Families: First Line of Defense in Elder Abuse

Many adult sons and daughters make every effort to visit their aging parents in nursing homes and other retirement communities in order to stay in touch and reduce the feeling of isolation their loved ones may have. There is a larger benefit to doing so and it extends beyond just one family. Nursing home abuse is not uncommon and it takes little effort for families to help elder law attorneys and senior advocates.

Many aides at nursing homes are trained very little and asked to work long hours at little pay. This is in part because facility operators do not get any more money from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services if they provide exemplary care. Therefore, many operate at the bare minimum. Working with aging residents who have varied and significant needs can also be taxing. Many aides snap.

While the situation creates the conditions, those actions are unacceptable. Families on visits should watch for any signs of bruising or injuries suffered by their loved ones. It may be difficult to assess any problems in the case of mental disability such as Alzheimer’s Disease, but that is not a reason to completely discount any complaints. Any repeated comments should be addressed with the facility’s staff at a start, and an elder law attorney if incidents seem to continue.

It also does not hurt to check in with nearby residents, especially if you know that they rarely receive visitors. Seniors in nursing homes are a very vulnerable population and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and state agencies only make annual inspections at best. It does not take more than a minute or two to ask about a parent’s roommate or the man or woman across the hall.

Finally, in addition to checking with the facility, making a complaint to the state Department of Aging or Health and Human Services should be made so that an investigation can be made (for more information on agencies related to nursing home care look here). In some cases, calling the local police department may also make sense. In any case, making examples of elder abuse public help not just your loved ones, but those of many others.

Finally, keep in mind that abuse is not always easily visible. If an older parent is acting differently, they may be depressed from a lack of independence. However, they could also not be fed properly or having their medications restricted without good cause by nursing home aides or nurses. These are more difficult to identify, but adult sons and daughters should be wary of these as well.

Ensuring that one made the right decision can be difficult, especially if there is not a clear sign of abuse. Check with a local senior advocate or even the family doctor to see what signs should be visible, or consider getting in touch with an elder law attorney. Abuse can be devastating to older residents, and family visitors can be on the front lines of making sure it stops sooner rather than later.

This was written by attorney Jonathan Rosenfeld. Jonathan is the founder of Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers in Chicago, IL and has a law practice concentrating in cases involve nursing home negligence.

Elder Care Issues: How to Reduce Caregiver Anxiety Symptoms

Caregiving is, by its very nature, the giving of yourself for someone else. Caregivers need to respond to the every need of the person they care for, and they often find themselves essentially giving up their own life for the life of someone else – all while dealing with the natural stresses and anxieties of caring for someone with special needs.
That kind of sacrifice comes with a price. Caregivers are often prone to serious stress and anxiety that can be debilitating, and may take away from your ability to deal with the needs of the person under your care. For those that are suffering from caregiver anxiety, consider these tools and tips for improving your own mental health.

Caregiver Anxiety Tips

  • Be “Selfish – Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that your mental health affects your ability to be a good caregiver. Caregivers with anxiety and stress won’t be 100% at all times. So if the stress is starting to get to you, it is in your best interests – and the best interests of the person you care for – to take a moment and find a way to relax. It’s not selfish to want yourself to be at your best, even if it takes away from your caregiving duties for a short time.
  • Join Support Groups – So much of caregiving involves taking care of those with dementia, or fading health, or Alzheimer’s, or some other disorder. Witnessing that breakdown can be emotionally difficult. Support groups give you an opportunity to surround yourself with others experiencing the same thing. It makes you feel like you’re not alone and supported. Developing that type of community can be powerful.
  • Exercise – One of the first things that caregivers neglect when they start caring for others is attention to their own physical health. Yet the mind and body are powerfully connected. If you’re consistently inactive you’ll end up with excess energy that will only fuel your anxiety further. If, on the other hand, you exercise regularly, you’ll burn away not only excess energy, but also cortisol (a hormone released when you’re stressed).
  • Go Out With Friends – As hard as caregiving is, chances are you have some free time (as little as it may be). It’s important you do not let yourself fall into the trap of using that time to simply mope about your stress. Force yourself to stay active. Go out and spend time with your friends, and allow yourself the opportunity to create social support for yourself, laugh, and create memories outside of your caregiving.
  • Therapy – Many people look at therapy the same way they do pharmaceutical medicines, and this is simply unfair. Therapy can be extremely effective at helping you cope with your stress and anxiety. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has received ample research into anxiety reduction tips and strategies, and seeing a therapist is 100% side effect free. If you can afford it, therapy can be an extremely helpful option to consider.

