Hi there Careblazer,
I hate that I even have to write about this, but unfortunately, there are too many stories that I can’t ignore this important topic.
There are laws in place to protect older “vulnerable” adults from abuse and neglect. In the U.S. it’s called Adult Protective Services. Similar to how there are laws in place to protect children, there are laws in place to protect adults.
The goal of these laws and the organizations who investigate reports is to prevent older adults from being abused, neglected, and exploited. As I’m sure all of you are aware older adults and especially older adults with dementia are frequently the victim of scams. APS helps investigate any reports of such abuse.
If you would rather watch my video on this topic, click here.
While most of the information out there focuses on people who are actually doing the abusing, I want to talk about a different perspective. There may come a time, when you, an amazing Careblazer who has done nothing wrong, may be reported as an abuser. And that’s awful, it’s scary, and I want to talk about what you can do now to help yourself if you are ever in that situation and how to cope with dealing with this situation if it ever happens to you.
Now you may be wondering why on earth would you ever be reported for abuse when you’ve never done anything of the sort?
Well dementia is challenging. Often times you are providing care to a loved one who doesn’t believe they have dementia, they don’t believe they need help, and they see you as someone intruding on their privacy. So, when you start to assist with finances, medical appointments, prevent them from driving, or any other possible thing you do to help protect your loved one, your loved one and people on the outside who don’t understand the full picture may think you are trying to abuse them, neglect them, or isolate them.
There are people with dementia who will tell anyone that will listen that they are being abused, mistreated, or make comments that you aren’t letting them do anything, that you’ve stolen all their money and so on. So the actual source of the report could be from your loved one calling some type of authority to report you. Or it could be from an outside person who is concerned after your loved one told them about all the horrible things that you are doing to them.
Now obviously, you aren’t doing these things, but to the outsider who doesn’t know the situation, maybe doesn’t even know the person has dementia or doesn’t understand that it’s the dementia talking, they are just trying to help. When you hear about an older adult being abused you want to report it to the authorities.
So what do you do if you find yourself on the opposite end of a report of abuse? The first 4 tips go over how to respond if you find yourself the subject of a report and the 5th tip is something you can do right now to help you in the event you find yourself a subject of an investigation later.
#1- STAY CALM
Although it is understandably a very upsetting situation, losing your temper or cool is not going to help anything. In fact, it can make things much worse by having people report on your short temper or anger issues.
#2 REPORT THE FACTS
Answer whatever questions the investigating authority has. Do it calmly and openly. Don’t show frustration or anger at the questions being asked. Remember the person talking to you is just doing their job.
#3 KEEP PERSPECTIVE
Unfortunately and fortunately, it takes A LOT of evidence for any action to be taken on a case and many cases are unsubstantiated. This is good news for you. For example in 2016 in AZ less than 1% of the reported cases were substantiated. Although I don’t have all the numbers, I’m willing to bet that most states have similar numbers.
While this is good news for you, it’s bad news for the older adults who are being exploited, neglected, and abused but there just isn’t enough overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing. I can also say that in all the APS reports I’ve ever made in my time, i don’t think a single one was ever substantiated despite the feeling in my bones that wrongdoing was occurring.
So remind yourself the numbers are in your favor. Just keep reminding yourself that you did nothing wrong. Just because you’ve been reported doesn’t mean that you will be found at fault.
#4 SEE THE GOOD
Remind yourself that it’s actually a good thing that there is a system in place to help protect vulnerable older adults. It’s a good thing there is this reporting system. It’s unfortunate you’ve been called into question, but remind yourself of the purpose of the group and trust that you've done a good job and have nothing to worry about. If this is all a misunderstanding, repeat to yourself that the truth will come out.
Dementia caregiver or not, the fact is that any one can be accused of anything at any time. We cannot live in fear, we do the best we can and if you find yourself in this situation, trust that the truth will come out.
The good news is that APS workers are well versed in dementia and the challenges that come with that. You are NOT the first person to be accused of wrongdoing by their loved one with dementia or by an outside who has no idea what’s really going on. That said, they still have to follow-up with the report. Also, just because you are reported, it doesn’t even mean that it will lead to an investigation. After receiving a report, APS determines whether there is enough information to even proceed with an initial contact.
#4 KEEP A JOURNAL/LOG
I’ve mentioned this before in other videos and I really want to stress it here. Keeping a log of your loved one’s behavior or activities for the day/week can really be helpful in being able to go back to certain days. It’s a good way to jog your memory on appointments you followed up on, providers you talked to and so on. It is also good evidence of what you are doing to care for your loved one and just how difficult some of your loved one’s behaviors can be. For instance, if you just got back from a shopping trip when your loved one told the cashier you were holding her hostage, you can write that down in the journal for that day. Documenting the date/time/behavior. I like the idea of the journal/behavior log to help identify patterns and try new approaches, but it can also be helpful if you find yourself in the middle of an investigation and you want to refresh your memory on just what’s been going on.
Careblazer, I hope that none of you ever need this video. Truly. But if you do, have faith and stay calm.