Wednesday, December 19, 2007

How Could This Abuse Happen To My Mom? In Florida!

By Candy Schulman, Chicago Tribune USA December 18,2007

I received the phone call that every child of an elderly parent dreads. The management office in my mother's condo left this message: "We had a report that the aide who picks up your mother is verbally abusing your mother. We're quite concerned, and we'd like you to get in touch with us."

My 94-year-old mother lived in Florida, 1,500 miles away. Like a detective I made a half-dozen calls until finally speaking to the woman who'd filed the report. "It was a blue Echo," she said, and I froze, knowing my mom's aide Josie (not her real name) drove that car. "The aide had her foot out the driver's door, so I could hear her yelling. She kept saying, 'Are you crazy? Are you crazy?' Then she slammed the car door and gunned the motor, took off real fast, stopping with a screech a few yards later. She started yelling at your mother again. I was so disturbed. I felt if this old woman had family, they ought to know. But even if she didn't have family, there's no reason for anyone to be treated that way."

"Thank you," I said as many times as Josie had called my mother crazy.

I'd had misgivings about Josie, my mother's "live in" for three months. She seemed distant and mysterious, leaving my mother eating lunch alone to return to her soap operas. After years of hiring aides to care for my mother, I knew that some watched TV all day, but each one had strengths and weaknesses. Exhausted and unable any longer to combine my work, marriage, child-rearing and long-distance care management, I hired a pricey social worker to oversee the aides. Just last week, she told me, "The aides are fabulous!" Perhaps I dreamed of perfection for my mother's care but had to settle for mediocre. I viewed Josie as more benignly neglectful than explosively dangerous.

Within an hour Josie was off my mother's case, but told to stay the night. Initially the agency had refused to give me references for Josie, promising she'd been screened and trained. Now when I pressed them, they said she was required only to take a two-hour course for certification, and they conducted criminal checks only for Florida (she could have broken the law in 49 states). A cottage industry had exploded nationwide: services for elderly parents of children who lived far away. Their Web sites promise personalized and compassionate care for our loved ones, and we need to buy it.

Nighttime worries

All night I worried that Josie might harm my mother, even though the agency assured me she was safe. The day after the "incident," my mother had an acute paranoid episode, common in dementia. She told me people were hurting her and stealing; she was afraid they'd poison her food. She'd made accusations so many times before, I didn't pay much attention. Just calmed her down and assured her she was safe. This time she was lucid, and I was delusional.

I called before she went to bed. "Can I talk to my mother?" I asked Josie.

"She's in the shower," Josie said pleasantly, not at all like an ax murderer.

"What's Josie doing answering the phone when Grandma's in the shower?" my daughter demanded. My 12-year-old knew more about how to deliver personalized, compassionate care.

"We're going to wire her apartment," my husband said, a path I'd never wanted to take. "We need TV cameras now. And fire that social worker."

"She's on vacation," I said. Her $1,400 bill from last month lay on my desk.

"I told you to get rid of Josie months ago," Steve said.

"I trusted the social worker's judgment. And I-told-you-so's aren't helpful to me right now!"

Now we were fighting. I took deep breaths and tried to stop hyperventilating. We were a tabloid headline: Home health aide verbally abuses 94-year-old.

After Josie was gone, after Mother called me in shock that a stranger named Ana Maria had shown up to care for her, after I coached Ana Maria on my mother's schedule and dietary habits, my mother asked me why Josie had to leave -- worried that Josie was unemployed.

"Did she ever yell at you?" I asked, not wanting to hear her answer.

"And how!"

"Did she yell at you in the car? Last week? In the parking lot?"

"I can't remember," Mom said.

Josie confessed to the executive director of the agency that she'd lost her temper and "cursed my mother out." She admitted that she'd yelled at my mother before, and she'd charged gas purchases on my mother's credit card even though I paid Josie's car expenses. Monitoring my mother's credit card online, I'd seen the gas purchases, but had ignored them. If she needed extra gas money so badly, I felt, let her have it. Now I faxed the agency credit-card documentation; they promised to refund my money from Josie's pay.

How could I have allowed my mother to be verbally abused? My friends tell me not to feel guilty. They've fired dozens of aides for their aging parents. It was the nature of this "imperfect system," according to one friend, a hospital social worker, adding: "The agency will probably place her with someone who's not as ill as your mother. And it's useless to put all the blame on this one agency; if you switch agencies, you'll inevitably find similar problems."

The only bright spot: Because of my mother's illness, she's already forgotten. "Josie's not coming back," I remind her when she asks.

"But she was such a good cook," my mother responds.

The hostage, sympathizing with her captors. Someone else's mother, I keep thinking, may soon be in the hands of a woman who loses control and steals. I place pressure on the agency, and they finally report the incident to the elder abuse hot line. Then I once again thank the woman from the parking lot who was kind enough to file the report. We need to watch out for each other, the way we'd want someone to watch out for us when we get old.----------

Candy Schulman lives in New York City.


Thank you Candy, If you are an elder in Florida and you are frail your are fair game for heartless predators.

Notice how most letters start with "I can't believe" or How could this be happening? So 78 million baby boomers living in Alice of Wonderland better start believing! hundreds of letters published everyday nationwide can't all be wrong!

This can and will happen to you, then you can write, " I can't believe this would happen in my family. Well you know what your family is no worst or better than mine or Irene's or any of the victims families whose parents have been sacrificed to the God of Capitalism.

So you say "This can't happen to me, I have a will and advance directives, I have a Trust and all my ends are tied up!" Yeah and I am Alice in Wonderland ...... Read on..........

A Last Will and Testament is not Adequate

Dr. Irwin Weiss MD , Why?

Because existing laws do not adequately protect such individuals against other persons (typically family members and lawyers) who would wrongfully exploit their diminished mental capacity so as to influence them into signing new wills or other legal documents, including codicils, deeds, and trusts. ....more=>>

When There is a Will
........we spent helpless to protect her from the Bank, the Lawyers, and the legal system preying upon her financially. The Predators are moving on to their next innocent, defenseless victim in the name of guardianship. God help that poor person, because the legal system probably won't.
..........she made her will out accordingly. Each child would share equally.But her wishes, once again, were not to be. Elaine AbusiveGuardianhips.Com

It is important to note that my Mother had previously prepared for just such an eventuality by executing her living will and assigning a medical power of attorney, with instructions for specific circumstances, to my sister.

To make a long story short, the caregiver found it convenient to be placed on mother's checking account and she was declared to be sound minded enough to revoke the medical power of attorney and make preparations for a new will to be drawn.

For her birthday five days later she was taken to a medical student who declared her to be suffering from age related dementia and her banking privileges were suspended effective immediately. Her car was transferred into the caregiver's name with the appropriate Texas address.

Professional moving services were contacted. A quick valuation of her property and assets was made and a post-dated check on my Mother's account retained a lawyer who filed an "emergency" petition to protect the estate from her. Interestingly the petition was filed on the day it was heard "without notice" which translates from the legalese into something just short of top secret.

When did this become acceptable behavior in the United States of America? How can it be that a widow with the foresight to prepare a will to govern in these exact circumstances can have her wishes overruled without ever being heard or considered while the funds and permission necessary to clear her name are placed in someone else's hands? That's not to say that the system will not eventually work and God's will be done. If not, those of us relying on living wills had best beware.
Link to original article by Albert Henry =>>

An attorney who worked in an elder legal clinic told me, “An abused dog has more rights and will get more protection under the law than the elderly.”
Irene A. Masiello / author: Paradise Costs--A Victim's Daughter Fights Back Against Elder Abuse...Member of the Elder Justice Coalition

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