But as the saying goes, “what has been done can’t be undone,” and this is often the feeling someone has when a another accuses them of neglect and abuse. Thankfully, we have been able to help clients that have been falsely accused in these situations, but often these issues can be better managed if handled differently early on.
For first time caregivers, and especially those caring for someone they love, it is often easy to take on too much. This can lead to feelings of resentment and regret, and questions of “what if?” can start to settle in. This may damage loving relationships and leave one susceptible to malicious accusations by financial institutions, social workers, caregivers, extended/out-of-town family members and outsiders that aren’t as involved in the care taking responsibilities as the person taking on the majority of these tasks.
The timeline of the story often goes in stages, but the stages are reoccurring for many spousal and adult-child caretakers. The worst-case scenario is one we see all too often and that is one that includes a caretaker being accused of neglect or abuse. Often, when someone is diagnosed with some form of dementia, a loved one, like a well-spouse or adult-child will step in and try to be the best caretaker they can be. Reasonably, this is thought to be the best option, as they are the closest and most knowledgeable person in the room about the day-to-day ailments of the sufferer. Additionally, they have more invested emotionally and physically than anyone. They are willing to go above and beyond in their care, literally doing whatever it takes to help their suffering spouse or parent.
The pitfalls of caregiving are well documented, but possibly the biggest is when you try to take too much on our own. The exact time, when too much is too much, is hard to recognize and that is why it is helpful to be in constant communication with others. Many delay asking for help for numerous reasons, but the one we see most is guilt. The guilt of asking for help, the guilt of blaming yourself for the situation and the guilt of not being able to handle it all on your own. But, this shouldn’t be the case and this reasoning is usually unjustified and simply not true. Dementia is no one’s fault and calling out other stretcher-bearers to help carry the burden, as soon as possible is often the right thing to do.
Two suggestions we continually make to clients under these circumstances are: (1) bring on more than one stretcher bearer. These could be friends, neighbors, care-givers, your church community, or social workers etc., or (2) consider a nursing facility and don’t feel guilty about it. These recommendations may sound simple, but they are often ignored and unheeded.
Ask for help before it’s too late. Too many times we’ve been contacted by a well-spouse or adult child after a third-party institution or organization has reported them for neglect or abuse. These cases are often concocted stories from third-party sources, that care more about protecting themselves than the individuals involved. Others, often blame the well-spouse or adult child for anything and everything that happens to the individual suffering from dementia, because they may be insecure of their own involvement with the situation. Having multiple stretcher bearers, with different experiences and perspectives offers families more lines of communication and observation. This not only relieves some of the pressure from caretaking, but provides a diverse system of checks and balances. In a way, it is doing your due diligence.
Unfortunately, the legal system has seen its fair share of exaggerated elder abuse and neglect claims, however with the right counsel, protecting yourself from these claims is possible. Not to belittle these cases or portray them all as being unwarranted, as many aren’t, but unfortunately, we live in a society where everyone wants to try to blame somebody else, even when there is no one to blame. As the saying goes, "no good deed goes unpunished."
Berger Estate & Elder Law P.A. has been finding solutions throughout Kansas City for over 30 years providing Trusted Counsel with Proactive Solutions for many. We’ve been helping individuals plan, navigate and conquer the challenges of caretaking for over 30 years. Give us a call today at (913) 491-6332, visit our website berger-lawfirm.com or stop by our conveniently located offices at 11233 Nall, Suite 140 Leawood, KS 66211 for more information.