Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Abuse of Our Parents

By Cafe on Jan 10, 2008 in Featured Story, Irene Masiello

Our boomer generation has moved in ways no one could anticipate. But it’s not all for the best, because one of the novel phenomena with which many of us have to deal is the abuse of our parents, known as “elder abuse.” Studies suggest that as many as a third of us will go through it if we haven’t already. New York-based columnist Irene Masiello has. And now, she wants the rest of us to understand what we might have to expect, and what to do about it.

In the late 1990s, I was speeding down the highway of life, as many urban boomers do, and I was very much into the spirit of the times. The result was my brainchild: a cooperative network of alternative health care practitioners and those interested in attaining mind, body, and spirit balance through self-help and personal empowerment.

Like too many of us, though, I was ill-informed about an equally or maybe more imperative issue facing our generation, namely, elder abuse; I was ill-informed until it devastatingly struck home in 1999 when my own father became a victim. It was a painful and ugly way to get an education.

And I’m not the only one who needed it. The American Psychological Association, the National Center on Elder Abuse, and the National Committee to Prevent Elder Abuse estimate there may be more than 27 million victims of abuse, exploitation, or neglect annually, with $20 million a day being pilfered from seniors in California alone. One estimate says that the families of more than a third of America’s 78 million baby-boomers are victims.

But I took things a step further than just getting help; I learned how to give it. I created something called “reality writing;” it’s a way of telling a real-life drama with real documents to back it up … and with a pro-active outreach to readers to evaluate what they’ve read, and even join a movement if they agree. It was part of my effort to expose the nuances of elder abuse, raise consciousness, and give others tools for action. A group formed. A pro-active network and a collaborative spirit emerged with other boomers recognizing the common nature of the underlying issues in my family’s plight. And an up-close-and-personal exposé narrating Dad’s chilling “grandpa-napping” went into print in a book called Paradise Costs: A Victim’s Daughter Fights Back Against Elder Abuse.

Medical records are included; they clearly established my father’s diagnosis of severe Alzheimer’s back in 1996. Yet despite a monumental effort on my part and that of his physicians to protect Dad, control over his life was rapidly seized, his health and end-of-life wishes were disregarded, and his assets were eroded by strangers who took over his life.

Several neighbors and two home health aides got themselves named in Dad’s new will; two of the neighbors got themselves named as his Powers of Attorney. One nearby neighbor got his house. Others got expensive furniture. A home healthcare worker got his Cadillac and another got cash.

How did they do it? Paperwork was presented, Dad didn’t know what he was signing, these people were his helpers and his neighbors. The truth is, Dad was stalked, as many seniors are, for what he had.

More shocks came from a forensic toxicology report from a lab licensed by the U.S. Department of Justice. A lock of Dad’s hair, taken for sentimentality, was later analyzed. It indicated that my father, who had suffered a stroke in February 2001 and was subsequently bedridden and gastric tube-dependent, had illegal street drugs in his hair when he died that August.

As a result of this experience, I have been “called” to become a member of the Elder Justice Coalition. I am taking this terrifying reality to the nation and especially to Washington, DC. Furthermore there’s a website with networking ideas on how we, the most powerful generation ever, can stop elder abuse. To that end, free downloadable “reality” letters and petitions are available at www.paradisecosts.com.

Need more motivation? The Journal of the American Medical Association stated in a November 2002 article, it will take 30-40 years for awareness of elder abuse to reach the level of awareness child abuse has now. Which means this is the time to start.

©Copyright, January 2008-Irene A. Masiello/Starlight Network News, Inc. All rights reserved.

A. Masiello/Starlight Network News, Inc. All rights reserved.

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