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Licensing, training important in choosing elder care
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For more information

Adult Protective Services (statewide): 1-866-552-4464

Legacy Link: 770-538-2650

Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website: medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare

When a Georgia caregiving center for elderly individuals with Alzheimer’s became national news for alleged abuse and neglect, it brought to mind several questions that families may have when planning care for older relatives.

The Associated Press reported that, following a three-month investigation of Alzheimer’s Care of Commerce, 21 employees had charges including cruelty to people 65 or older, along with accusations of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation, filed against them last week.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation launched its investigation after multiple complaints were made by both employees and relatives of the residents.

Pat Freeman, chief executive officer of Legacy Link, said that there is one thing that should be looked for before anything else when choosing a senior care facility.

“First of all, you don’t want to put a loved one in a facility that is not licensed, and those are popping up all over creation,” she said. “Make sure they’re licensed.”

She said that, through Legacy Link, families can search a computerized database of all licensed facilities in the state.

The website medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare also allows users to search for rating information for nursing homes in their area. The ratings are on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, with 5 being the best. Facilities are rated on health inspections, staffing, quality and an overall rating.

Lynne Patterson, client care coordinator with Home Instead Senior Care, also said that licensing is the No. 1 priority, not only in facilities but for home care programs as well.

“For home care, they come in once a year and they do a thorough review of records,” she said. “They’ll go out to homes and meet with current clients of the company, and make sure that there’s good communication between the company and the client and their family, depending on the level of need that they have.”

Another point both Freeman and Patterson made was that family members should stop by at regular intervals to see firsthand the level of care being provided.

“Go in at different times of the day, and early evening,” Freeman suggested. “Drop in at mealtime, and just ask to look around.”

She advised making these random visits also before deciding to place a family member in a facility.

Patterson said to check on what kind of training the caregiver has, saying that in the case of Alzheimer’s, there is special training for handling that and other dementias.

“Are they CPR certified, are they first-aid certified?” she asked. “Do they have a current background check for their employees? Do the employees get some oversight?”

With elderly patients, neglect and abuse can be difficult to determine, particularly when some form of dementia is involved. The patient might not have the verbal skills to express what is happening, or may not be able to distinguish fact from fiction.

Additionally, older adults can bruise easily, making it difficult to determine whether it’s a sign of physical abuse or not.

“Sometimes we see fear of a certain family member, or a certain person in that person’s environment that you wouldn’t otherwise see,” Patterson said. “But you have to be very careful to differentiate that between the dementia causing anxiety, and another issue with that person.”

When it’s a clear case of neglect or abuse, it’s easy to know to call the paramedics or law enforcement. There are avenues to take, though, when there are simply suspicions of abuse.

Adult Protective Services will keep information anonymous, and will launch an investigation into any complaint about elder abuse. The number for the statewide APS is 1-866-552-4464.

Suspicions can also be reported to Legacy Link, where there are three ombudsmen, or patient advocates, available to look into the allegations. That number is 770-538-2650.

Both Patterson and Freeman said that many older adults and their families aren’t aware of all of the resources at their disposal.

“Sometimes people come in for a holiday,” Freeman said, “and we start getting the calls, because they didn’t realize mother and daddy were in the shape they’re in. It’s particularly hard if you’re a long-distance caregiver.”

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