Category Archives: Caring for the Elderly

Financial Elder Abuse Study: Older Americans Lose $2.9 Billion Annually

As more and more stories of financial elder abuse find their way into mainstream media, concern about the widespread nature of the problem has led some experts to tag financial elder abuse as “The Crime of the 21st Century.”

According to data from the MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse released June 1, older Americans are losing $2.9 billion annually to elder financial abuse, which is a 12% increase from the $2.6 billion estimated in 2008.

“Our findings illustrate the dehumanization of victims that takes place in the process of financial abuse and further destruction of financial security that occurs,” said Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

“In almost all instances, financial exploitation is achieved through deceit, threats and emotional manipulation of an elder. In addition to this psychological mistreatment, physical and sexual violence frequently accompany the greed and disregard of financial abuse. The vigilance of friends and family can help protect elders from those who are predatory, which may, unfortunately, include strangers or even other loved ones.”

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How can you protect yourself or an aging parent from becoming the next unsuspecting victim of financial elder abuse?

Check out these financial elder abuse prevention tips from Metlife, the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, and the Center for Gerontology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University:

Financial elder abuse prevention tips for older adults

Financial elder abuse prevention tips for family caregivers

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Report: Nursing Home Patients Given Potentially Lethal Anti-Psychotics

Is Medicare paying for nursing homes to give patients with dementia powerful, non-approved, and potentially lethal “atypical” anti-psychotic drugs?

According to a recent highly critical report from the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the answer is yes…

The auditors found that 83 percent of antipsychotic prescriptions for elderly nursing home residents were for uses not approved by federal drug regulators, and 88 percent were to treat patients with dementia — for whom the drugs can be lethal.

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Critics say the non-approved use of drugs such as Clozaril, Risperdal, Zyprexa, Symbyax, Seroquel, Invega, Abilify, and Geodon is a form of “chemical restraint” to control difficult patients, regarded by many as nursing home abuse. Others claim that prescribing drugs that the FDA has warned may be deadly to dementia patients is due to illegal drug maker kickback schemes.

In his letter to the senators who requested the audit, Inspector General Daniel Levinson wrote “Government, taxpayers, nursing home residents as well as their families and caregivers should be outraged and seek solutions.”

Outrage is easy. But coming up with a solution is going to be a lot more difficult. Many doctors argue that the risk of prescribing these drugs to patients with severe dementia is mitigated by the relief they provide from agitation. It’s a question of balancing quality of life against the remaining length of life.

Still, the cost of these meds — which only skyrockets within a Medicare system rife with fraud — and the danger that their use can easily become abusive and deadly, means this controversy isn’t going away anytime soon.

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Four CNAs Fired for Outrageous Nursing Home Abuse

Imagine someone told your elderly mother that she was going to die in a nursing home because her family didn’t love her. Now imagine that the “person” who said this was the certified nursing assistant at the nursing home where your mother was a resident.

That’s exactly what a certified nursing assistant at the Masconomet Healthcare Center in Topsfield, Mass., has been accused of doing. In fact, it’s just ONE of many despicable acts of elder abuse and neglect that got four CNAs fired at the facility.

The report says four certified nursing assistants routinely engaged in sexually explicit and offensive taunting of patients, sometimes about their physical or mental condition…. A woman patient with short-term memory loss was driven to tears by repeated requests to recount past domestic abuse… One patient, suffering from dementia, was recorded on a cell phone answering a series of questions from a nursing assistant… who can be heard laughing at the patient’s confused responses. That CNA went on to share the video with others at the facility.

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According to the Department of Public Health report, seven other employees knew about the repeated elder abuse but did not report it. And when one employee did try to report an incident to a nurse, she was told to “mind her own business.”

The facility’s lawyer says that the administrator and the Director of Nursing have been replaced and workers will be retrained. But don’t expect the perpetrator’s or the nursing home to get off so easy. The outrageous and deplorable nature of this elder abuse is likely to bring criminal charges and prosecution by the state’s Attorney General.

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New Elder Abuse and Neglect Low: Caregiver Takes Victim’s Wheelchair

A Rhode Island caregiver is accused of elder abuse, neglect, and financial elder abuse against her wheelchair-bound 75-year old victim. This case is a contender for the “Predatory Caregiver Hall of Shame.”

Tracy Anderson of Narragansett, RI, is facing felony charges for committing a variety of abusive acts against the elderly woman she was supposed to care for. Anderson’s “low lights” include:

  • Not showing up to work: Anderson was hired though an agency to provide 40 hours of care a week. Instead the victim claims she came about two days a week for 10 minutes at a time.
  • Neglecting to care for her elderly client: The victim was not bathed for two weeks!
  • Coercing the victim to give up her ATM access codes, social security number, and bank account information.
  • Convincing her victim to change her $14,000 life insurance policy to make Anderson the beneficiary.

But those offenses pale in comparison to Anderson’s ultimate act of cruelty…

Because of a stroke, the victim relied heavily on a wheelchair to move. In the eight months she cared for the victim, Anderson allegedly removed the wheelchair from the residence and removed the handicapped placard. While the victim struggled to move around the home, Anderson changed the locks on the front door.

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Why did Anderson’s victim give her access to her financial accounts? According to the police statement “she feared Anderson would stop caring for her she did not.” This is a classic perpetrator/victim dynamic in elder abuse cases.

Worth noting: Anderson was placed at the victim’s home by a professional home care agency. And yes, they run background checks on all their employees. The agency also claims that registered nurses make unannounced visits to all clients. A lot of good that did the victim. According to reports, it was a third party who reported suspected abuse to the police.

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Elder Abuse Victims Often Reluctant to Get Help

Even though awareness of elder abuse continues to increase, there is still a huge gap between the number of older Americans who suffer elder abuse and the number of cases that are actually reported. Of course, it’s not hard to guess a key reason for this discrepancy…

…elder abuse is most often perpetrated by a trusted family member or caregiver. That makes the victim reluctant to seek help. Often, they fear an investigation will lead to more abuse. ”A lot of times when I go out to talk to an alleged victim, they’re really downplaying it…Nothing they want to talk about, or nothing they want anything done about.”

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For every case of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation that is reported, the National Center on Elder Abuse estimates there are about five more cases that are not reported. And the Senate Special Committee on Aging estimates that as many as 5 million older Americans may be victims of elder abuse every year!

What can you do to stop elder abuse? For concise information on the types of elder abuse, warning signs of elder abuse, how to prevent elder abuse, and what to do if you suspect elder abuse, check out this free factsheet from the National Center on Elder Abuse.

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