Many relatives responsibly care for elderly loved ones, but some are grossly irresponsible or even criminal. There are people who open their homes, wallets, and rearrange their schedule to tackle the task with love and lots of patience. Others are physically, emotionally, or financially unable to provide needed care. Yet many are simply unconcerned, unwilling, or unloving. Regardless, all seniors need adequate care solutions where they can spend their final declining years.
Nearly 5 million seniors are victims of elder abuse and robbed of up to $3 billion annually. Unlicensed care homes thrive because of abusive family members, but also the countless number of predators in our society who receive great pleasure in taking advantage of anyone. Some unlicensed care homes may provide adequate care for their vulnerable clients; yet others gruesomely abuse and rob their clients. A few have similarities to the Nazi concentration camps of the 1940s.
While the state provides health and safety standards for licensing personal care homes, unlicensed care homes remain without critically needed oversight. Research indicates that unlicensed care homes may cost less, but the quality of care often declines with the reduced cost.
It is very difficult for state, county and local officials to locate, inspect, and shut down unlicensed care homes because some use varying names and offer varying services in order to skirt the law. The most despicable unlicensed facility operator might hang sheets from the ceiling to partition off a single room in order to sleep 6, 8, 10, or more elderly clients, some on the floor.
One unlicensed Florida care facility fed residents frozen dinners that cost 88 cents each. The operator of that facility tied one elderly resident to a chair, claiming it was necessary because the elderly resident might fall as a result of recent hip surgery.
A Michigan township discovered an unlicensed care home after responding to a fire in a 1,500 square-foot house. Firefighters found four elderly women burned in their beds and the remains of another located on the floor under the kitchen table where she slept. The house had no smoke alarms or sprinklers.
Licensed adult care facilities are required to apply for permits and meet regulations that provide for criminal background checks, fingerprint checks, floor plans, furnishings and cleanliness. Regulations also specify the numbers of toilets, lavatories, maximum residents and minimum employees, as well as a host of safety standards.
Locally, the Marietta Police Department discovered a woman in her 50s with dementia who was housed in the garage of a scorching hot unlicensed care home. She had been deprived of nutrition and medication. They also discovered another unlicensed care home they termed as a “House of Horrors” where elderly clients were abused physically while enduring wretched living conditions. There were no beds, non-working toilets, no way to bathe and insects were found in the refrigerator.
“Nursing Home Ditching” and unlicensed care facilities are a growing problem that paints America the Beautiful as “America the Barbaric and Beastly.” If you suspect you know the location of an unlicensed elderly care facility, call the Cobb Elder Abuse Task Force at (770) 794-6990, or dial 911.
Charlie Sewell is the Powder Springs chief of police. His column runs monthly in the Marietta Daily Journal.