Thursday, June 2, 2011

When Is Poor Caregiving Criminal?

Photo courtesy of The Los Angeles Times Web site
As a family service, our organization not only provides adult day health care for those with memory impairment, but we also are an expert resource for those trying to manage the often overwhelming responsibilities that come with caring for someone with dementia.

Family members often are at odds with options for how best to handle Mom or Dad's growing physical and medical needs (as we use Mom or Dad because increasingly -- and ultimately -- it's the adult children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren who bear the responsibilility). Some deny a situation has progressed to the point of intervention; others are desperate for help.

That combination appears to have been at play in the case of a young woman who was caring for an elderly great-aunt with dementia that refused to see doctors or be placed in a facility. They lived in a rural community in California where presumably fewer resources exist, but at some point the elderly aunt's body began to fail her, much as her mind had. When she died, she weighed a mere 35 pounds and was riddled with painful bedsores. First responders said the tiny home reeked of urine and feces from improperly disposed diapers.

The caregiver, now 26, was charged with murder for failing to take the necessary steps to keep her aunt alive. She was jailed and her 4-year-old daughter taken. Her attorneys claimed the elderly aunt, 91, died of natural causes and that the bedsores was the skin organ failing after the woman's weight had dropped to an unsustainable state.

So often the stories of criminal charges brought against caregivers involve more obvious signs of elder abuse, but this stands out as different. The young woman, who apparently lacked much family support up to and including her trial, tried to honor her aunt's wishes, even if they killed her.

The article notes that cases such as these are likely to rise as more adult children try to honor parents' wishes to stay at home as their mental and physical health declines. We at The George G. Glenner Alzheimer's Family Centers work with caregivers to help them make the best choices for everyone in the family. We provide a plethora of possible resources and peer support as they work through difficult decisions.

If you are a caregiver in San Diego and feel overwhelmed by the duties now demanded of you, adult day health care may be a great option. And if it isn't what you're seeking, our staff is available to help you find a solution that is.

Los Angeles Times: Death of 91-Year-Old Spotlights Lines Between Caring and Killing

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1 comment:

julieann said...

So glad to hear more on / about Alzheimer's! Thank you for tackeling this top topic which is affecting more & more of us! We need more inforamtion and education & awareness! Looking forward to you educating us & encouraging & inspiring us! Glad I found you!