Thursday, May 22, 2014

Eldercare Safety Valve: How APS Can Keep Your Parent Safe

Last month I hit a milestone after working in the eldercare field for 20 years.  I picked up the phone to make my first Adult Protective Services report after suspecting that an elderly woman was being neglected.  An investigation ensued, and afterwards, I was firmly convinced that APS plays a vital role in keeping our elders safe.  Including your parent.

Anyone who suspects abuse or neglect of what Washington State law calls a vulnerable adult can report to APS.  But some of us are called Mandatory Reporters.  Social workers, law enforcement, employees of nursing homes and health care providers are included in this group.  As a senior care referral agent, I, too, am required to report.

Yet I must admit when I called the Agency, I was more than a little nervous.  A little voice inside my head kept telling me, "You're making too much out of this."  But after rereading the law and my responsibility, I had to report.

The first person I met over the phone was an Intake Officer.  He was congenial and helpful, taking my report which sounded like this:

Karen, a middle-aged client of mine from out of state, told me her story.  She was in Washington visiting her mother.  Mom lived in an apartment with the other daughter who was an alcoholic.  Mom paid the rent in exchange for help with measuring her insulin,  monitoring medications and transporting her to the Kidney Center.  Also on the daughter's to-do list was shopping, cleaning and preparing meals.  Yet none of this was being done.  And Karen suspected that her sister was taking her mother's pain pills.  "This place is a pit," she said. "And I know my mother isn't eating right."

She also said her sister was using lies and manipulation to keep her mother from obtaining home care or moving to assisted living.

A Female Investigator was assigned to the case, which was given a number.  Karen's identity was kept confidential.  The officer paid a personal visit to Karen's mother's home to discuss the situation.

Afterwards,  she reported that the mother seemed to want to be in the situation, and there was not enough evidence of abuse or neglect to move forward with the investigation.   I was glad the situation was laid to rest.

I have other friends who have been in my shoes, reporting abuse or neglect.  One friend, who works at an assisted living community, walked into a female resident's room, only to find a male caregiver pulling down her pants.  For no good reason.  She called the hotline.

All 50 states have hotlines for reporting abuse or neglect of vulnerable adults.  They're good things for helping keep your parent safe.

If you suspect abuse of a vulnerable adult in Washington State call the statewide abuse hotline number at 1-866-EndHarm (1-866-363-4276).

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