Seniors: The Plague of Elder Abuse

May 20th, 2011 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

A news report out of Florida indicates that elder abuse there is reaching epidemic proportions. Not only there, but other states as well seem to be turning a blind eye to insensitive and lack of care issues leading to injury and death in elder care facilities.

We have reported on this before and aroused the executives of at least one assisted care facility, who became quite defensive. That neither excuses nor explains behaviors on part of staffs and administration who avoid dealing with the needs and care-taking responsibility with which they are entrusted.

Persons in assisted care facilities are there for one major reason: they need assistance in caring for themselves. If they were wholly independent, believe us, they would not choose to live there. Practically every person who checks in or is checked in, enters with reluctance. They also begin their stay with “I want to go home” pleas every day.

Treated well, looked after, protected, made to feel safe, well fed and given appropriate attention and affection, residents in homes or centers will adjust to the situation. But, facilities that ignore the resident, refuse to hear their concerns or complaints, blame the person who has legitimate issues, gang up on those who don’t “keep their mouths shut,” are those places that need to be exposed for what they are: prisons for the elderly.

There are major considerations to be investigated with great care before one enters a facility to live. These considerations will need to be looked at carefully during the entire stay of a resident. Don’t assume the reputation of a facility remains the same. Turnover is significant, both at the administrative and staffing level.

Look under the bed: This is like running your fingers over a dusty table. Be sure you know the particulars that drive the staff in care-taking. What is the reputation of the facility? What recommendations do present and previous resident families give? How is the facility ranked in the community by medical and other professionals? How does the atmosphere of a facility feel upon entering it? Is it clean and well tended? Are there staff members who are loitering in the hallways or visiting in the coffee room? If so, why? Do patients get quick replies when they press their help buttons? Are the meals prepared with diet restrictions in mind? Is there an “oh well, that’s just the way it is” attitude on the part of the residents?

Dine with the Residents: Check out the food yourself. Is it prepared well? Is it too salty, mushy, repetitious, i.e. serving the same type food over and over? Is the table setting clean and well presented? Are the portions sufficient? Is the staff listening for table talk that reveals the needs of the residents?

Visit with other residents: Listen to their reports, feelings and attitudes about the facility. If they had to do it over, would they choose this facility again? Are they able to establish friendships with other residents easily? What is the social and activity life like? Is there enough for the residents to do? Are residents given the courtesy of being asked what their needs are? Are they attended to?

For the price, is it worth it? Find out if residents feel that the cost of living in an assisted facility meets their needs and is worth the price being paid? Are add-on fees excessive? Are rooms kept clean and bathrooms hygienic? Are visitors welcomed? Do staff look in on residents periodically and appropriately? Are medication needs monitored sufficiently? Does administration check in with family members who are responsible for the resident, to see if all is satisfactory with them?

When there is a death in the facility, how is that handled with the other residents? If someone is hospitalized, how do the residents learn of that person’s condition and situation?

What is done to keep morale high? It is easy for assisted care residents to become depressed and anxious. How is the overall staff equipped to assist with such circumstances?

It is no small matter for persons and families to consider the placement of a family member in a facility. The trust being demonstrated is both enormous and considerable. The facility staff needs to show sensitivity and genuine interest in the individual from the first moment of encounter on. Elders are usually sharp enough to pick up on sincerity and honesty. They also know who to trust and who to avoid. Be sure your role in checking out the facility includes the staff knowing you will call them to account. Do not challenge, just nudge. It will work if you are both frank and gentle.



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