He’s 85 and Has a . . . Skateboard?

affordable home care companies non medical senior care at home caregivers taking care of elderly parents senior home assistance“Irma’s” grandchildren would “move in” with her, spend her money, eat all the groceries, and then disappear until Grandma got her next Social Security check.  She was hurt and angry when they used her, but since she was so lonely, she couldn’t bring herself to press charges against them.

How about the home where the 85-year-old man with Alzheimer’s lived, in which was found a skateboard, a backpack, and a young man showering and doing his laundry?  Apparently, the young man was a homeless “couch surfer” who “landed” in this particular house for awhile.

At one client’s house, a large package was delivered which contained a significant amount of an illegal substance, large enough to warrant federal involvement.  After some checking, authorities discovered that this was not the first of such packages to arrive.  The people involved were fully aware that “Roger” was unwilling—because of his loneliness—or unable—because of his memory loss—to report what was happening.  He and his home were being exploited.  If not for the caregiver who happened to be at the home when the package arrived, who knows how long this charade would have gone on!  And who knows what danger Roger would have been exposed to as time went on.

Of course, there are many more details in these stories which I am choosing not to share, but suffice it to say, no one can make this stuff up!  Exploitation of seniors is a serious issue in our society.  Dealing with such scenarios is all in a day’s work for social workers and others who choose to work in the senior home assistance industry.  Keeping people in their own homes can be rewarding but also very challenging, to say the least.

affordable home care in Minnesota elderly home assistance in home care Minneapolis St. Paul Edina in home senior care providers home care services for seniorsMaking a weekly visit to a senior’s home can be a safeguard against such exploitation.   If you are unable to make regular visits, it’s possible that a trusted family friend might be available or an outside caregiver might be needed.  Whether a family or outside caregiver, you can become the “eyes and ears” in the home and come to know what “normal” is for Aunt Mary.  Once you know the normal, you can sense when something is wrong or even just a bit off.  In providing care for older people, caregivers notice if bills are piling up.   They notice physical or cognitive changes.  They notice changes in mood and appetite, if groceries and various household items are diminishing too fast for just one person, or if suspicious people are hanging around.

In all of the aforementioned true case scenarios, the clients had no family members looking out for them, so it was the regular caregiver who noticed and informed the proper agencies in order to stop the exploitation.  We’ve also been called on by family members after exploitation has happened to be an extra set of eyes to make sure Grandma doesn’t give away any more of her retirement fund.  For any senior, loneliness, naiveté, or confusion can create a situation ripe for exploitation.

Julie Ellingson, LSW



December 13, 2011



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