time came upon William Fowler, a retired sea captain, all at once. Going into his early 80s, Fowler was still going strong. He took walks and swimming lessons. He dated women he met in dance class.
He managed his bills with meticulous detail. He took home extra grocery bags so he wouldn't have to buy trash bags. He lunched on free sample soups and sandwiches at Andronico's.
But one day Fowler went into the hospital for surgery and got an infection that left him bedridden for two months. His niece Kathleen Whittaker faced the same dilemma that many do. She had her own demanding job and hectic life. She couldn't possibly care for a sick, elderly person around the clock.
The last thing she wanted to do was put him in a nursing home. So, she set out to help Fowler hire an in-home caretaker. Someone to help with bathing, dressing, keeping track of medications, shopping for groceries, preparing meals, cleaning the house and driving to doctor appointments.
Licensed home health care agencies cost a bundle. They charge $30 an hour and up. Some conduct background screenings that include a criminal records check. Others don't bother to check for local convictions. There are no guarantees that the person sent to your loved one's home isn't a sociopath.
Most people can't afford $30 an hour, so that point is moot. They end up hiring cheaper workers who aren't affiliated with agencies. They average $10 an hour and have no license or training.
The problem is we know nothing about these strangers we invite into our vulnerable loved ones' homes. They could be criminals for all we know. There have been documented cases in which people sent for in-home care have had criminal records. Caretaking is hard, low-paying work. People with criminal records don't have many employment options.
It doesn't take a genius to figure that convict plus vulnerable elder spells trouble. Paredes didn't have a criminal record that we know of, but she definitely had a criminal mind. At first, things seemed to go well.
The media is getting the message. Another editorial series on Elder Abuse. Well done.
The stories of Financial Abuse is only the more obvious ones. Let us not kid ourselves. There are others like abandonment, neglect, psychological abuse by family members. No? Not our business as such cases are classified as family matters or family dynamics. You just have to witness one of those to convince yourselves that Elder Abuse MUST BE EXPOSED!
by The Editor - Ian Shuter in Indictments, Forged Deed Transfers (Out from Under), California
In the following press release it was announced that Investigators from the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Prosecution Unit arrested Kayla Stewart, 47, Lisha Lee, 36, and Valerie Nabors, 26, at the First American Title Office at 303 West Court Street in San Bernardino when they forged the signature of a 72-year-old female victim on a Grant Deed using a fictitious Louisiana driver’s license.
The elderly victim resides in Georgia and owns a home on the 1500 block of West Flores Street in San Bernardino that she was trying to sell. When the victim’s son was listing her property for sale, he discovered that her property had been fraudulently transferred to a female subject with no connection to the victim’s family. The forged deed had been filed and recorded at the San Bernardino County Recorder’s Office and the suspects were attempting to refinance the property for $160,000 through First American Title Company in Santa Cruz, California.
Investigators contacted Mr. Glenn Jackson of the First American Title Office in San Bernardino and arranged for the suspects to come into the business office and sign another Grant Deed. District Attorney Investigators, posing as office workers, met with Kayla Stewart at the title office. Stewart gave undercover investigators a fictitious Louisiana driver’s license with Stewart’s picture on it and the identity of the 72-year-old victim. Stewart signed the grant deed and was immediately arrested after completing the transaction. District Attorney Investigators, who were outside in the parking lot of the Title company, identified Lisha Kim Lee and Valerie Patrice Nabors, who were waiting in a vehicle. Lee and Nabors were questioned and taken into custody.
All three suspects were transported and booked at the Sheriff’s Central Detention Center in San Bernardino. Kayla Stewart was booked for conspiracy to commit Forgery, Identity Theft, and Financial Elder Abuse.
Her bail was set at $50,000.00 at the time of booking. Lisha Lee was booked for Conspiracy to commit Forgery, Identity Theft and Financial Elder Abuse also with a bail of $50,000.00. Valerie Nabors was booked for Conspiracy to commit Forgery, Identity Theft and Financial Elder Abuse. Nabors was also found to be on active felony Parole from the California Department of Corrections and booked for Parole Violation. She is being held without bail.
December 11, 2007
It is happening all around us. We will continue to see more reports from not only around the country, but also from other countries around the world. Yes, there should be public outrage. There should be efficient legal process to tackle this fast growing problem.
We should also ask why this is NOT mentioned in election campaigns.
