Elders Abuse Prevention

Phone 727-686-1852 to get help from an experienced Mental Health Rights Advocate!

Our elders deserve to have our help in Elders abuse prevention and in having full information about any proposed treatment and/or intervention.  Unfortunately, our older generation has become extremely vulnerable in our current-day.  With adult children living out-of-state and/or spouses passing away, our elders are left alone while they transition into one of the most difficult points in their lives and elders abuse occurs and families have a hard time defending the elder’s rights.

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The issues involved when addressing elders abuse prevention, include the information on mental health meds and how they carry very strong warnings from the FDA, for the elderly, of early death as well as horrific effects such as diabetes, stroke, hallucinations, delusions and more.  With more physical health problems turning up in older years, it is too easy for an elder to be placed on meds for their physical health and then have mental health meds added to the long list of pills they take each day.  In an ideal world, an elder would have a family member or trusted friend who could help them to get fully informed about all their meds and informed about the adverse effects of the mental health pharmaceuticals.

Additionally, elders may be living in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, again without family or friend’s oversight, and if an elder is suffering from dementia symptoms or other ailments and if those symptoms “appear” to meet the criteria for the Baker Act (Florida’s involuntary commitment law), the elder will be taken to a psychiatric ward and placed on a 72 hour hold. This is routinely done and sometimes family and friends don’t even know it occurred. Family & friends and the elder have rights if this happens and they have the right to know what those rights are.

Lastly, one issue that has surfaced over the last years, is the issue of capacity (whether the elder is incapacitated or not). This area is just as tricky as the previously mentioned issues, in that if an elder is deemed incapacitated, and then assigned a guardian, other than the Power of Attorney they previously chose, with help from their attorney, to make it official, the elder begins to lose rights to their property, finances and freedom to move about as they wish.  Family members find themselves surpassed by court-appointed guardians or professional guardians.

Elders are to be respected for what they have brought and bring to our culture.  Their rights do exist!

Elders Abuse Prevention:

In order to prevent elder abuse, it is vital to get full information in regards to the area of mental health and elders prior to any emergency situation. Elder abuse prevention is primarily about knowing the pitfalls of our current system and how to avoid them.

The issues that arise in terms of elder fraud and mental health are the use of psychotropic drugs that carry strong warnings of early death for elderly; capacity hearings, guardianship proceedings and Baker Acting of the elder to psychiatric wards, as well as the poor condition of some Assisted Living Facilities and Nursing homes throughout the state.

A Florida Supreme Court Executive Summary, written in 1999, examined the abuse that was happening in regards to elders and the Baker Act. It quoted the St. Petersburg Times report that had reviewed more than 4,000 cases and an “analysis of 3,151 petitions for involuntary examination, that ‘about two-thirds of the people forced into treatment in Pinellas [County] in 1993 and 1994 were 65 and over.’”

It was found that many of the elders who were Baker Acted did not do well and some died during or shortly after the involuntary hold. The Baker Act was looked at in terms of its use to confine individuals, against their will, and the fact that elders may be suffering from confusion, either due to age or medications they were taking, and were unable to fend for themselves against the extreme action of incarceration.

The review by the Florida Supreme Court was interested in the rights of elder patients because at the time, “The state presently has the largest proportion of older adults in the United States. More than 3.4 million Floridians are age 60 and older, and this population is expected to greatly increase in the future.”

The elder population in Florida is one of the largest per state and elder abuse is of great concern for Floridians.

In 2014, the Miami Herald reporters, Carole Marbin-Miller and Michael Sallah, wrote a series on abuse of the elderly, in “Neglected To Death”. In Part 1 of the series, we learn of the horrendous abuse that is occurring in Assisted Living Facilities across the state.

The reporters wrote, “… a Miami Herald investigation found that the safeguards once hailed as the most progressive in the nation have been ignored in a string of tragedies never before revealed to the public.

… The Miami Herald found that the Agency for Health Care Administration, which oversees the state’s 2,850 assisted-living facilities, has failed to monitor shoddy operators, investigate dangerous practices or shut down the worst offenders.

Time and again, the agency was alerted by police and its own inspectors to caretakers depriving residents of the most basic needs — food, water and protection — but didn’t take action.”

The Miami Herald has taken the lead, over the last decades, in investigating abuse in the area of mental health and well being for Floridians. This particular series is relevant when discussing abuse of elderly as many elders are living in assisted-living facilities and nursing homes.

In Part 2 of the series, the reporters write “The 55-year-old musician was among dozens who died at the hands of their caretakers in assisted-living facilities across Florida.

One starved to death; another burned in a tub of scalding water. Two were fed lethal doses of drugs. Three died from the ravages of gangrene when their wounds were ignored for weeks.

The state Agency for Health Care Administration — the entity entrusted with overseeing ALFs — refuses to release the records of more than 300 questionable deaths during the past decade, citing state law.

But The Miami Herald obtained confidential records of 70 people who died in the past eight years from the actions of their caregivers.

The records from the Department of Children & Families, another agency tasked with investigating deaths, show people are routinely abused and neglected to death in assisted-living facilities — but in the end, few are ever held accountable.”

Nina Bernstein, of the New York Times, wrote an article in 2015, “To Collect Debts Nursing Homes Are Seizing Control Over Patients”. This report tells the story of an elder man who was living in a nursing home and while there, his wife started receiving bills that were double what they should have been. An investigation found that a nursing home employee filed a guardianship petition over the elder man and had access and control over all of this 90 year old man’s money.

Ms. Bernstein writes “In a random, anonymized sample of 700 guardianship cases filed in Manhattan over a decade, Hunter College researchers found more than 12 percent were brought by nursing homes. Some of these may have been prompted by family feuds, suspected embezzlement or just the absence of relatives to help secure Medicaid coverage. But lawyers and others versed in the guardianship process agree that nursing homes primarily use such petitions as a means of bill collection — a purpose never intended by the Legislature when it enacted the guardianship statute in 1993.”

She is speaking of legislation in New York, but Florida has seen its own similar cases. Advocates have gone in front of Florida legislators routinely and consistently trying to appeal to the lawmakers to help their families in the face of guardianship appointments that have left their elder family member in isolation and family ruin.

Get information and resources that could possibly help your elder!

 

Sources:

Miami Herald Series, 2014, “Neglected To Death”

Part 1: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/special-reports/neglected-to-death/article1938076.html

Part 2: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/special-reports/neglected-to-death/article1938087.html

Part 3: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/special-reports/neglected-to-death/article1938154.html

New York Times article, 2015, To Collect Debts Nursing Homes Are Seizing Control Over Patients: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/26/nyregion/to-collect-debts-nursing-home-seizing-control-over-patients.html?_r=0

Florida Supreme Court Executive Summary 1999