February 19, 2014

The Elderly Falling Victim To Caregivers

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERARecently, we saw a post on Philly.com that we found to be disheartening. However, we did think it would be useful to share with our readers to stop this type of abuse from happening — or finding victims the proper legal help for when it does.

All over the country, incapacitated or disabled elderly people opt for in-home care rather than entering a nursing home. In these cases an aid, typically a family member, is assigned to care for them. To compensate these aids, the state pays the aids for hourly service and often allows them access to the patient’s social security funds to supply proper food and medication. Unfortunately, many officials are finding out too late that the caretakers are taking advantage of the situation, often robbing or neglecting the persons left in their care. The article went on to highlight several cases found in Philadelphia, but we’ll share with you just one.

At 69, Frances Lowry was a retiree incapable of taking care of herself. She was blind, suffering from diabetes, and her husband had recently passed away. She did not feel comfortable moving into a nursing home, so instead decided to take advantage of the state’s “aging waiver program.” Basically, this program allowed for the elderly to use money typically allotted for nursing home care to be used for in-home care. It also allowed for the retiree to choose his or her own caregiver. Lowry’s nephew Robert Thomas, whom she had helped raise, and his girlfriend Brigeitte Battle offered to become caregivers. Lowry was happy to be cared for by family and moved into Thomas’ and Battles’ home.

Lowry collected a $145.96 private pension and $786 in Social Security benefits monthly. Also, Battle received an income of $10.50 an hour for caring for her boyfriend’s aunt. Thomas was also given permission to use Lowry’s debit card to make food purchases and to pay for television and internet at the home. Though, this was not enough.

Thomas and Battle allowed their aunt to rot on a mattress in their living room. Conditions were deplorable. Lowry felt cockroaches crawling all over her skin and was often left for days without food or water. Lowry recalled hearing Thomas and Battle eating takeout in the kitchen while the older woman laid starving just a room away without air conditioning.

Lowry’s social worker made just one home visit at the beginning of Lowry’s stay — before conditions deteriorated. Afterwards, the social worker would make phone calls but Lowry was too afraid to reveal the truth with her nephew in earshot. The situation was not found out until a concerned neighbor became involved. That neighbor, Attiya Ross, began bringing meals to the woman. She eventually called police, who could smell Lowry’s unfortunate living conditions all the way from the sidewalk. After eight months of living in hell, Lowry’s justice was not so swift. Thomas and Battle pled guilty to theft, neglect of care/dependent person and reckless endangerment. They were each ordered five years’  probation and $3,730 in restitution. Lowry’s first restitution check? A whopping $12.50.

To read the full story, visit Philly.com.