I’m mad as hell about the way our elderly population—our parents, relatives, all our senior relatives and friends—are shoved aside, tormented, victimized and abused.  That shoving, tormenting, victimizing and abuse of helpless elders happens most often at home.  Not in nursing homes, although the abuse that happens there frequently captures headlines, but at home, where the family dynamic can camouflage mistreatment.  According to the American Psychological Association

"Most elder abuse and neglect takes place at home. The great majority of older people live on their own or with their spouses, children, siblings, or other relatives--not in institutional settings. When elder abuse happens, family, other household members, and paid caregivers usually are the abusers. Although there are extreme cases of elder abuse, often the abuse is subtle, and the distinction between normal interpersonal stress and abuse is not always easy to discern."

A Great Places reader, who's following the Senior Watchdog blog, shares her story of familial abuse.  We learn from her experience that the impact, the guilt and the shame, can last for decades.

"I can’t remember whether it was sunny or cloudy that August morning when the phone rang.  The only thing I remember for sure is that it was Rachel, my niece, on the line.  Rachel was 50 that year, but she looked at least 80: smoking, drug abuse, and most recently, methamphetamine addiction, had left her toothless and wrinkled.  Her voice was deep and raspy that morning. 'Your sister is back in the hospital, Aunt Edna.' 'Oh no, her heart again?' 'No.  Elaine is in surgery.' 'For what?' 'Aunt Edna, she had a bedsore and they had to operate.'

"My heart sank. I’m a nurse. I know that if it’s necessary to operate on a bedsore, the situation is dangerous. I immediately set out on the four-hour drive to the small-town hospital. When I arrived, my sister was in the intensive care unit, hooked up to IVs and drainage tubes. I looked at the pump discharge from her draining bedsore and realized it was serious.

"For several months I had pleaded with Elaine to go to a nursing home.  She refused: 'You’re not going to talk me into moving into a nursing home. I’ve heard enough horrid stories about those places.' This time, though, she agreed that I could look for one. When I asked whether Rachel had abused her, she turned away from me and whispered, 'No.'  I didn’t believe her. I discovered that the hospital had sent the police to her home to investigate the possibility that Elaine was being abused. Not surprisingly, neither Rachel nor Elaine admitted anything.

"My sister was suffering; the infection in her bedsore was beyond belief. When I got ready to leave, I promised that I’d be back soon, and told her how much I loved her. She said, 'I love you, too, Sis.' Soon after I got home, the hospital administrator called and told me that Elaine had died.

"I know that my sister died of abuse and neglect—not in a nursing facility, but in her own home. Elaine died of Seniorcide. It breaks my heart to say this. I should have been more assertive and taken her to a nursing home. I feel the guilt every day."

We at Great Places
are appalled by how our seniors are victimized--and we won't be quiet when family members abuse infirm seniors. 

The SENIOR WATCHDOG is on the case.  

Posted by: Jeremy McKenna on 12/15/2010 | 0 Comments
I’m mad as hell about the way our elderly population—our parents, senior relatives, other loved ones and friends—are being shoved aside, tormented, victimized and abused. Why, you may ask, are we so angry about how our seniors are treated? Here’s just one example: The plight of defenseless seniors committed to nursing homes.

You’ve probably never heard of Charles Todd “Bud” Lee, although he was an award-winning photojournalist whose work has been published in Life magazine, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine and even Rolling Stone. Bud’s photo of a bleeding 12-year old boy in Newark, New Jersey, who’d been caught in the crossfire of a police shooting, graced the cover of Life in July, 1967.

Almost exactly 16 years later, however, Bud suffered a stroke that left him semi-paralyzed and landed him in a Florida nursing home.

It turns out that Florida law requires nursing home care for Medicaid recipients, rather than allowing them to live wherever they choose. Again: Medicaid recipients in Florida have to live in nursing homes—not in their own homes, for example, or in senior apartments, or even in assisted-living facilities.

Bud is still living in the Community Care Center in Plant City, Florida, an involuntary resident, and he’s really angry.

Bud’s plight caught the attention of Matt Sedentsky, a writer for the Associated Press. Sedentsky claimed that Florida nursing homes, fearful of losing money, have successfully pressured politicians to make such alternatives as in-home health care difficult for Medicaid recipients to obtain.

He reported that Bud Lee has filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of the approximately 8,500 Floridians who are similarly institutionalized.
As Bud succinctly described his situation, "Most of the people come here to die, so you want to die. It is a prison. I can't escape it."

