Abuse of the elderly can be avoided through research

Flexible hours, affordable prices make in-home care a possibility for families

HENDERSON, Nev. – While Craigslist may be a good way to find cheap or free household items, when it comes to senior care, it’s a haven for scammers who take life for granted. Well-meaning families are duped by people who agree to care for their elderly family member for a cheap rate only to leave the senior to fend for themselves, oftentimes left for days without food, water and the ability to use the restroom. Although many Las Vegans are financially strapped, playing roulette with a loved one’s quality of life isn’t worth it.

Unfortunately, according to a local home care provider and an elder law attorney, this scenario is becoming all too common in today’s economic environment.

“While a cheaper price may be enticing, it’s not worth putting our loved ones in jeopardy by hiring unskilled workers with no experience,” said Michael DiAsio, owner of Visiting Angels franchise locations in Henderson and Las Vegas, which has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.

Between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010, 64 percent of the abuse cases reported to Clark County to the Nevada Department of Aging and Disability Services related to seniors living on their own as opposed to residing in group care homes, assisted care or skilled nursing care facilities. During the same time frame, approximately 21 percent of senior abuse (excluding self-abuse) was inflicted by service providers. Many times, an unqualified service provider will either take the money and run, leaving the senior to their own devices, or inflict harm because of their lack of skill.

“This is the kind of abuse that can happen when a reputable home care company isn’t hired,” DiAsio said. “It’s devastating. Our seniors should be able to feel safe in their own homes.”

Abuse of the elderly comes in the form of physical, emotional, mental, sexual, financial and psychological abuse. The number of abuse cases is skewed due to cognitive deficits of some seniors who may not realize they’ve become a victim along with those who are too embarrassed to report abuse or are afraid their family members will move them into a facility, causing them to lose their independence.

Elder abuse cannot be attributed to one cause, such as the recession, said attorney Lee A. Drizin.

“Seniors living by themselves are the most vulnerable. Our firm is routinely contacted about several cases of elder abuse each month,” Drizin added. “The problem is that we know elder abuse has increased, but it is difficult to state it is directly attributable to the recession, although, undoubtedly this plays some part. While several thousand cases of abuse were reported to authorities in Clark County last year, it is estimated the actual number of instances of abuse is substantially higher because only one in five cases may be reported.”

Those convicted of elder abuse are guilty of a gross misdemeanor and can serve between two and six years in prison and pay fines, unless the offense is more severe in which more prison time and additional fines can be added.

By the time the offender is found guilty, the damage is already done. While some families find themselves in a time pinch, researching a caregiver or service provider is well worth the time spent in the long run, Drizin said.

Drizin, who works with families in researching appropriate caregiver services and reviewing service contracts, suggests “Don’t be afraid to ask for references and find out what others think about the business.”

He also recommends checking the Nevada Aging and Disability Services Division website (www.nvaging) to investigate any complaints about the provider and receive additional information. Caregivers’ training, experience, references and a criminal background check also should be performed as well as careful consideration paid to the contract and the details included within. Once a caregiver is found, families should safely store any sensitive materials such as tax returns, pay stubs, checkbooks and valuables.

“Caregivers at Visiting Angels are trained and undergo extensive checks into their experience, background and history,” said DiAsio, whose company provides services such as meal preparation, transportation to appointments, grocery shopping, reminders for clients to take their medicines, and other needs.

“The care of family members is a serious issue, and we try to make the experience easy on the families and give the seniors some sense of independence.”

DiAsio also noted that Visiting Angels provides flexible care options to clients in the form of a two-hour weekly minimum (most offer a minimum of four hours) at an hourly rate of $20.

Visiting Angels’ average employee (the company employs more than 160 people) has been with the company for, on average, four years. The company’s caregivers all come from a health care background – something DiAsio said is critical to have in a caregiver’s background.

Visiting Angels is senior home care with more than 400 franchises across the United States. With three franchises in Southern Nevada, the Green Valley Parkway office – located at 1701 N. Green Valley Pkwy. – is owned by Michael and Jackie DiAsio and is the largest in Southern Nevada. It serves Henderson, the south, southwest, west and northwest regions of Las Vegas. Due to an increase in need, the DiAsios have opened a satellite office in Summerlin off Lake Mead Boulevard and Rampart Road.

For more information on Visiting Angels visit www.visitingangels.com or call 800-365-4189.  Free resources and additional information can also be found on the website of The Law Offices of Lee A. Drizin, Chtd. at www.DrizinElderLaw.com.

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