Have we become so desensitized to such occurrences that we just pretend that it is not there?
Financial Elder Abuse by any means: by family members, carers, court appointed guardians, bureaucrats, attorneys or strangers; all result in live-long assets been illegally taken away.
(We must not forget other insidious elder abuse - neglect, psychological/emotional, sexual, abandonment. Will be posting more on the other types on elder abuse in future posts.)
Surely, we do not want that to happen to our loved ones or ourselves. Why finding solutions to this big problem not on the agenda of governments? There are many retirees who are able and willing to help out in many ways. There have been reports after reports from around the country. Even the media is now waking up to the reality of Elder Abuse. Credit must be given to those news media that took up the challenge of reporting Elder Abuse. However, we need a concerted approach. Individuals do not have the means to tackle this gigantic problem.
The internet is only one option of spreading the word about the elder abuse problem. We must not forget those who have no access to this wonderful tool of networking. How should they be informed and assisted?
Laws need to be changed or implemented so that the vulnerable elderly can be better protected. At the moment, reporters of elder abuse often get investigated instead of being supported. There is now an added item on any list of ‘Reasons why so many elder abuse cases go unreported’.
Those of us who had the unfortunate experience of witnessing an elder abuse case, and have gone on to report it know exactly what I am on about. We have gone through emotional roller-coaster rides with bureaucrat’s inactions and character assassinations by other family members. I know from my own experience that it will haunt me till the end of my life.
We should take the opportunity to make a difference. We must start the solution seeking process right now.
Irene Masiello (USA) has a wonderful interactive website for you to act now.
Please join us. Email you local senator, councilors, civic leaders. Ask the hard questions.
Remember, it is a way to ensure your own safety and dignity in later years.
For all those who have access to the internet. Contact webmasters of Elder Abuse Awareness sites. Make your suggestions.
Do not hesitate to email me with your ideas, suggestions etc. Every bit helps.
We hope to do more in the new year. Together we will form a formidable force for change!
by TAMMERLIN DRUMMOND: TIMES COLUMNIST
Contra Costa Times
Article Launched: 12/09/2007 04:28:47 PM PST
AN EX-CONVICT who works at an Antioch car wash "befriends" an 82-year-old customer with dementia. Over time, he not only persuades the World War II veteran to give him more than $300,000 in cash and annuities, but he also gets the elderly man to change his will making him sole beneficiary.
An East Palo Alto woman takes out a $200,000 loan on her 92-year-old grandmother's house without her knowledge. She leaves the wheelchair-bound senior alone in a house full of rats while she goes on a $75,000 shopping spree -- buying herself a champagne-colored Hummer.
After her arrest, she gets a mortgage broker to bring her loan documents in jail so she can take out another $400,000 loan on her grandmother's house.
Members of a nomadic crime family stage a string of car accidents with a 96-year-old Alameda woman. They scare her into thinking she'll lose her license if she doesn't pay them for the bogus damage to their car. They're able to keep playing the same cruel hoax over and over because she has dementia and forgets each incident moments after it happens. They swindle her out of $100,000.
All across California, shameless predators are robbing vulnerable seniors of their hard-earned nest eggs. Former Attorney General Bill Lockyer called elder financial abuse "the fastest-growing crime in the country."
It may not leave bruises or broken bones in its wake, but when an elderly person is suddenly deprived of the safety net that it took a lifetime to weave
-- with no chance of ever making the money back -- it takes a terrible psychological toll.
In fact, it's common for seniors to die within weeks of making the traumatic discovery that someone whom they trusted has robbed them.
Countless lives have been ruined. Huge sums lost. And, with 75 million baby boomers across the nation hurtling toward senior citizenship, it's going to get a lot worse. We believe current laws are inadequate for dealing with the situation.
When a predator steals all of an elderly person's resources, it's the state that must step in and provide for him or her.
That means we taxpayers get saddled with the tremendous cost of caring for the tsunami of destitute elderly people.
Elder financial abuse is a national disgrace.
Yet where is the public outrage? Why hasn't the Congress passed a single piece of comprehensive legislation to protect vulnerable seniors? Why have lawmakers in Sacramento done so little to address this statewide contagion? Have we become so obsessed with youth that we don't care that our elderly parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles are being ruthlessly exploited? And that we pretend we aren't aware of their suffering?
Excellent article: Read More
November 28, 2007
Nine organisations united yesterday to press on politicians not to pass the proposed Fair Deal scheme until it is opened to widespread discussion.
