Whom to Call when things go Wrong

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I hope that no one ever has to use the information in this post.  However, senior caregivers are in a unique position to either help people in their most vulnerable hour or inflict serious injury on them.   While the industry has been working (somewhat unsuccessfully) to improve its safety record, there are a few things that you can do if you notice a facility isn’t properly caring for its residents:

First of all, if it’s an emergency, call 911. I sometimes forget to mention this because it seems really obvious, but not everyone thinks about it.  If you see someone who is in serious danger, you can (and should) call the police.  It may turn out to be something that is best handled by another agency, but, frankly, why not let the management sort that out? Your job is to keep your loved one safe.

Also, don’t hesitate to remove your loved one from the situation.  There are probably other nursing homes in your area that meet your criteria and can provide good-quality care.  If something “just doesn’t seem right,” then feel free to take your business (and your loved one) elsewhere.

If it’s not an emergency, but you suspect that there are problems or if you feel that your loved one is being unfairly treated, then you have a few things that you can do to help the situation:

1) Document everything.  Whatever the situation, you will have a much stronger case if you keep a detailed record of your findings. Take pictures.  Write down notes if you notice unusual behavior, bruising, marks, treatment, or other problems with dates, times, and other pertinent details.  In some cases, police have even used hidden cameras to catch nursing home abuse.  (Note: Check with authorities before placing hidden cameras or wires, since recording without someone’s consent can be a crime in some areas.)

2) Call the nursing home ombudsman in your area. You may not know it, but there is an individual (called an “ombudsman”) who is designated as a consumer advocate in your area.  The nursing home ombudsman program is completely free for you to use, and the ombudsman in your area will be able to help you get your grievances resolved.  Click here for information about locating an ombudsman in your area.

3) Call the state health department, aging, or human services. States regulate nursing home and assisted living facilities.  Often, the state will handle certification and bed licensure, which means that a ding on the state’s database can prevent bad communities from having their licenses renewed.  Formally submitting a claim can help open investigations into nursing home abuse and cement the case against operators.  You should note two things about state oversight: 1) The department that regulates nursing homes differs from state to state, so you’ll have to do some research online to find the right person. 2) State regulatory oversight can be a slow and steady process, so you cannot count on the state to fix problems in a short time period.  If your loved one is in danger, remove them from the facility immediately.

4) Call the county health department.  Often times, the county will have some oversight in local nursing homes, especially when it comes to how the kitchen is handled.  If you encounter a problem with sanitation, county health department employees may be able to help intervene to fix the problem.

Again, I hope that you never have to use the information in this post.  Unfortunately, some residents of assisted living and nursing facilities experience abuse or neglect.  It’s up to family members, friends, and concerned staff members to do something to prevent this type of treatment from continuing.

Want to learn more about senior housing?  Check out some of these articles:

The naked truth about CCRC entrance fee refunds.

Understanding a CCRCs permanent transfer policy.

Who owns CCRCs?

Should a retirement community be run like a McDonald’s?

 

Sex in senior housing, long term care insurance, nursing home lawsuit, and doing brain exercises

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Sex in senior housing isn’t always handled well by staff.

Missing one payment can put your long-term-care insurance in jeopardy.

A jury awards over $3 million in nursing home lawsuit.

Doing brain exercises can help delay your move into senior housing.

Diabetes care, another bankruptcy in senior housing, detecting elder abuse, and hospice care

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If you have diabetes, hypoglycemia is a big problem that doctors sometimes overlook.

A Texas retirement community chain just filed for bankruptcy.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau just published a manual for detecting financial abuse in the elderly.  It’s written for nursing home staff, but it’s pretty useful for anyone.

Tips for shopping for hospice care.

UnSCAMable Book Excerpt: A Basic Test of Internet Trustworthiness

You can learn more about my book, “UnSCAMable” on Amazon.

