AARP Applauds Unanimous Senate Passage of RAISE Family Caregivers Act

AARP applauds the unanimous passage in the U.S. Senate of the bipartisan Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act (S. 1028).

The legislation, introduced by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), calls for the development of a strategy to support the nation’s 40 million family caregivers. It would bring together stakeholders from the private and public sectors to recommend actions that communities, providers, government, and others are taking and may take to help make the big responsibilities of caregiving a little bit easier.

It would bring together stakeholders from the private and public sectors to recommend actions that communities, providers, government, and others are taking and may take to help make the big responsibilities of caregiving a little bit easier.

Every day, millions of Americans are caring for parents, spouses, children and adults with disabilities and other loved ones so they can live independently in their homes and communities for as long as possible. They take on a range of tasks including managing medications, helping with bathing and dressing, preparing and feeding meals, arranging transportation, and handling financial and legal matters. The unpaid care family caregivers provide helps delay or prevent costly nursing home care, which is often paid for by Medicaid.

“Family caregivers are the backbone of our care system in America. We need to make it easier for them to coordinate care for their loved ones, get information and resources and take a break so they can rest and recharge,” said AARP Chief Advocacy & Engagement Officer Nancy A. LeaMond. “Thanks to the efforts of long-time champions of the bill Senators Susan Collins and Tammy Baldwin, we are one step closer to helping address the challenges family caregivers face.” AARP is working to bolster bipartisan support for the RAISE Family Caregivers Act in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill (H.R. 3759) was introduced by Representatives Gregg Harper (R-MS) and Kathy Castor (D-FL), along with original cosponsors Representatives Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY). The RAISE Family Caregivers Act has the support of about 60 national organizations.

For more information and to track this bill visit Congress.gov.

How Do We Protect the Elderly from Fraud

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According to the United States Department of Justice, 1 in 10 seniors over the age of 60 is abused every year in the U.S, and elder fraud is another tactic used to abuse our aging population. Many of these cases often go unreported. Factors such as social isolation, lack of family/friends support, cognitive decline, loneliness, lack of awareness of financial matters can put individuals at risk for elder fraud.

One morning, I was waiting for the building exterminator to arrive to my apartment. When Luis* was spraying my apartment, he told me how he discovered his 85 yr old Dominican father was a recent victim of fraud. It all started when his father received a phone call from a person claiming that he won thousands of dollars but in order to receive the prize, the “winner” has to provide his bank account information so the prize money can be directly deposit. Needless to say, Luis’s father did as such and within a couple of days his entire savings of $40,000 was stolen from his account. Sound familiar?

People would often hear stories how the caregiver (usually a family member) would take advantage of the individual’s finances however, the abuse can occur from strangers from the community as well. Perpetrators have their way of finding the perfect victim to scam. Sometimes the perpetrators work in pairs when scamming victims. For example, in 2014 two contractors scammed $500,000 from senior citizens in Southern California during a two year span.

They managed to manipulate the customers in paying more money for work that it was not needed and forged their checks.  Stories of con artist who tag team against the elderly are common. In some cases, one contractor (usually unlicensed) would talk to the victim in the dining room, while the contractor would search the bedrooms for cash, jewelry, or other valuables to steal. It may take hours or days for the victim to realize their valuables were stolen.

It’s important for social workers and other professionals to understand how financial fraud affects the elderly. Can you recall a time when someone stole something that was important to you? Do you remember how you felt afterwards? Some of the affects of financial fraud can include but not limited to anger, embarrassment, lost of control, stressed, fear, etc.

My exterminator, Luis stated that it took a few weeks before he and his brothers found out about his father’s financial fraud. His father who worked many years for the telephone company and saved his money for he and his wife was all gone. Luis said he and his brothers did not understand why his father was asking for money all of the sudden since he is known as a very frugal. His father did not immediately report the incident to his sons because he wanted to try to fix the problem himself.

To reduce and prevent elder fraud cases United States Department of Justice has a Division of Elder Justice that provides education and resources to the public. More health care agencies are hosting conferences to help educate health care professionals, social service staff, and other professionals about elder abuse.

Families, neighbors, friends can report abuse through the adult protective service agency in the county where the victim resides. Some counties make it easy for people to report the abuse. For example, in New York City, residents and health care workers can report abuse to adult protective services online and it will allow you to print the report upon completion. A google search for adult protective services in your county and State will help direct you to the local reporting agency.

Some of the examples of action and prevention mentioned above sounds promising for the seniors, but there should be more steps to be taken to help raise awareness and protect potential victims. For those working with an aging population or concerned about a love one, Caregiverstress.com has put together a comprehensive toolkit to help protect against elder fraud. You can also visit StopElderFraud.gov for more information.

[gview file=”https://swhelper.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/1_Seniors_Fraud_Protection_Kit_US.pdf”]

*Names has been changed to protect the identity.

Who Is Old?

Edith Connors 77 year old body builder
Edith Connors 77-year-old body builder

Who is old?  What does old mean?  Who decides that you are old?  Who do you identify as old?

Is it age?  Do you automatically become old the day you start collecting your social security? Some people collect at 62, some at 66, and some at 70.  Or, maybe it’s the year you become eligible. Can it be the day you retire from your career job?  Or maybe it’s the day you become a grandparent.

My mother-in-law didn’t become old until she turned 90, while my mother decided she was old at 80. They self-selected when to be old. Meanwhile, my best friend who has a form of rheumatoid arthritis self-identified as old when she was only 55. So, it’s possible that old is when you need assistance with certain activities and realize that you are slowing in your performance. A 72 year old friend mentioned to me, “I can’t believe how much longer it’s taking me to walk to the office each morning. I used to be such a fast walker.“  Is she now old?

I am certain that my grandchildren identify me as old, while my peers tell me how young I look. Maybe that’s the answer. Old, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. My husband tells me I look as young as the day we met, which can hardly be true since that was over fifty years ago. Maybe we are old when our hair turns gray. Yet, I have a friend who went prematurely gray in her thirties.

Another answer might be that we are old when we start receiving senior discounts. I do have a senior Metro-Card that entitles me to use New York City’s subways and buses at half price. I have an AARP card, and I now go to movies and visit museums for senior admission rates.

Do all cultures and societies see “old” similarly?  Eastern cultures tend to value age and equate age with wisdom. Unfortunately, Western cultures put a higher value on youth. This causes many of the aging people I know to go to great lengths to appear younger than their actual age. I have an 85 year old constituent who came to see me one day carrying a large umbrella. “Is it raining?” I asked. “Oh, no”, she replied, but I refuse to walk with a cane.”

We, here in the United States and other Western industrialized counties, are experiencing a longevity boom. People here may not be perceived as old until they are in their 70s or maybe even 80s. Yet, in third world countries that are ravaged by war and hunger, people are perceived as old at a much younger age.

So, old may be determined by the place you live or the era in which you were born. My grandmother at 70 was an old woman. I am 68 and would not be described as an “old woman” by most people I know. Old can also be determined by one’s environment or the circumstances under which one lives. Those who live in poverty and those who are marginalized may not have access to good health care or healthy food. People who live in these minority communities are old sooner than those from middle and upper class majority neighborhoods.

So, it seems then that old is a socially constructed category. What old is to me may be different than what old means to you.

There is much truth in the adage, “Once you’ve seen one old person, you’ve seen one old person.” We are aging from the moment we are born; and the more we age,–the more we experience our own individual lives–the more diverse we become. Our individual lived experiences then may be the only key to determining when each of us is old.

Are you old?  If so, when did you become old?  If you are not old, what makes you see someone else as old?  Why do you think a society’s definition of old is important?

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