Headed by Age Action Ireland, the groups raised concerns that the legislation could be rushed through and on the statute books by January -- not allowing adequate time for consultation or consideration.
They scheme would result in new nursing home residents paying 80pc of their disposable income towards the cost of their bed during their life, and up to 15pc off the value of an estate after their death, replacing the current public bed and subvention system.
Robin Webster, of Age Action Ireland, said there are concerns that the scheme is putting funding before quality.
He called for the legislation to be postponed so it could be publicly debated.
When announced in December 2006, Fair Deal on Nursing Home Care listed three primary elements: charges, negotiations on the costs of beds, and only quality approved homes could participate in the scheme.
Health Minister Mary Harney said the legislation would operate from the start of January, 2008. However, the groups now argue that the only matter being perused is one of cost.
Dr Dairmuid O'Shea, of the Irish Society of Physicians in Geriatric Medicine, said elderly people are happy to contribute to their care, but the costs proposed are too high.
There are 460,000 elderly people living in Ireland, but just 5pc of the population will need nursing home care with an average stay of 30 months.
Brian Judd, of Active Retirement Ireland, said he was appalled the legislation was not yet published but could be implemented in the new year.
The Department of Health and Children said the minister proposes to publish the Bill as soon as possible.
By Fredrick Kunkle, Washington Post
Not so long ago, many Americans lived close enough to their families that adult children could help care for aging parents.
But with so many people these days living far away from close relatives, a group of elderly Fairfax County residents is working to create a new sort of family, one of neighbors and friends and professionals supported by annual dues.
Since spring, more than two dozen residents have been meeting, mostly in one another's living rooms, to create Mount Vernon at Home, a nonprofit group that would offer elderly members in Fort Hunt a host of services to help them remain in their homes as they age. Such efforts have become more urgent as the first baby boomers have turned 60 years old.
They also have attracted a lot of attention among people age 50 and older, especially in Fort Hunt because of its high proportion of elderly residents. More than 22 percent of Fort Hunt's population is older than 62, compared with about 10 percent in the rest of the county, according to the 2000 Census.
A little-publicized meeting in October at Hollin Meadows School drew about 145 people, including county Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland (D-Mount Vernon), who had to run out to copy more fliers at his office when the supply ran out.
"This is a big issue out here," said Mary-Carroll Potter, 71, the group's president. "People want to stay in their homes." The group incorporated as a nonprofit organization in June and hopes to be operative by January 2009, she said.
Mount Vernon at Home sprang to life after some residents saw an article about a similar organization in a bulletin put out by AARP, a lobbying organization for the elderly. Potter, a former administrator at the District law firm Covington & Burling, said studies by AARP repeatedly show that more than 85 percent of elderly residents want to remain in their homes.
As described by its planners, Mount Vernon at Home would be a hybrid of an elderly cooperative, a country club, a reference library and a hotel concierge service. For example, homeowners who belong to the group could call or e-mail the organization to arrange a trip to the grocery store on short notice, find a reliable plumber who might give a discount or arrange for in-home medical services. To avoid isolation, the organization would offer activities such as trips to museums, restaurants or adult education classes.
Potter said organizers are mindful that surveys also show that baby boomers, in particular, expect quality services.
"It's not going to be a bingo-like operation," she said. "It's going to be a high-quality operation."
The models for such a service include elderly communities such as Capitol Hill Village in the District and Beacon Hill Village in Boston, whose philosophy centers on allowing senior citizens to live out their lives in their homes and neighborhoods. Norman Metzger, vice president of Capitol Hill Village, has visited Mount Vernon at Home organizers, as has Judy Willet, executive director of Beacon Hill Village. Potter has also visited Boston to learn more about creating such an organization.
What is different for the Fort Hunt group members is that they must translate the experiences of urban communities to the suburbs, where such issues as transportation are more complicated.
"The biggest problem with a suburban area is not only knowing everybody from different communities, but transportation," Potter said. "We've had to learn a lot."
The organizers are working on the assumption that Mount Vernon at Home's membership would include anyone in the Zip codes 22307, 22306, 22308 and 22309.
"We don't want to attract more people than we can manage," said Julie Anne Curtis, 66, a retired teacher who lives in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County and serves on a committee exploring medical services. She said her committee has been evaluating nearby retirement centers that offer short-term respite stays, allowing a person to recuperate after a debilitating operation or illness before returning home.