Danger

I’ll be going over a lot of different types of scams that happen online, but they all boil down to trusting the wrong people.  At the end of the day, you must make a judgment call on whether or not to let new people and organizations into your life.  The decision you make here is key, since going along with a scam could put you in financial danger, or (at the very least) make you a target for other scam artists.

There are three basic questions that you should ask yourself every single time you get a communication from someone who isn’t a close friend (be it online or in real life):

  1. Why is this person contacting me?
  2. Does this really make sense?
  3. Would I be embarrassed if my kids or friends found me reading this?

Let’s review them individually: 

Why is this person contacting me?

There’s an old saying that goes something like this: If you can’t find the fool at the table, then it’s you.  That’s the way it works on the internet.  Here are some common scenarios that can seem legitimate upon first glance but actually aren’t:

  • The person has inherited a lot of money and wants you to help her get it to the United States.
  • The person has uncovered a horrible truth about the future of the United States and wants to warn you about the impending economic collapse.
  • The person has secret political information about a massive scandal that she wants to share with you.
  • The person has uncovered a secret (insert medical problem like “wrinkles,” “gout,” or “obesity”) cure and wants to share it with you.

Ask yourself this question: Why on earth would this person care about me? If he/she really had a cure/secret/bazillion dollars, then why would he/she be emailing me?

The answer to all of these questions is that this person wants your money.  Let’s look at the above again.  In every single case, the communication is designed to separate you from your money.  It may just be a book or a bottle of magic potion, but every single one of these people has contacted you purely to separate you and your money.  Therefore, you should immediately be skeptical of anything (and likely everything) they say.

Furthermore, you should ask yourself how they got your email in the first place.  If you don’t know the person socially, then they’re likely sending out massive amounts of emails, hoping to catch one or two gullible people.

Does this really make sense?

Do any of the examples in the previous section really make sense?  Sure, they’re all plausible.  They all could possibly happen.  But, when you step back and think about it, do any of them sound true?

You might be saying, “Well, you’re just a young person who doesn’t know what’s really going on in the world today!  Things are different!  There is a lot happening right now!”

I concede that it’s possible that there is a massive government conspiracy to overthrow American ideals and usher us into a new age of poverty and strife.  I read about NSA surveillance and wars in the Middle East with just the same worry and concern that you do.  But, I don’t read or respond to emails from people trying to capitalize on my fears.  If you find yourself fearful for your future or safety at the end of an email, then you can bet money that they’re trying to scam you.

Would I be embarrassed if my kids or friends found me reading this?

The ultimate litmus test is whether or not your friends or family would be concerned to see you reading whatever it is that you’re reading.  Instead of the old “What would Jesus do?” test, let’s start a new one, “What would my kids do?”

The reason that this test is so helpful is that it takes out the story element of the email pitch.  In other words, you might be so worked up about the contents of an email that you can’t evaluate it unemotionally.  Why not ask someone else to do it for you?  The beauty of asking a dispassionate person for their opinion is that you’ll get an honest answer about whether or not this particular email or webpage is a fake.

If you’re at all embarrassed about looking like a fool, then alarm bells should be going off in your head regarding the validity of this particular email or webpage. 

Putting it to the Test

Use this test: when you get any sort of suspicious email, phone call, or message

Test:

1)    Why is this person contacting me?

  1. I don’t know why (3 points)
  2. I know this person, and it’s a friendly email  (1 point)
  3. This person is trying to offer me a job, get me to help them with transferring cash, or sell me a book/video/product that the government doesn’t want me to know about (5 points)

2)    Does this really make sense?

  1. Yes (1 point)
  2. No (5 points)
  3. I’m not sure (3 points)

3)    Would I be embarrassed if my kids or friends found me reading this?

  1. Yes (10 points)
  2. No (1 point)

Key:

3-5 points It’s probably not a scam, but do a bit of extra research just to make sure.
6-19 points It might be a scam.  Call your friends/kids and ask for their opinion.  Read the rest of this book and do more research into the topic.
20 points It’s almost certainly a scam.  Call the police if you have given any money or personal information to the crooks.  Otherwise, discontinue all contact with the individual or the company.

