Last week, I was reading a newsletter in which they showed the disturbing video above. It is from a newscast and shows actual video proof of a 52 year old home health worker abusing a 91 year old helpless woman with Alzheimer’s Disease.
It’s a disturbing video and of course, it made me sick to my stomach.
But I’m not naive and I know this happens more often that we like to think. It’s just that this time someone got caught.
Both the news commentators and the newsletter editor took the position that the agency who hired this woman should have done a better criminal background check. The newsletter editor goes on to say that surprise inspections should also have been done.
While I don’t disagree at all with either of the above recommendations (a thorough background check and surprise visits should ALWAYS be done), I’m going to add something else that wasn’t considered.
This 52 year old woman cared for the elder woman for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for over 11 years! That’s a very, very long time to caregive for a aging parent but especially long when the elder also has Alzheimer’s Disease.A background check may have been done …………11 years ago. This woman may have started out as a wonderful caregiver.
But this caregiver is clearly burnt out! She has obviously used up all her emotional, compassionate, caring resources LONG ago and now she is just angry and resentful at her patient. Someone should have noticed this. And really, ONE of those someones who should have noticed needs to be a family member. As family members, we cannot just turn over our loved ones to a facility, an agency or a caregiver and assume that everything will be fine. It won’t be.
It’s been demonstrated that a person whose family is involved and participates in their care on a regular basis – whether that be by stopping by to help with feeding meals, checking to see if there are errands that need running, visiting, or calling on the phone, will get better care. My theory is that when staff members see family or friends that care about the elder, they see that elder as someone that MATTERS…someone who is loved and missed and is therefore important.
When family and friends visit, they notice subtle or not-so-sutble signs that things are not going well.
Here are some signs that your loved-one’s hired caregiver needs to be replaced:
* The obvious signs: Bruises, the beginnings of bedsores (look for reddened areas over boney prominences like the hip, elbows and buttocks area), an unkempt appearance. unpleasant odors.
* An unkempt appearance of the caregiver.
If they don’t care about themsleves, how are they going to care for your loved one?
* The caregiver doesn’t listen to what your loved one (or you) say.
Give them a simple direction and then in 5 minutes, ask them what it was. It may be something as simple as what clothing you woul like your loved one to be dressed in that day. If they don’t remember, it’s not a good sign.
*The caregiver interrupts your loved one’s thoughts or ideas.
This may be because they don’t feel the loved one has anything important to say but it may also be because they are afraid of what your loved one is going to tell you, perhaps in regards to a negative incident.
* The caregiver talks to your loved one like a baby.
There should be respect in the caregiver’s words. If you hear sentences such as “Now, sweetie, be a good girl and eat your peas”, it’s a sign of disrespect and should be taken as a warning.
* The caregiver doesn’t take the time to ask permission or explain a procedure to a loved one.
Elders require patience and at the very least, an explanation of what they can expect to happen so they will not be fearful. For instance, the caregiver should say “would you like to take your bath now or perhaps after breakfast?” If the caregiver has arrived specifically for the purpose of bathing, then she can ease the loved one into the activity by getting down to their level and speaking face to face.
* Caregivers should never tower over a patient.
This is also a sign of disrespect and clearly demonstrates that they feel they have the power in the relationship. That could lead to abuse.
* A caregiver who takes personal calls while in your presence.
If he or she is doing this while you’re there, how much time is spent on the phone when you’re NOT there?
* A caregiver who acts as if they own the place.
If a caregiver becomes too comfortable in their care recipient’s home or room, the may feel as if they have the right to take personal possessions or monies. They may think “after all, I work HARD; the patient doesn’t need it and I’m entitled to this.”
Any of these signs can be causes to re-evaluate the caregiving situation. Trust your instinct and take the time to investigate further.
PS A good (hidden) video monitoring system might be a wise investment.
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