Monday, March 09, 2009

One More Question: Waiting for the Call, part 3

I didn't ask if I could record the conversation on my blog, so I won't. You don't want people in uniforms to get angry with you. Let's just say that I had a visit with two people who were investigating the abuse of a senior by a paid 'aide'. They are taking the crime very seriously and they took me very seriously as a witness. I was able to describe what I saw vividly, they seemed pleased.

On they way out the 'Woman in Blue' said, "One more question, why did your note to her tell her to call the police not the agency. I would think that most people would have thought of us second, if they thought of us at all."

I said, "You'd both better sit down."

For the next 20 minutes I talked about the work I've been doing with Vita Community Living Services. The changes that we are making in an organized and thoughtful effort to become abuse free - and if not abuse free, to become an organization that is actively hostile towards abuse. While we have made many changes towards that effort, what we have done hangs on our abuse reporting policy. Any front line staff who witness abuse, or has abuse reported to them needs to understand that they have witnessed a crime or have had a crime reported to them. The organization that investigates crime is the police. Any organization that investigates itself is fraudulent in their responsibility to safety, therefore staff report the crime to the police FIRST and to the agency second. Staff are trained to leave off questioning and leave off investigation, their job is support. SUPPORT. Not investigation.

Criminals are caught by police and convicted by courts. There is no room for agency politics, agency fears, agency misrepresentation. None.

I knew, I just knew, if that old lady had called the agency nothing would happen, or worse, she'd be in more danger than ever. You reach "out" for help. You need the protection of an "outsider" when the crime is committed by an "insider" ... this is a simple concept. Agencies that do not have the courage to be open I believe need someone to come along with the jaws of life and pry them open. Agencies that have manangement without the will to be open I believe need to have the top pruned so that healthy growth within can occur.

Cop eyes are hard eyes. But the ones that looked at me softened for a moment when she said, "You realize, you may have saved her life."

I do.

That was my intent.


rickismom said...

I am very moved by this. Thannks for making a difference in her life... and in ours.

Jen said...

Thank you- we need more people like you. Two of my kids are going to be in community living when they're adults, and abuse, no matter where or when it happens, needs to be reported as a crime.

I hope that you are giving yourself a little bit of extra credit for this, because you deserve it. I know that it's what any decent person should have done, but you actually did it.

Anonymous said...

You amaze me.

painting with fire said...

I've been reading/telling this story to my kids as a real life example of someone having the smarts and the integrity to stand up for someone in danger. You're a terrific role model! My teens have a strong sense of justice and were aghast when I read them your first entry on this subject. We hear so many horrible things and what was happening to that lady was horrible, no mistake. It's really heartening to see the difference you've made.

foodie4access said...

Every addition to this story is riveting.

Your courage in this instant has indeed brought an end to a case of abuse. Hopefully, it will make that agency more accountable for their employees and set in motion ways to combat abuse, inform employees and clients of the law.

Anonymous said...

I have to post this anonymously. I work in an elder services agency that has a program to investigate/intervene in reports of elder abuse/neglect/selfneglect in our area. The woman who supervises the program does NOT truly believe that people can and DO intentionally hurt others!
The bias to 'blame the victim' and question motives as a way to maintain personal and social denial of the reality of abuse is SO pervasive, and is the key factor in maintaining the silence about abuse.

Brenda said...

Can I just say that I'm really proud of you? You just keep on educating, planting those seeds of thought whenever you get the chance, don't you? Even to the police investigating this case that - if it were not for you - wouldn't even BE a case. That dear lady was so fortunate to have crossed paths with you, and so are we. Thanks, again, for keeping us in the loop!

FridaWrites said...

In the US, there are adult protective services and it is very specifically a crime to abuse disabled or elderly people, just as with children (not that it's legal to abuse others, only that there are some additional protections). But I doubt most people know about this. And calling the police is still a good option.

Kate said...

Another very powerful story. Thanks for sharing. All of your posts are so moving.

This may sound small in comparison with what you have done and written about, but I was thinking about you at the grocery store yesterday.

I saw a woman who was elderly and very kind to me the last time I had been there. I was a bit flustered, stressed out, overwhelmed, by my shopping experience.

I asked her to pack the bags lightly since I can't carry anything heavy.

She said Of course, smiled at me, her eyes showed compassion instead of the strange bewilderment most people's eyes show.

When the checkout was complete, she and the other person working that line made sure all the bags were in my cart in the way I wanted them. They helped me find an item I needed to get out seperately.

When I got home and lifted the bags, it was the first time in months I hadn't hurt my back from lifting grocery bags. No one in my life had ever packed my bags more perfectly, with more care and thought. She grouped each food together; seperate the heavy ones; result was all of my food in six perfectly light bags.

It might have been a small thing, but it brought a smile to my face.

Three weeks later, Saturday, I was in the store again. When I saw this lady, I had to go up to her and say something. I usually don't, but I thought "I need to go and tell her what a good job she did. I bet she doesn't get appreciated much in this job, and it's my responsibility to to tell her she did a good job."

So I went up to her and said "Hi" first and then "You were so kind to me last time, you did such a good job with my bags, I just wanted you to know that" and then left, embarassed. She thanked me, but I couldn't tell what the look in her face meant. She seemed a bit perplexed, puzzled. I worried that I had sounded condescending. I worried that it was condescending to thank a bagger for bagging well; I mean, it's not usually a job one thinks of as high skilled; but she really did do a good job.
Was I right or wrong to go and thank her for it?

I'd like to think I did a good thing, but like I said, after, I wasn't sure. I wasn't sure if it was taken in the spirit in which I had intended. Hopefully, it was, and I tried to do my part.

Uniqueisfab said...

Well done Dave and well done the lady. Two brave people who inspire us all.
I hope the perpatrator of this abuse never works with vulnerable people again.
I wish you both strength for any future involvement.


Anonymous said...

Bravo Dave! And Kate, I think you did a wonderful thing by thanking that bagger. Maybe she was just distracted and didn't remember who you were at the moment.

Most people find it very easy to complain when they don't like something, I wish they would find it just as easy to compliment others the way you did. Thank you for doing that.


Anonymous said...

score one for the good guys

Theresa said...

Good work Dave.

Anonymous said...

It is so good to know how this story played out.

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...


Yes, there are laws that are supposed to protect elderly people in the US from abuse: You can report adult abuse cases to Adult Protective Services in the same way that you can report child abuse cases to Child Protective Services.

BUT, about a decade ago, when I needed to report a suspect situation to adult protective services, I found that adult cases only need to be investigated within 10 days of being reported--not within 24 hours as for child abuse cases. And if the adult is a deaf person who needs a sign language interpreter, then the agency I spoke to at least at that time simply did not have interpreters. This delayed their attempts to interview the client until well after the 10 days had expired, I think at least twice over. (This was already nearly a decade after the Americans with Disabilities Act had created the LEGAL REQUIREMENT for public service agencis and other entities to be accessible to people with disabilities, including the provision of sign language interpreters, so they were badly in violation of law and I told them so ... I never had the chance to follow up, I was an intern then and left the agency not very long afterwards when my internship period came to an end, so I don't know what happened next :-( )

Anonymous said...


Sending you thoughts of big bouquets of flowers Dave - and some for the woman for standing up for herself too!

: ) E

burntout said...

OMG...Thank You so much for writting this. I have been feeling, or made to feel that I am just over reacting at work..I agree 100% that any abuse or complaints of abuse should be reported and investigated by the police.