Here are some more interesting topics that you can read about on SeniorHousingMove.com:

Taking your pet to senior housing.

I built a scam website in 4 hours.  Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself.

The Naked Truth about Entrance Fees

Understanding a CCRC’s Permanent Transfer Policy.

The Naked Truth about CCRC Entrance Fee Refunds

Continuing care retirement communities market the entrance fee refund as a big selling point.  They try to make it sound like an easy transaction: You give them $100,000 to $1,000,000 up front, and they’ll return a portion of that fee to your estate when you die.  Since you’ll be selling your home to pay for the entrance fee, it’s not like it’s money you’ll miss, right?

Like most things in life, the truth isn’t that simple.  Entrance fee refunds are not the straight-forward transactions that CCRCs would have you believe.  In this post, I’ll share some of the hidden downsides of the entrance fee model, specifically as it relates to the entrance fee refund.

Be warned: This is kind of a dark subject, since it deals with what will happen after you die (or move out of the community).  But, for those who want to know, here are the facts.

Virtually all communities will have some waiting period after you pass. Obviously the manager of the CCRC won’t be standing over your bedside with a check waiting for your family the moment you pass away. But, you would except a check be presented to the estate within 30 days, right? Nope.  The truth is that your family may have to wait for a long time (in some cases over a year) for the refund to be processed.

Some communities require that your apartment be “resold.” In other words, your independent living apartment must be reoccupied by a new tenant.  How long does that take?  Could be months.  Could be years if the community has trouble filling the apartment.  And guess what?  Even after it gets reoccupied, the community usually has 45 days or more to cut your estate a check.

Some communities require that ALL of your apartments be “resold.” Spent a few months in assisted living and/or nursing? Those apartments must also be reoccupied by a new tenant before you get your check.

Refund policies vary if the apartment doesn’t sell. Some contracts stipulate a one-year maximum waiting period.  Others don’t say anything about when you’ll be getting a refund if apartments don’t sell.

No matter what’s in the contract, the community still has to have enough cash to pay it back. This seems like common sense, but most people don’t really think about it.  Your entrance fee refund is 100% dependent upon the community being in the financial situation that would allow them to pay you back.  While most states have laws requiring that CCRCs keep a certain amount of cash on hand for refunds, this can be put in danger if the community is in financial difficulty. Thankfully, this has been a rare occurrence historically.

Want to protect yourself? There’s two main things that you can do:

  • Check your contract. The resident agreement will contain a detailed description of how the community plans on paying you the balance of the fee.  If it’s important to you that your estate get the refund in a timely manner, then pay particular attention to this section of the agreement.
  • Don’t move in if the terms aren’t favorable. For too long, CCRCs have made all of the rules when it comes to resident agreements.  It’s worked out for the most part, but some seniors have gotten seriously burned when communities went bankrupt. While the CCRC lifestyle makes it tempting to overlook things like the entrance fee refund policy, I believe that seniors have the power to express their displeasure and be a force of change in the industry.

Want to learn more about CCRCs? Check out some other posts:

Who owns CCRCS?

What is adult daycare?

What is memory care?

Why pushing for a move to senior housing isn’t a good idea.

Books are on sale!

Dear readers,

I’m in the process of writing/editing a second edition for my book, Continuing Care Retirement Communities: An Insider Tells All.  The old price for the first edition was $13.99 plus $3.99 shipping/handling, but I’d like to clear out some of my inventory so that I have room for a second edition.  Therefore, for a limited time, I’ll be selling the first edition for $5.99 plus $3.99 shipping/handling.  This is a huge steal, and it’s cheaper than the Kindle version.  This will only last for as long as I have the first editions on hand.  Once they’re gone, they’re gone! BUY IT NOW

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