When an aging adult finds it difficult to perform basic tasks, a caregiver may be needed. Caregivers, whether they are family members, neighbors or aides, are supposed to provide stability and support. That support could be in the form of physical assistance (bathing, feeding, showering) or it could be financial in nature (Power of Attorney and paying bills).
Most of the time, caregivers perform their duties responsibly. However, sometimes the authority and power held by a caregiver over a senior is abused.
Elder abuse is the exploitation of the vulnerable. he abuse may take several forms, such as physical and emotional abuse, neglect, financial impropriety, sowing familial division, and isolation. Tangible evidence of elder abuse includes unexplained bruising, increased anxiety, weight loss or a quickly diminishing bank account balance.
While preventing the worst impulses of individuals from being realized is difficult, there are steps that can be taken by an aging adult to lessen the risks before care is needed.
The first step is to map out your support system. Identify the people in your life who have consistently done the right thing for you and your family. You are choosing the best people to oversee your physical and financial well-being. Having multiple adult children in close proximity who get along with you and each other and are willing to help is a best-case scenario.
Adult children who live further away often shy away from accepting a caregiving role. This is a mistake. Physical caregiving may not be realistic, but financial caregiving is still a viable option. With the availability of online banking and bill paying, handling financial matters with a Power of Attorney can be accomplished from any location.
Leaving the financial well-being of a loved one solely up to a neighbor or near-by acquaintance often leads to trouble. One solution is to have co-agents appointed under a Power of Attorney. This arrangement ensures that there will be oversight for financial decision-making. However, for many seniors, their support system is more tenuous and requires more creativity.
For the actual day-to-day caregiving, if family is unavailable, work with reputable, licensed home health care agencies or aides you know through personal experience. Perfecting the best caregiving combinations is usually a function of time. If there is enough time to plan ahead, then a family can weigh the pros and cons of each arrangement.
Unfortunately, the sudden onset of an illness will adversely impact decision-making. In an emergency, Powers of Attorney are quickly prepared, leading to some questionable individuals being appointed. Also, reacting to pressure from sub-acute facilities concerning discharge timing, coupled with inadequate research could lead some families to choose home health care aides or agencies with a checkered history.
Elder abuse is more likely to happen if the senior’s support system is limited, distant or unstable. Forging a functional support unit for an aging adult is vital to their survival.
Alan D. Feller, Esq., is managing partner of The Feller Group, located at 625 Route 6, Mahopac. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.