Vol. 10, #13 – December 18, 2018 – ALLAN GOLD’S BLOG
“ELDER ABUSE: Indifference masquerading as zero tolerance? Let’s get real and eradicate this despicable scourge!*”
Sixth blog post of series on Elder Law for seniors and their families, particularly spouses, adult children, caregivers, etc.
BLOG ALERT! We have interrupted the business series to bring you in this space another series, this one on Elder Law, another area of specialization of Attorney Gold.
OPEN LETTER TO READERS FROM A. J. GOLD:
You may or may not know that Elder Law is another area of specialization of mine. Today, I am addressing the ‘hot button’ subject, of elder abuse. Want to learn more? Is this on your mind? Want to sleep better? If so, I invite you to continue reading below.
Note. A.J. Gold is the author of the following books:
“Elder Law in Canada*ELIC*” It’s a ground breaking (2,500+ page) legal text, acquired by legal libraries, Bar Associations, and Law Schools. (For testimonials, excerpts etc, please visit www.practitionerspress.com)
“Estate Document Professor* EDP* (Part of the www.45pluslifehandbook.com* series), informing Canadians everywhere about greater estate preparedness, covering: Last will and testament (will); Power of attorney (POA); Advance medical directive (living will); Trust; Organ donation consent; Estate Inventory and Distribution Survey(For testimonials, excerpts etc, please visit www.practitionerspress.com)
A. TOPIC & PROPOSITION: ELDER ABUSE IS REALLY QUITE SIMPLE!
Respecting “elder abuse” and the “WHAT?”, for me, it’s really quite simple. DON’T GET all tied up with the “elder abuse” label. Instead,–PAY attention to what’s going on around you, being particularly attentive to anyone older, perhaps not in good heath, probably in poor condition, seemingly not just troubled, but rather, in great distress, quite possibly, in deep despair, etc. And if you find a situation like that, LOOK closer – you may be looking at harm being wrought onto an aged person. To help you understand what you are seeing, TAKE note of the definition of the word, “Harm.” It means “1: physical or mental damage: injury 2:mischief, hurt-harmful adj. -Harmfully adv. -Harmfulness n….” Wolf, Henry Bosley, Editor in chief “The Merriam –Webster Dictionary”, Pocket Books division of Simon & Schuster, New York, 1974, (pg. 325).
B. FORMS OF ELDER ABUSE
Next, let’s run through several examples of harm inflicted on seniors. For your information, the abuse of the elderly comes in many forms, some of them criminal in nature. Comprehending the distinct nature of each one is extremely important. This is because of symptoms and warning signs relative to each type. It’s extremely important to educate oneself in this area. Failing to do so could be a hazard to life. I see the types in the following terms: 1. Neglect; 2. Physical Abuse; 3. Psychological/mental; 4. Financial: Subtle Impoverishment; Scamming, Robbery-Theft and Misappropriation; 5. Torture & murder.
It’s not an instance when someone out of sorts, loses his/her patience, speaks loudly and is later regretful over it. .In addition, it’s not about a person who figuratively “drops the ball” and does not come running fast enough when needed. Likewise, this is not where a caregiver exceptionally forgets something or does something, not “up to scratch. Instead, it’s something quite different and much more. And this is not a “one of” mistake. In providing a description, several broad types have emerged. They are as follows:
• Simple neglect: This means repeated lapses in personal care. The situations can in turn be characterized into two sub-types: (a) Inattentive Personal Care; and (b) Undue –Unethical Restraint(s), which are detailed below.
(a) Inattentive Personal Care. It’s where the care by one or more care givers is generally sub-standard; and where things go wrong, one thing after another, over and over. While the neglect may be unintentional, it’s reckless if the lapses are from re-occurring inattention. It can get so bad that it becomes a fact of life. Several examples are: (i). Keeping an elderly on the toilet for a half hour; (ii). Leaving a wheelchair-bound senior, needing an underwear change unattended for too long; etc. And if the mistreatment reaches a level attacking quality of life and/or putting a senior at serious risk, it’s a wrongful act, potentially engaging the civil liability of the care giver(s) or even culpability under criminal law. This said, let’s now consider the setting where this is happening. In other words, I am speaking about two sub- categories herein, which are:
- Home care at personal residence. This is when a senior is at home. If still independent living alone, immediate family members have a measure of responsibility inasmuch as they should not be strangers, unaware of what’s happening with their loved one. This is because a spouse, adult child, etc. have an obligation to provide protection and security to their close relation. This means that they should visit regularly, assuring themselves that he/she is well and happy enough, inspecting household conditions, give remedial orders when needed. In short, they should be fulfilling a robust supervisory role. And if the senior is living with an adult child, the responsibility is even greater.
