Jerry Davich: Elder neglect or caregiver overload?
JERRY DAVICH January 16, 2014 11:14PM
Curtis Magee with his hospitalized father, 66-year-old Rayner Magee, of Gary. | Photo provided
Updated: February 18, 2014 6:14AM
The old adage — there are two sides to every story — is not always correct. With some stories, there are several sides to consider.
Take the story of Curtis Magee, who is convinced his 66-year-old father is a victim of elder neglect, with gruesome photos reflecting his allegations.
“It was the courage of one nurse at a nursing home who said his home treatment was inhumane,” said Magee, of Gary. “We all knew this, but no one seemed to care.”
However, his father’s wife insists otherwise, equally convinced she has done everything possible to care for her husband, who has Parkinson’s disease, suffered three strokes, and is now bedridden with a terminal prognosis.
“Yes, he looks bad now, but my husband is dying,” said Sandra Magee, 52, who has legal guardianship over her husband. “I’ve been with this man for more than 25 years and, since his strokes, I’ve been taking care of him around the clock.”
Her husband, Rayner Magee of Gary, is at Methodist Hospitals Southlake campus in Merrillville, admitted again earlier this month for serious bed sores, among other health complications. His son sent me a photo of his father’s backside, showing several eye-catching bed sores.
“This is elder abuse and neglect,” Curtis told me, raising serious allegations against his father’s wife, who is not his mother.
“His children don’t know this man and have done nothing for him. They haven’t been changing his diapers five times a day, I have,” Sandra countered angrily. “I’ve been the one wiping his butt, cutting up his food, bathing him, taking care of his bed sores, doctor appointments, everything.”
Rayner’s daughter, Candace, contacted Adult Protection Services, which last month sent an investigator to her father’s home. I contacted the agency’s Lake County office and discovered that no wrongdoing was found in this case.
“They told my sister if she calls them again she could be prosecuted for false claims,” Curtis said. “We were devastated and hurt because our dad was not receiving adequate care.”
I contacted Rayner’s physician, Dr. Fadi Alzeidan of Merrillville, but did not receive a reply for input for this column. Also, a hospital spokeswoman said due to patient confidentiality, either Rayner or his wife would have to consent before I could receive any information on his condition.
Sandra, however, was forthright with me about her husband’s medical situation, insisting this case is more about old family squabbles than newfound elder neglect.
“All I do is care for this man and my name is being falsely accused by his children,” she said. “The real story here is how people like them can abuse the system and abuse taxpayer dollars. I’m sure there are legitimate cases that need to be investigated.”
APS is the principal public agency responsible for investigating such cases. But it’s no secret that APS offices in every Hoosier county are overburdened and understaffed.
“Indiana needs to allocate more money to APS offices to better care for our seniors,” said Lake County First Assistant Deputy Prosecutor Peter Villarreal, who works in the county’s APS office.
His office often receives calls from disgruntled or uninformed family members. Yet they still investigate all allegations, just as his office did with Rayner Magee late last year.
APS investigators contacted Magee’s family members, medical providers, home health care agency and other related services. Their mission, in part, is to determine if an elderly person is endangered.
“We’re not a criminal investigative unit, but we work closely with those agencies if needed,” Villarreal noted. “Many times, we desperately try to find guardians for many elderly clients. But they’re hard to find.”
Every year I write about this subject, one that most of us would rather conveniently ignore. Roughly two-thirds of elder abuse or neglect to people age 65 and older comes at the hands of their families, research shows.
Worse yet, it’s a problem that quietly mirrors our rising population of Americans 65 and older, which is projected to nearly double by 2030. The number of people age 85 and older is rising at an even faster clip.
Many elder abuse victims are frail, vulnerable, and totally dependent on others for their most basic human needs. Others are confused, gullible, or simply flimflammed by financial fraud, the most common abuse. And some are prisoners in their own homes.
According to data from the National Elder Abuse Incidence Study, only 16 percent of the abuse situations are referred for help. The rest, 84 percent, remain hidden from society, from cops, even from fellow loved ones.
The Senate Special Committee on Aging estimates there are more than 5 million victims every year, the vast majority kept in a closet out of fear, threats, and intimidation. Worse yet, the most common reason for closing an elder abuse case is the death of a victim.
But this apparently is not the case with Rayner Magee, who has several bed sores, pneumonia and MRSA, I’m told.
“I understand his Parkinson’s was going to take a toll, but what do his feet, bedsores and wounds have to do with his disease?” Curtis said.
“Yes, my husband’s life is horrible now — he’s dying — but he lived like a king,” Sandra countered. “I don’t need these false claims and headaches at this time.”
Like I said, this story has several sides and, hopefully, before Magee’s death, his two families can come together. They’re not alone in such cases, I’ve learned through the years.
For more on this issue, tune in to my Casual Fridays radio show today at noon on WLPR, 89.1-FM, streaming at http://lakeshorepublicmedia.org/local-programs/casual-fridays/.
On a broader scale, alleged cases of elder abuse are preventable and maybe this column will prompt someone to file a report and call Indiana APS at (800) 992-6978, or 911.