Developing Strategies to Cope With Anxiety

You can also find your own coping strategies as well, provided they are emotionally healthy. Skipping stones at a park or walking your dog may be a worthwhile way of coping, and if it helps you improve your mental health you should always find time to do it, even if it takes away from your caregiving duties for a short time.
The above methods of decreasing stress and anxiety are valuable, but they’re just suggestions. The most important thing you can do for your caregiver anxiety, however, is recognize that you own your mental health matters. No matter how much you need to care for someone else or how important that other person is, they – and you – need to always make sure that you’re taking at least a bit of time to ensure you are able to relax, otherwise neither of you will get the attention that you deserve from the caregiving relationship.

About the Author: Ryan Rivera is an anxiety specialist that has written countless tips for managing stress and anxiety. He has a website dedicated to anxiety disorders and treatments at www.calmclinic.com.

How to Choose a Caregiver

The title of caregiver is not as obvious as it may seem.  Caregivers can aid in eldercare on many different levels and depending on your needs their roles can provide key benefits.

Benefits of caregivers

Your eyes and ears: Whether you live close by or far away, a caregiver can observe and update you on areas of nutrition, hygiene, activity level, services and other daily issues.

A concierge: Scheduling and staying current with weekly and monthly activities such as doctor’s visits, shopping, hair appointments, and therapy requires phone calls and follow up.  Allow the caregiver to take some of this off or your mind and your to-do list.

An influencer: Communication and opinions by close family members are sometimes not seen as being objective or carry as much weight as a professional caregiver.  Therefore it may be easier on everyone if the caregiver steps in at times to advise the patient rather than a family member.

Finding a caregiver

Before you choose a caregiver, you should determine the range of services you want so that you are making a decision that covers your predetermined needs.  Consider the following:

Make a list of daily activities: By reviewing the activities of a typical day of the patient you will be able to determine the specific duties required.  It helps to create a timeline of activities so that you plan for meals, naps and regular appointments.

Assess the degree of specialty: If the patient suffers from any degree of dementia or physical disability make sure you look for a caregiver with appropriate knowledge and experience.

Determine the need for meal preparation: Not only should you make a choice for a caregiver on their ability to prepare meals if necessary, but also their understanding and ability to create diet-specific meal choices.

Once you have your specific needs list refined, go to the following resources to be connected to the appropriate pool of caregivers to begin your interview process.

Additional resources:



10 Caregiver Questions

To make the most of your time during the interviewing process, conduct preliminary interviews on the phone rather than starting with in-person appointments.  Describe the job in detail along with the required hours needed and wages available.  If you feel the applicant may be a good match based on their experience and ability to provide references, then schedule the in-person interview.  It is a good idea to have another family member or friend participate in the interview to provide an objective perspective.  Finding that great match may be easier with a second opinion.

In preparation for the interview, create a list of questions pertinent to the job description.  Ask questions relevant to the caregiver’s experience and expertise surrounding the daily activities list you previously created.

  1. Where have you worked before?
  2. What were your duties?
  3. What type of patient medical limitations have you worked with in the past?
  4. What is your experience cooking for other people (including dietary restrictions)?
  5. Is there anything in the job description that you are uncomfortable doing?
  6. Have you had to deal with a patient emergency in the past?
  7. Can you keep track of and administer medications?
  8. Would you be able to transfer someone from a wheelchair into a car or into a bed?
  9. How do you feel about caring for a disabled person? Or a person with memory problems?
  10. Can I contact at least two work-related and one personal reference?

If you need a template for a caregiver interview, download this form as a guide:


Once you narrow down your field of applicants, make sure you observe the applicant’s interactions with your family member on a casual basis before making a decision.  If your family member is able, he or she should be included in the interview process and in making the final decision.

Consider the person most qualified for the job and with whom you feel most comfortable. Always check the references of at least two final applicants. Good applicants may have more than one opportunity at a time, so don’t wait too long before proceeding with an offer.