A recent study found that seniors fear moving into a nursing home and the loss of their independence far more than death. Indeed, according to the study commissioned by Clarity and the EAR Foundation, fully 89 percent of America’s elderly want to age in place, and will use adaptive technology to stay independent. Their Baby Boomer children, the study noted, are equally concerned about nursing home care for their parents, and they’re eager to support their parents in this quest.

More than one-quarter of the study’s respondents cited as a fear a loss of independence, which is closely aligned with the fear of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Moving from their home into a nursing facility is a fear of 13 percent of seniors, while a mere three percent of research study participants identified the fear of death.

These fears appear to be justified. A recent report by the Department of Health and Human Services found that about 17 percent of nursing homes had deficiencies that caused actual harm or immediate jeopardy to patients, including infected bedsores, medication mix-ups, poor nutrition, and patient abuse and neglect. In fact, approximately 20 percent of the complaints verified by federal
and state inspectors involved abuse or neglect of nursing home patients.

I'm THE SENIOR WATCHDOG. I'm on the case. I don't want to close nursing homes; I couldn't, even if I wanted to. But many nursing homes aren't Great Places. And I refuse to believe that our parents and grandparents--The Greatest Generation--and those of us who will end up in these facilities cannot be treated with “dignity, respect, and freedom,” or that restraints, physical or otherwise, have to be used to control them--and us.

I’m mad as hell about the way our elderly population—our parents, relatives, our senior relatives and friends—are shoved aside, tormented, victimized and abused.  This, the so-called “mature” or “silent” generation, has lived through World War II and the Great Depression.  They consider themselves to be moral, value-driven and honest.  

Our seniors also tend to trust strangers.  They’re the easiest targets for sweepstakes scams, door-to-door flimflams, pyramid schemes and every other conceivable hoax. They’re also the most likely victims of mistreatment and brutality, often at the hands of their “loved ones.” And older Americans are less likely to complain because they’re too ashamed to admit they’ve been hustled or abused.

A so-called “victimless” crime is an activity that violates the law but doesn’t cause harm to a victim. Gambling is a good example: Although the conduct is criminal, the gambler isn’t hurt by it—except, perhaps, financially. That’s why “victimless” crimes are considered to be consensual. For some reason, our society treats offenses against seniors as if they are victimless crimes. Well, they’re not, and we’re mad as hell!

Why, you may ask, are we so angry about how our seniors are treated?  Here’s just one example:  The plight of defenseless seniors committed to nursing homes.

Nursing homes are where we send our frail, helpless elders to suffer. And die. In that order: suffer; die.  Remember the stories about how Eskimos deposited their elders on ice floes and sent them out to sea? This practice, which was uncommon, ended in 1939. American nursing homes, on the other hand, continue to enjoy a booming business:  today, there are 1.5 million Americans in these hellish places.  

If you think that a nursing home is where frail, helpless elders will enjoy “nursing” that will return them to health, or if you think that a nursing home is like “home,” well, that’s because you’ve never visited one. Consider these facts:

·        One-quarter of all deaths in this country happen in nursing homes. Between 50 and 60% of people admitted to care homes die within the first two years. At least half of Alzheimer’s residents die within the first 12 months;

·        Every year, 30% of nursing homes are cited for instances of abuse, ranging from death to malnutrition, dehydration, bedsores, falls, inadequate medical care and excessive chemical and physical restraints, to name only a few;

·        Forty-four percent of nursing home residents suffer abuse. 48%—almost half!—report that they’ve been treated or handled “roughly.” About 40% say they’ve seen other residents being abused;

·        Fewer than 20% of nursing home abuse cases are ever reported;

·        Ninety percent of U. S. nursing homes have staffing levels that are too low to provide adequate care for their residents.

Go ahead, if you dare, and commit mom and dad to a nursing home. But when you do, you know there’s a 50-50 chance they’ll be abused there and die in a couple of years or less. You’ll want to say your good-byes early and often.

Here at Great Places, we’re mad as hell about how American seniors are treated. If the outrages committed against seniors in nursing homes—the physical, sexual and emotional abuse perpetrated by on-site personnel, for example—occurred in the general population, you can imagine how the media, the politicians, and the general public would respond.

We’ll identify and expose the villains—the people, the companies, the institutions--who commit these offenses. We’ll provide the details. We’ll name the names. We’ll post the mug shots.

I’m betting that you’re mad too. We’ve dedicated ourselves to ensuring justice and fair treatment for the nearly 40 million of our elders. 

That’s it from Laurence Harmon, your Senior Watchdog.  I’m on the case.

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