To be sustainable, Mount Vernon at Home would need a minimum of 350 members, even if it had fewer at the start, Potter said. Dues would be $900 to $1,200 a year. The revenue would help support a small staff, including an executive director, and the leasing of an office. Volunteers also would be necessary.
So far, residents from 52 to 92 have expressed interest or volunteered to help pull the organization together, Potter said. One woman told her that "she's given up everything but bridge for us."
One thorny issue is whether dues should be graduated so that younger members, who would presumably need fewer services, would pay less. Potter said the group was not inclined to set up such a scale because of the organizational challenge and fairness.
"You don't know when you're going to get sick," Potter said.
Read More: Source
December 10, 2007
Consumer data broker infoUSA reaped huge profits selling lists with the names of elderly individuals and others likely to be easy targets for identity thieves and con artists, according to a harrowing story in Sunday's New York Times.
The newspaper reports: "InfoUSA advertised lists of 'Elderly Opportunity Seekers,' 3.3 million older people 'looking for ways to make money,' and 'Suffering Seniors,' 4.7 million people with cancer or Alzheimer's disease. 'Oldies but Goodies' contained 500,000 gamblers over 55 years old, for 8.5 cents apiece. One list said: 'These people are gullible. They want to believe that their luck can change.'"
The Times piece details the story of Richard Guthrie, a 92-year-old Iowa veteran whose name ended up in infoUSA's database because he filled out multiple sweepstakes entries.
"InfoUSA sold his name, and data on scores of other elderly Americans, to known lawbreakers, regulators say. What is certain is that a large sum was withdrawn from his account by thieves relying on Wachovia and other banks, according to banking and court records. Though 20 percent of the total amount stolen was recovered, investigators say the rest has gone to schemes too complicated to untangle."
Stories like these have a tendency to incite lawmakers into action. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has sponsored legislation that would force data brokers to open their database to consumers. That bill is sure to receive renewed attention following these revelations. In the House, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) today sent a letter
to the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, demanding to know when the agency was made aware of the allegations in the Times story.
November 27, 2007
When his wife, Chris, was diagnosed with breast cancer, southern California software developer Dave Balch took on a new full-time job: caregiver. During nine months of surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, he changed her wound dressings, emptied surgical drains, administered medications, and washed his wife's hair until it fell out, often struggling himself with fatigue and mood swings, and finding little time for work.
WSJ's Laura Landro offers clips from Dave Balch's lectures for caregivers of cancer patients.
Mr. Balch, 59 years old, is one of the estimated 45 million people who provide care for a loved one, including those with the most devastating diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Studies are increasingly showing that caregiving responsibilities can exact a drastic emotional, physical and financial toll, with caregivers experiencing high rates of depression, stress and other physical and mental health problems.
But evidence is also mounting that caregivers can cope better when they receive counseling sessions, in-home skills training, support groups, and assistance juggling care responsibilities. For example, researchers at New York University School of Medicine who studied a group of caregivers between 1987 and 2006 reported recently that even a short period of counseling can have a long-term beneficial impact on the emotional well-being of people caring for spouses with Alzheimer's disease.
Experts say the burdens of care can often seem most trying during the holidays, when everyone else seems to be celebrating, and meeting the expectations of family gatherings can just add to the stress. A number of groups are offering advice on how to cope during the holidays; the Web site CancerCare.org2, for example, offers a podcast of a workshop on coping with a loved one's cancer, including advice on scaling down family gatherings, inventing new and less elaborate celebrations, or exchanging holiday wishes via phone, email or videoconferences.
Mr. Balch, whose wife is still fighting recurrences of her cancer, has tapped his own experience to help other caregivers. He is writing and publishing a book, "Cancer for Two," and launching a Web site, thePatientPartnerProject.org3, which allows caregivers to set up their own Web pages where friends and families can log on to read a single report with updates on the patient's progress. Mr. Balch says the Web site enabled him to eliminate time-consuming and stressful phone calls conveying the same details over and over again. Other groups, such as Carepages.com4, offer similar services.
One of the most important lessons for caregivers is to keep one's own stress manageable, says Mr. Balch, who speaks about caregiving around the country in a program sponsored by biotech firm Amgen Inc. "It's like they say on the airlines," says Mr. Balch. "You need to secure your own oxygen mask before attempting to help others."