- Nursing home: This is when the care of residents in a home for the aged is seriously deficient. For me, the phrase, “Nursing home abuse” is an oxymoron because we invented nursing homes so that residents might feel safe. But sadly in many places, this does not happen because of acts and/or omissions on the part of caregivers and higher-ups.
(b) Undue–Unethical Restraint(s). Several examples are: (i). Physical restraints. One can create physical barriers restricting or controlling movement or behavior. In the alternative, a restraint may be attached to a person’s body. This could mean strapping a confused elderly person to a wheelchair, who is prone to exiting or walking into the rooms of other residents. While the aim of keeping the subject safe may be reasonable, but if left in place too long, the act may be abusive. (ii). Chemical restraints. These are medications used to modify/restrict behavior. Of course, too much, for too long is wrong.
• Active neglect: This is not simple neglect. It doesn’t just happen, the perpetrator wills it to happen and does it. The victim is worn down emotionally or physically, abandoned or deprived of food, medication or help with personal hygiene -all deliberately. If to the extreme, it involves the deprivation of a person of the necessities of life. (N.B. This is in contrast to passive neglect: While perhaps not, consciously intentional, these are bad acts and/or omissions of someone, who just lets bad stuff happen and fails to stop it. And this person could be held accountable for these misdeeds.
2. Physical Abuse.
This is another notch up. It’s a more obviously injurious form, particularly those criminal in nature including assault. The senior might be threatened, restricted/confined, pushed, or more. In the alternative, the victim may be brutalized, by being hit, bruised, burned, sexually assaulted, etc. thusly injured and/or made to feel pain.
3. Psychological/mental Abuse.
This is where there is conduct involving psychological harassment, verbal attacks, etc. Several sub-categories are:
• Soft & Sour, Leaving You Wondering: This abuse is softer and you may not even be aware of it. Since it’s a milder form, you may be questioning yourself if something is going on or you’re just imagining it. As for example, when someone is not listening to you, you might think that you’re being ignored. In addition, it could be sour when you are suffering condescending remarks from the people around you. If a non-relative, and unknowing if the rudeness may be their normal way, you might not take it personally. But if it’s a member of your own family, you might take greater note of the sourness. And it might even have an edge to it, cutting against the victim A good example is when a relative, cohabiting with the elderly, objects, refuses to start/finish home repairs or the installation of equipment/ fixtures necessary for the continuation of independent living. All in all, KNOW that it’s not as clear cut as we would like it to be and it’s harder to this pin down! So keep your eyes and ears open and KNOW that if it walks like a duck, it is a duck!
• Disrespect In Cultural Context. Here’s a fact of life. Sensibilities are not the same across the board with all people. This is due to cultural differences. For example, while it’s common in the West, for adult children to place aged parents in a home, in some societies and cultures, it’s expected that adult children see to their parents in their homes. Another issue might be when the adult child hires a care giver to render care in whole or in part, as opposed to the adult children actually doing the work themselves.
• Strong & Offensive & Obvious. This is a more serious form where the person is constantly insulted and humiliated, when called names, repeatedly belittled, etc. In the alternative, the victim is scared by incessant threats or made to feel unsure of self by attacks on his/her perception and judgment.
4. Financial: Subtle Impoverishment; Scamming; Robbery-Theft and Misappropriation;
Financial abuse is where the perpetrators are in it for the money. I see it in terms of four main sub-headings, notably (a) Subtle Impoverishment; (b) Scamming; (c) Robbery-Theft; and (d) Misappropriation;
• Subtle Impoverishment.
