How we care for our elders is an expression of our gratitude. They raised and cared for us, and as the roles reverse, it’s our responsibility to make sure that they are safe, comfortable and content. For many, properly caring for our elders will include help from professionals with specific training and talents. The right care can significantly improve quality of life. Unfortunately, inadequate or even abusive care is a reality for some seniors. We invited Mandy Johnson, LMSW, a care coordination senior manager at Banner Home Care to share some insights on what to look for and how to address issues if they are present.
Cultivating proper care
Johnson described the proper elder care scenario as collaborative and compassionate. “Two things should be top of mind when designing a program for care – independence and safety,” she said. “The more independent and active the patient stays, the better the outcome. I like to start small with areas that are taking more time and effort like meals and house cleaning, then expand to areas of safety. Do they need help showering and getting to appointments? Would they benefit from a medical alert pendent?”
There may be situations where patients and family don’t agree on what help is needed. This may be uncomfortable. But working together to find a compromise will be more effective, decrease depression and even lessen medical concerns. The best care situation is one that continues to give the patient as much independence as possible.
Identifying potential for elder care abuse
The signs of elder abuse can be hard to see. Creating an open, communicative relationship with both patient and caretakers will help you to see issues more quickly and be informed when it’s time to act. Johnson mentioned a few telltale signs of abuse, including isolation, missing money or objects, depression and avoiding the conversation when care is mentioned.
“You want to have that trust and socialization,” said Johnson. “But you need to ensure appropriate boundaries as unrestricted access can lead to abuse and exploitation. Elder care is vital, but abuse is more common than we realize.”
Elder care workers should not receive or ask for gifts on top of their agreed upon compensation. It is immoral for workers to ask for assistance when the patient depends on them physically and sometimes socially. Although it may seem harmless, workers should say no to gifts from patients as well. Patients could put themselves into tough financial situations unknowingly and it muddies the professional nature of the relationship.
Patients who are isolated or who struggle to communicate with loved ones can suffer from neglect with no resolution. Patients depend, sometimes completely, on the knowledge and diligence of their workers. It is a team effort between all three parties, care providers, families and patients, to ensure that proper care is given. Check in often and request regular reports from workers to ensure that patients are comfortable and have the protection they deserve.
What to do if you suspect abuse
“First and foremost, make sure the patient is safe. Validate their feelings and assure them that you are going to help,” said Johnson. “Once your loved one is comfortable, you should contact Adult Protective Services, the police and any other legal counsel, like a lawyer.”
Adult Protective Services will complete an investigation and can help guide you through any additional options you may have. This can be a lengthy process. Keeping complete records of care will be helpful in proving your case. Be a support for your loved one. Remember that this is traumatic for them and your priority should be to help them feel at ease.
Finding the right care
Making decisions for care on behalf of your loved one is a profound responsibility. But remember that you don’t have to make those decisions alone. Reach out to Banner Home Care to discuss options and how a professional, customized program can help to make life easier and safer for your loved one.