Community Blog

Threat of Elder Abuse is Real

By Debbie Humphrey

I received a message from a caregiver with whom I work, and it was quite disturbing. It brought to mind the ever-present risk of elder abuse.

It was a normal day. My colleague arrived to take her little lady with dementia to run some errands and pick up her prescriptions, but when she pushed open the inside door of the home, she immediately observed a state of disarray.  She saw a lamp on the floor, a chair turned upside-down with the seat missing, wall-side tables – including a glass-top – overturned; and knick-knacks strewn about.

Red flags engaged in split seconds, and within a few hurried steps, she found her little lady half-naked lying in a puddle of sweat and urine, obviously traumatized. The woman’s clothes were soaking wet. Her slacks and panties were hanging from one ankle, and her blouse was tangled at her elbows. Something horrible had happened to this sweet little lady with a mental condition who lived alone.

Because of a nasty combination of trauma, alcohol and dementia, the victim could not remember the previous night’s events. As she laid there, she only spoke gibberish, insisting over and over, “Everything’s normal.”

Everything was far from normal.

Of course, the caregiver’s first instinct was to call 911, but since her daughter in-law [DIL], lived on the next block, my friend called her first. When the DIL arrived, she was as shaken as the caregiver to see her mother-in-law that way. After a few simple questions, the DIL concurred that an emergency call was absolutely necessary.

The first responders professionally assessed the disoriented woman’s condition and carefully placed her on a gurney. They moved her into an ambulance and rushed her to the hospital. The traumatized woman was staring straight ahead, and said nothing. A rape kit was requested, because the woman had been known to entertain gentleman callers, several of whom, the family, nor the caregiver, knew. It was not out of the realm of possibility sexual assault had occurred. At the hospital, though, the Sexual Assault Assessment Nurse assured the patient’s oldest daughter and DIL that no evidence of abuse, such as bruising, had been detected.

This was an enormous relief to the family and the caregiver, all of whom had encouraged this demented woman to have 24/7 in-home care for months, if she was to stay at home. The woman adamantly refused.

The family researched retirement communities and assisted living facilities, but the little lady was convinced her family was out to get her, and her neurologist had issued a bogus diagnosis of this “dumb disease,” of which she was unfamiliar, only to appease them. Yeah…right… [eye roll here]

After speaking with the woman’s dear friend who had taken her to a private club the night before, it was determined the intoxicated lady had fallen during the wee hours of the morning and could not get up.

There was an emergency alert necklace available for her to wear, but it remained unplugged on the kitchen counter instead of fully-charged around her neck as it should’ve been.  She rebuffed the device saying she “didn’t need it.” Truthfully, she may or may not have had the presence of mind to use it in this particular instance, but it was there, and the fact remained, she had used it in the past when operating the phone was unsuccessful.

This little lady suffered a broken hip that required a partial replacement. Physical therapy and rehab for several months is expected, at which time the family is hoping to transition her to assisted living. That is likely to be a battle, according to my friend. Yet, the choice is no longer in this dementia patient’s hands.

I share this story because the threat of elder abuse is real. The National Council On Aging reports “approximately 1 in 10 Americans aged 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse. Some estimates range as high as 5 million elders who are abused each year. One study estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities.”

My colleague’s client was lucky, in this case. The woman almost always enjoyed interacting with her caregiver, her friends, family and those in her social circle, which is a wonderful idea for those with dementia.  However, the alcohol created a serious complication, and in this case, served as a catalyst to a traumatic fall that rendered her helpless and even more vulnerable to danger. To clarify, social interaction is great, but it should not include visits to bars, clubs or lounges, especially in cases of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

The ending to this story could have been much different.  My friend found her sweet little lady with dementia in a most compromising position, and she feared the worst. Cases like these require serious conversations amongst family members and action to keep senior safety a priority, no matter what!

If you know a senior with dementia who lives alone and could be subject to elder abuse, or other dangers, be aware of the red flags, don’t hesitate a moment to notify a family member or call me. I proudly offer a FREE consultation with you and/or your special senior someone to share my resources and discuss the many options available to maintain their safety. This is also a great opportunity to learn more about the many benefits of having a dedicated, compassionate caregiver, like my friend, to help.

Home Helpers® is honored to have received the Provider of Choice 2017 & 2018 awards from Home Care Pulse, and we proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…Making Life Easier℠  727.942.2539

Source: National Council On Aging