This is a more subtle form and the loss could go from just a little to a large amount. At its core is the exploitation of an aged person. The person exploiting is usually ‘entry level’. That is to say a ‘wheedler’. This is an adult child who always badgers the senior, constantly asking for money. It’s still abuse regardless whether it’s in bigger amounts or just pocket money. In the alternative, there is also someone who abuses the confidence of an elderly person. This is a person entering the life of an elderly, ingratiating self with ulterior purposes, that is to say, in order to get money-property off the victim. He/she may start by asking for the proverbial cup of sugar or borrowing tools or household items of greater value and not returning them. And then it moves up from there once the victim forgets and does not call him/her up on what had already been taken.
Nowadays, we are all being inundated with countless calls by telemarketers. Most of us say: “No” or don’t even answer the phone. But in many instances, due to infirmity, an elderly person cannot exercise the good sense to refuse the selling pitches, thusly falling prey to fraudsters or purveyors of useless objects. That’s why seniors are often targeted. This is a big problem not only for the victims and their families, but also society at large. .
• Robbery- Theft (Section 334, 343, etc Criminal Code (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46)
The elderly also fall victim to more serious losses. This can be broken down into three sub-categories: (i) Petty Crimes; (ii). Sale of elderly-owned property and (iii). Misappropriation.
Senior citizens are often victims of petty crime, purse snatching, robbed of cash or bank when going to a store. They are targeted because the perpetrators perceive them as easy pickings. Country wide, there are many elderly people preyed upon by no-good aggressors.
• Sale of elderly-owned property
This is a notch up, at what I consider the intermediate level, where the money grab is more out in the open. One example is when an adult child sells personal possessions after the senior is moved to a residence. Another is where a thief makes off with the victim’s money or property.
The victim here is generally found to have been obtuse. The damage is often hidden and only discovered afterwards: This includes fraud, misappropriation of funds or property. The stealing party doesn’t look the part- that’s why I assign the moniker, “White Collar Criminal”. Dollar-wise, this holds great risk for the senior because it usually involves bigger numbers. It’s when a person uses for personal gain, a victim’s savings, possessions or assets. It could come from an adult child taking over finances. Or it could happen once a stranger takes over and the victim is at his/her mercy. The victim is then likely vulnerable to manipulation, threats, coercion, etc.
5. Torture & murder
This is aggravated harm at the highest range. It’s full-blown abuse suffered upon an elderly in his/her private house or when a resident at a senior’s residence or long-term care facility. The aged person is at the greatest risk when someone rains terror on him or her. And if this happens just once in lifetime, it’s too much and shall leave large scars. Or if the intent is to kill, the victim is in grave danger and at extreme peril. Respecting management, it’s a Human Resources (HR) failure to weed out the rogue care giver and lack of adequate oversight, supervision and quality control in monitoring staff activities on site. Respecting the abuser, the root cause may be an unchecked desire, compulsion or delusion to persecute and torture human beings. Or if the intent is to kill, the killer might want money or just be plain evil.If you don’t believe that a care facility or a hospital could be a very dangerous place, consider if you will, the following cases.
Dorothea Waddingham (1899 – 16 April 1936). This English nursing home matron is my nomination for one of the worst caregivers who ever lived. She was found was convicted in the United Kingdom of using morphine to poison Mrs Baguley and Ada. The purported motive behind the murders was to gain the Baguleys’ estate.”(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothea_Waddingham
Elizabeth Wettlaufer is another caregiver who I contend will live in infamy. She had suddenly and deliberately attacked at least eight of the people in her care. Convicted of murder in Canada, she was sentenced on June 26, 2017, to a life term with no chance for parole for 25 years. Justice Thomas said. “She was far from an angel of mercy. Rather, she was a shadow of death that passed over during the night shifts that she supervised,” (Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/ex-nurse-serial-killer-wettlaufer-prison/article35460700/)
C. CONTRIBUTORY FACTORS/ TELLTALE SIGNS OF VICTIMIZATION
When considering elder abuse, KNOW that there are risk factors both regarding the abused and also the abuser. Indeed, knowing these “WHYS? & WHEREFORES?” can help remedy the situation before irreversible damage has occurred. Several of these factors are the following.
Respecting the abused victim
• Isolation. The victim could have been isolated due to the loss of a spouse, move of adult children to another city, limited number of caregivers or involved close family. As a result, he/she must alone face the abuser, who wields some power or authority over him/her.
• Weakening. The victim could have been weakened by illness-disease, bodily injury, excruciating pain, etc. As a result, he/she cannot defend himself/herself and/or seek help.
