As our elders continue to age and become physically frail and less mobile, they are increasingly dependent on others for personal care and household assistance. Dependence is greater for people with dementia or other cognitive impairments. Some elders may receive help in their own home by family, friends, or professional service-providers.
People living in long-term care facilities or certified family homes receive personal care and housekeeping services from staff or the homeowner. Unfortunately, elderly people may be subjected to abuse and neglect by their caregivers. Some elders may experience what is called “self neglect’ because they insist that they are “doing fine” and refuse help from others.
There is a continuum of behaviors that range from loving, supportive and caring to those that are emotionally, physically, and financially damaging, depraved, or deadly. In society there is a certain degree of tolerance for poor behavior, personal hygiene, and lifestyle choices. Examples include living in a messy house, not bathing on occasion, not returning a borrowed item, or a child yelling “I hate you!” Tolerance levels vary among individuals and families. Yet, there is a threshold beyond which it is unacceptable to yell and berate someone, manipulate an elderly person for personal gain, not repay loans, remove items from an older person’s home “because they will not need it anymore” or to live in unsanitary conditions. As the dysfunctional behaviors escalate and become more extreme, there is a threshold beyond which such behaviors are criminal. Examples include: financial exploitation; stealing, sexual, mental, and physical abuse; neglect; imprisonment; and abandonment.
Help is available for those who may be a victim of abuse, neglect, or self-neglect. When reporting your concerns, you do not have to determine how bad the situation is, the reason why it is happening, or the mental and physical capabilities of the victim. You may remain anonymous. In Idaho reporting suspected abuse or neglect is mandatory for health care- and industry-professionals. In Wyoming everyone is mandated by law to report suspected abuse or neglect. Adult protection services or local law enforcement may be contacted to report suspected abuse, neglect, self-neglect and exploitation (contact information below). Call 9-1-1 if it is an emergency.
You may already be aware of the Long-term Care Ombudsmen Program. Ombudsmen advocate for people living in nursing homes, group homes, or assisted living facilities. In Wyoming the ombudsmen also advocate for those that receive professional in-home services. While the ombudsmen can provide assistance for a variety of issues, the reporting of abuse, neglect and exploitation allegations should be made to adult protection services and/or law enforcement.
Make the call because you care. You can make a significant difference in someone’s life by reporting your concerns.
Reporting Contact Information
Area Agency on Aging/Eastern Idaho Community Action Partnership
Phone: (208) 419-9367
Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program
Phone: (208) 522-5391
Wyoming Department of Family Services
Adult Protective Services
Phone: (307) 777-3602
Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program
Phone: (307) 856-6880
Letter by Daphne Stoner, Driggs, Idaho
Certified Long-term Care Ombudsman, Idaho Commission on Aging
Submitted by Dorothy Thomas, Wyoming DFS, Adult Protective Services