Last week, AARP, the Washington-based advocacy group, and the nonprofit coalition National Alliance for Caregiving released a survey of caregivers with Evercare, a unit of insurer UnitedHealth Group. Respondents reported that more than half of those caring for a loved one 50 or older are spending more than 10% of their annual income, sacrificing their savings, reducing personal care, and often quitting their jobs. A study last year estimated the total annual cost to employers for full-time employees with intense caregiving responsibilities at $17.1 billion.
CARE FOR THE CAREGIVER
Groups that provide help and resources for caregivers:
• National Family Caregivers Association
Tips and guides for family caregivers, information on agencies and organizations that provide caregiver support
• National Alliance for Caregiving
Conducts research, offers Lotsa Helping Hands online calendar to schedule family and friends for help in time slots requested by caregiver
• Family Caregiver Alliance
Links to caregiver resources by state; alerts on policy initiatives to aid caregivers
Links to programs that offer temporary paid or volunteer care services to give caregivers time off
Guide to caregiving; message boards for caregivers
A number of lobbying efforts are under way to secure more funding from the federal government for programs to help caregivers, and some experts are calling for formal assessment programs that could be used by health-care organizations to determine what kind of support caregivers may need. In the meantime, a number of Web sites offer links to agencies and organizations with free resources for caregivers.
More hospitals are providing services directly to families who will have to care for loved ones once they go home. Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y., is dedicating a new caregivers' center Friday that will be used for individual and group counseling. A new program will include 15 volunteer Caregiver Coaches -- people with firsthand experience with caregiving will team up with social workers to help family caregivers coordinate friends, relatives and neighbors to assist with shopping, carpooling and everyday duties.
Hospital administrators say caregivers can help educate medical staff about the challenges family caregivers face. Catherine Lyons, associate director of clinical services at the University of Rochester Medical Center's cancer center, says she invited Mr. Balch to speak to 150 nurses about the ordeal he went through with his wife, "and you could have heard a pin drop," she says. "The nurses may be used to dealing with the complications from chemotherapy or infections, but it really helped them understand the burden that is on the family."
Experienced caregivers are also being tapped to help others new to the role. Dave Rodgers, a retired Kodak corporate finance staffer, agreed to join the patient and family council at Rochester after caring for his wife during her two bouts with cancer. Volunteering 20 hours a week, he makes the rounds of rooms where patients are receiving treatment and, with some guidance from the nurses, offers assistance to patients and families. Often, family caregivers will only talk to him when the patient gets called into an area such as radiation where they can't follow.
"They don't want to show how afraid they are around the patient, but as soon as they open up, it's so clear there's a real need to address their issues," says Mr. Rodgers.
We must empathize with carers. We often forget that carers for loved ones at home often do not get outside help, for obvious reasons. These carers need support from external agencies. Department of Human Services or its equivalent should offer respite care facilities, so that the carers can have a break. Seem obvious, but not every state or country provides this sort of services.
December 9, 2007
Four out of ten of nursing home admissions stem from the 'epidemic' of falls
Elderly people are dying from falls at the rate of one every five hours, a leading researcher warned yesterday.
Professor Alan Walker has called for a "national crusade against falls".
He said yesterday that four out of ten of nursing home admissions stem from the "epidemic" of falls.
He blames "woeful lack of attention paid to older people in terms of both provision and prevention".
The professor added: "A strategy is needed that reaches all levels of society to promote and enable active and healthy ageing.
"All future 85-year-olds are alive now - if we work with them to prevent poor health, this will avoid personal misery and a large part of the predicted rise in care costs."
The growing number of elderly people facing difficulties living alone has been linked to the decline in assistance to live independently.
The Daily Mail's Dignity for the Elderly campaign has highlighted the withdrawal of home help from all but the most disabled older people.
Professor Walker said: "No one wants to lose independence, and the health and social services that once aspired to rehabilitation to maintain independence are having to focus increasingly on the very vulnerable."
Gordon Brown has promised a green paper on the Government's approach to the elderly next spring, which is likely to consider-ideas on how to cope with the pressing problems of paying for services to help the elderly in their homes.
It is also expected to come up with ideas for ending the care home means-testing that forces older people with their own homes to sell up to meet the bills for care.
Sir Derek Wanless, Mr Brown's former troubleshooter, said last year that good home help services to cut the number who need care homes would cost between £20billion and £30billion a year
Source: Daily Mail UK
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