Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Elder Abuse In Your Own Home

Article originally printed in The Eagle-Tribune on July 29, 2012 By Erica Moura, Pamela Cyran, Shuyi Wang and Jan Brogan. Excerpts are given below, and full article can be found here.

When Chris Sergio hired someone to take care of his elderly mother on the three days a week his father was undergoing dialysis treatment, he thought he was taking the necessary precautions. He turned to Old Colony Elder Services, a nonprofit organization that provides elder care services to 23 cities and towns, which gave him a list of three agencies. He chose Home Instead Senior Care of East Bridgewater, a well-established company with a good reputation both locally and nationally, according to Diana L. DiGiorgi, executive director of Old Colony.

Home Instead sent Debra Blair Belcher, a home care aide, to provide non-medical assistance to Sergio’s mother, who suffers from dementia.Belcher seemed like a perfect fit until Sergio’s parents noticed that their wedding rings and pieces of silverware were missing from their Middleboro home.“I was furious with her for taking advantage of a person with dementia, and she did it on a weekly basis,” said Sergio, who said thousands of dollars worth of jewelry and flatware was stolen.  Belcher, who was charged under her maiden name Debra Blair, was found guilty of larceny from a person older than 60–years-old in Wareham District Court last year. Later, in Brockton District Court, she was convicted of similar charges after other clients in Abington, East Bridgewater and Brockton brought similar complaints. She was to serve one year behind bars and is now out on probation until June 2013.

The Belcher case illustrates the risks the elderly face in an era when an increasingly aging population would rather live at home with an infirmity than move into a nursing home. When reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid, home health agencies fall under federal regulation and state oversight. Although reports about elder abuse and theft are lodged with both the Department of Public Health and the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, no single agency in state government is tracking either the total number of complaints involving private-pay home care workers or the type of complaints.

“In a state that licenses hairdressers, you would think that they would want more oversight of the people who take care of the elderly in their homes,” said Timothy Burgers, associate director for the Home Care Alliance, a statewide home care trade association that is drafting a bill for the 2013 legislative session. The Home Care Alliance, which represents both Medicare-certified home health care and unregulated direct pay agencies, would like to see one state agency dedicated to the oversight of the industry. It also wants the state to set minimum standards for employee qualifications, training and supervision. A similar bill that the Alliance supported in 2007 died in committee.

Nationally, MetLife Insurance, in partnership with researchers at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and the University of Kentucky, monitored the National Center on Elder Abuse’s newsfeed for three months period in 2010. During that period, family, friends, neighbors and caregivers committed 34 percent of reported financial crimes against the elderly. Slightly more than 20 percent of them were paid caregivers, according to detailed statistics provided by Shalana N. Morris, MetLife spokeswoman.

No comments:

Post a Comment