Members of the community and human service providers gathered today at Westmoreland Manor in Greensburg to learn about Senior Protective Services for those 60 or older. Presenter Karen Slater of the Westmoreland County Area Agency on Aging (AAA) shared information and advice with older adults and those who care for them.
Unfortunately, in all areas of our state, elder abuse of those over 60 occurs without regard for location, family, or socioeconomic status. But there are ways to lessen the likelihood of abuse. Ms. Slater encouraged those attending the training to keep close watch on your loved ones and involve the older adult in decisions for their care. She encouraged consumers to be sure that older adults know they can and should ask for identification from those personnel coming to their homes—whether caregivers, home maintenance personnel, or others. Slater shared that on occasion, when AAA investigators visit homes, residents should feel comfortable checking on their identity—simply call AAA at 724-830-4444 to verify who is at the door.
Did you know that home health personnel are mandated reporters for elder abuse? Suspected abuse may include financial, physical, sexual abuse, self-neglect, or poor care. If something seems ‘off’ or there are questions about the health or safety of an older adult, suspicion is enough to make a report. The professional staff at AAA will investigate the report and take follow-up action, if warranted.
Many older adults receive Social Security or pension; bad actors can take advantage of loneliness or gullibility, or reduced cognitive ability. Ms. Hacker encourages friends and family to go into the home often to keep an eye on the care and living situation of older adults. While most caregivers are reputable, direct care workers may have access to a senior’s Food Stamp card, for example, or credit/debit cards. This may be perfectly appropriate as long as the care worker returns the card with applicable receipts after shopping so that the individual can confirm that no unauthorized charges have been made.
AAA staff advocate that older adults pre-arrange a Power of Attorney (POA) for health and finances; the POA to take effect later as needed. Setting up a POA well in advance provides an opportunity to spell out your wishes and assure that these are followed. While some individuals fear giving up control, in the event that you become incapacitated through illness or injury, a lack of POA could result in becoming prey to those who would take advantage. In the case where the person designated POA acts in a way detrimental to the health or safety of the older adult, AAA can investigate, which may result in the Court placing the individual under guardianship to make decisions in the best interest of the older adult.
Are you looking into finding a caregiver for a relative or friend? AAA can provide guidelines on caregiving and guardianship. Ms. Slater stressed that when hiring a caregiver, assures that s/he is bonded and insured, and has criminal background clearances from a licensed provider. These providers will enter into a contract. which covers both consumer and provider in the event of a problem. Hiring an unlicensed caregiver may leave one with little recourse if the arrangement does not work out; further, if an agency caregiver is unable to work or leaves with no notice, the agency will be required to substitute a qualified replacement.