• Special person. The victim is a special person, who either is mentally handicapped, suffering from mental disease and/or is disconnected from reality that he/she is utterly vulnerable.
• Lost Independence. The victim is someone who cannot look after self, now requiring personal care by another person or his/her removal to a seniors’ care home.
• Humiliation. The victim has been so humiliated, that he/she has lost his/her dignity and self-respect to such a degree that he/she is ashamed to seek help;
• Dispirited. The victim is so demoralized, that he /she has given up, thence cannot fight back.
• Ignorant of Legal Rights. The victim is ignorant of his/her legal rights and therefore doesn’t know that this behaviour is illegal.
A perfect storm is when and where, there are several of these factors, all present and creating an invitation to a perpetrator to step in and take advantage of the senior, either a little or a lot.
Respecting the abuser
• Lousy worker. One or more so-called caregiver(s) is/are grossly deficient when it comes to personal care. This could happen because of his/her generally being an under achiever, with an extremely messy personality, etc. In the alternative, it could result from the prevailing working conditions and/or culture.
• Faulty Management. One or more so-called manager(s) is/are deficient. This is mismanagement when and where, there is inattentive personal care or much worse. You see, the management of an institution bears some measure of fault. This is about great negligence & incompetence. If a senior resides in an institutional facility, although staff may be trying to do the best to care for a wide variety of residents with diverse medical conditions, the care might be inadequate. Of course, managers may not know about every little thing, but if they’re doing their jobs properly, they should have known when care givers are too few in number and cannot get the job done. In the majority of cases, the key root cause of understaffing and/or over populated facilities with inadequate resources is an overblown profit pre-occupation or simply put, greed! But when suffering such a deficiency onto residents, it’s foreseeable that each day, as each shift gets a full head of steam, it will be confronted by too much to do and not enough hands to do it and problems will then result. Unfortunately, it often happens that when this becomes routine, the situation can be characterized as a big “accident waiting to happen”. This could constitute fault and civil responsibility may attach to management. Managers may also be found culpable under the criminal law.
Telltale signs of victimization
No one knows exactly why this abuse happens. No one knows exactly how it comes about. But I think that there are tell-tale warning signs. Here are a few.
When it comes to neglect, physical abuse, psychological/mental, look for the following:
• Someone socially withdrawn;
• Isolation seemingly involuntary;
• Change (big) of mood to the negative;
• Shift (great) in usual activity pattern;
• Alteration (significant) in interpersonal behaviour;
• Stumbling on words when questioned;
When it comes to Financial: look for:
• Large withdrawals;
• Doubtful signatures;
• Unusual usage of a bank card- a bank account may even be emptied.
When it comes to Torture & murder, know that it’s grotesque when this type of elder abuse raises its ugly head.
• Cruel abuser of animals;
• Sociopathic behavior; and
• Pleasure when brutalizing people.
D. POTENTIAL ABUSERS -PERPETRATORS – WHO DOES SUCH A THING?
In a perfect, utopian world, there isn’t elder abuse. Indeed, if the subject of “elder abuse” does come up, some of you may even say that it doesn’t exist because nobody would stoop so low as abusing another human being, especially someone who is older and defenseless. But sadly Virginia, in the real world, there are people; exhibiting deplorable behavior relative to the elderly, absconding with their money-property, imposing on them, wretched living conditions and lamentable suffering. And what’s even worse and really drives me crazy, is that many of them get away with it. For me, some of these “deplorables” can be profiled as follows:
• Little-minded people. The persons, never rising beyond mediocrity and lusting for empowerment, who tend to take advantage of the infirm and vulnerable and the aged. And on becoming people in authority in the lives of an older person, these power- hungry individuals often become abusers. Of course they don’t deserve to have any measure of control, much less, over someone elderly. Indeed, it’s urgent to get the senior out of their clutches.
• Inferior care givers. These are persons, habitually messy, prone to being negligent and/or incompetent, who fail to render proper personal care. And lacking sufficient empathy, they often also function without an adequate degree of compassion. Indeed, it can get so bad that patients are left in utter neglect. More, while restraints to protect patients are permitted, these abusers misuse them such that seniors could be considered as being in some form of bondage. Of course, there is a standard of care and everyone deserves a safe place to live life in peace and security. That’s why family and friends must be vigilant to ensure that those rendering personal care must never do wrong. Indeed, it’s urgent to have such an abuser removed from the home.
• Hit & Run thieves. These punks include vile purse snatchers preying on little old ladies. And don’t forget those jerks who steal checks from the mail boxes and forge signatures at check cashing storefronts. These gutless and shadowy figures are ‘nickel and dime’ chumps who eventually get caught due to their dullness and stupidity.
• Senior Home invaders. For these perps, home invasion is their modus operandi (MO).These monsters probably believe in the rule of nature known as “Survival of the fittest”. In keeping with the Darwinism theory, they think that they’re superior, and at the top of food chain. As a result, in order to survive, they’re able to feed off those below such as the old and the sick. And being bigger and stronger, this gives them the privilege to break and enter into the houses of the elderly. These “B&Eers”.don’t care about the weak and fallen once they have pillaged and plundered.
• Money grubbing have-not, thieving jerks. These are people who are not making a living, looking to the “haves” for their next meal ticket. In the alternative, they could be people, thinking they’re so smart, going from scam to scam, who never made an honest dollar in their lives,. Seeking easy marks, they look towards the vulnerable and the elderly. They view older folks as prime targets because they have some money, (after having saved for retirement), with a regular income, via pensions. Unscrupulous, they are intent, no matter the way, on separating the victims from their money. Uncaring of the aged, this is one bad low-life, a real robber type, ready to impoverish the aged without giving it another thought.
• Evil doers. Such people like to inflict pain or worse. Mugging or gratuitous assaults are a pastime. Of course, injuring people intentionally is wicked. Sometimes, they look for victims amongst the vulnerable and the elderly. If someone intending to do this terrible act, gets a senior in his/her sights, KNOW that the harm is not mere brow beating, but brutality in the extreme. Indeed, there’s a special place in hell for such base and dark sociopaths.
If you see yourself in any of these profiles, I have a few choice words for you. “Pick on somebody your own size… Cease & desist immediately. If you must pick on someone, try this behavior on someone more your size and able to fight back. But I know that you won’t because you’re a coward and you don’t want to be beaten up. KNOW that you were not put on God’s green earth to be an evil doer, hurting people or being a parasite. Grow up and take responsibility for yourself. Andfor everyone else, if you agree with me, KNOW that these brutes can be frequent flyers so you need to stop them without delay!
Now that you’re more aware about elder abuse, you really need to look at the seniors in your family or living nearby, picking up on contributory factors, trying to identify potential abusers in their respective circle and seeking the first telltale signs of victimization. This said, and should you find anything close to being abusive, STEP UP & HELP bring this elder abuse to an end. This means not mere lip service, but instead, it means doing something tangible about it….today!
F. SENIOR LITE SPOT: There’s absolutely nothing funny about getting old (& elder abuse), except…
“The Dead Nurse”
Q: How do you know that a dead body found by the side of the road is a nurse?
A: Because its stomach is empty, its bladder is full, and its ass chewed!” (Source: https://www.nursebuff.com/funniest-nurse-jokes/)
“The Nursing Student”
Q: How many nurses does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: None. They just have a nursing student do it.(Source: https://www.nursebuff.com/funniest-nurse-jokes/)
G. PREVIEW OF NEXT IN THE BLOG SERIES: More On Elder Abuse
Now that I have you thinking about elder abuse, I’ll next give you more to think about. Interested? Want to sleep better? See you next time.*
H. NOTICE – CAUTION -DISCLAIMER
The material provided herein is of a general nature, strictly for informational purposes. The interpretation and analysis is not to be misapplied to a personal situation with a particular set of facts. Under no circumstances, are the herein suggestions and tips, intended to bring a reader to the point of acting or not acting, but instead, the hope is that they are to be a cause for pause and reflection. It is specifically declared that this content is not to be a replacement of or substitution for legal or any other appropriate advice. To the contrary, for more information on these presents, related subjects or any other questions, it is the express recommendation of the author that everyone seek out and consult a qualified professional or competent adviser.
* ©/TM 2005, 2008 Allan Gold, Practitioners’ Press Inc. – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
** ©/TM 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 Allan Gold, Practitioners’ Press Inc. – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED