“The work of our department is challenging. We are the safety net for Florida’s most vulnerable children and families. But with the challenges of our work come great rewards. Our vision is this – to deliver world-class and continuously improving service at the level and quality that we would demand and expect for our own families.” — Secretary Mike Carroll
Here is a note from a community partner about one of our Adult Protective Investigators. The partner organization worked with DCF on behalf of a resident who needed to be moved to an Assisted Living Facility (ALF) to receive the care she needed:
“The protective investigator went above and beyond any DCF Investigator I have ever worked with. There was not one day we were not in contact with each other and the physician in an attempt to ensure [the resident] was taken care of. Many other DCF Investigators would have rightfully taken the fact that the physician had not completed the paper[work] within 30 days, and closed the case. This physician (who made the initial complaint) tried to minimize and skate around any responsibility for his patient. The API absolutely refused to allow this and held him accountable for his report and his lack of action. She contacted anyone and everyone who could assist with acquiring the necessary paperwork. We brainstormed daily about how and what we could do to ensure [the resident] did not ‘fall through the cracks.’ When I say to you she went above and beyond, I am NOT exaggerating. This lady was like a bulldog advocating and fighting for [the resident] and the care she required.”
The community partner said the API even assisted in packing the patient’s belongings, and reassured the resident who was feeling distressed about the move.
This API’s determination to make a difference is truly what made a difference.
Guest post by DCF Central Office Communications Director Carrie Proudfit.
When Mark MacGregor, owner of Physical Therapy Specialists in Central Florida, reached out to me he had one simple question – who can we help this holiday? My first thought was Jay*, an Orlando resident who was immediately in need of help.
Jay is no stranger to the Adult Protective Services Team in Central Florida. Case managers in the area regularly check on the senior, now in his 80s, who requires the use of a wheel chair for mobility.
This year, the holiday was expected to be especially difficult for Jay after he was served with an eviction notice – effective Dec. 26, the day after Christmas. The home was beyond repair. So with just a short couple of weeks before the move date, adult protection case managers went to work, looking for the best possible living arrangement for the senior. Originally, the plan was for him to move in with a loved one, but when that fell through just days before Christmas, adult protection had to come up with backup plan. The set back was coupled with some of Jay’s ongoing medical needs requiring him to be hospitalized. While adult protective service team members worked on Jay’s basic needs, a complete stranger, with the help of a few little elves, hoped to help make this holiday just a bit brighter for him.
Mark MacGregor and his partners, who own several physical therapy clinics in Central Florida, have made it their mission to help others through their work, but this holiday they wanted to reach a bit beyond the daily job that they do for others. MacGregor and his family, team, as well as patients, decided to forgo the traditional Santa exchanges among the office. This year they were looking to make a difference in the life of another, perhaps someone who hadn’t even asked. Word spread at Physical Therapy Specialists and response from the team as well as patients was amazing.
While DCF’s Orlando Adult Protective Services Team worked to secure new housing for Jay, Physical Therapy Specialists took on those extra little things to make him more comfortable: new socks, new clothes, food, and all the other daily necessities that might require trips to the store, which isn’t so easy for him. In addition to the items, a note, man to man, from Mark MacGregor – expressing thanks for the opportunity to give Jay a hand up, grateful to be in a position to help. PTS is but one example of how many businesses are now incorporating philanthropy into their portfolio.
Today, after being released from the hospital with no possessions other than his hospital gown, the DCF team delivered the gifts from PTS. Now Jay, with a new home and new belongings, feels the promise of a New Year and has hope for the future.
*name changed for privacy reasons.
Guest post by Dawn Shumaker Smith, DCF Circuit 1 Adult Protective Investigator Supervisor in Northwest Florida. This post is in recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15.
DCF responded to more than 64,000 reports of abuse of seniors and adults with disabilities last year. Many of the reports involve self-neglect, when vulnerable adults are no longer able to provide for their own health and safety. DCF helps them get the help they need and deserve.
Escambia Adult Investigations received a report regarding a 62-year-old vulnerable lady with organic brain syndrome related to brain cancer. Chemotherapy further damaged her brain and caused severe short-term memory loss. She wanders away from home, gets lost, forgets to eat for days and gives shady people blank checks for unnecessary things. She walks away from the stove, forgetting she is cooking. She does not know where she is or where her children are. There are concerns for her safety and susceptibility for financial exploitation.
This remarkable lady’s history is stunning. She was a decorated naval officer, an activist and lover of her cats. She was an actress, even starring in a movie with Tom Cruise. She built an amazing career and never got married. She saved her money, invested well and became a millionaire. She adopted two children. But all was not well. She was living in California when she learned she had brain cancer. When her father became extremely ill, she packed up her kids for a quick trip to Pensacola visit with him.
It was not long after her arrival that her father, her only living blood relative, passed away. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months and before long, child protective services was knocking on her door about the children not being in school and missing appointments. She could not manage to get her thoughts to tell people she needed to make her way home to California. The missed appointments and other issues compounded, and the children were no longer able to safely remain in her care and were placed in a foster home. Her world was literally falling apart and she could not understand why. Her failing memory meant she could not comprehend her own limitations and what was happening around her.
Our Adult Protective Investigators reached out to her. It was apparent she was not eating, taking medication or paying bills. Valuable items were disappearing from the home, taken from her by people who were allegedly taking them to a charitable agency. Food items in the pantry and refrigerator were moldy, old and spoiled. Her clothes were falling off her.
Investigators decided that she needed to be removed from the home for her own safety but she had no family to care for her needs. The people that she had given blank checks to were the people she wanted to stay with. This wasn’t an option because it would have only further exposed her to financial exploitation. She didn’t have easy access to her bank accounts in California to pay sitters to help her remain safely at home but her accounts remained active. She was paying $1,000 a week for someone to care for her cats in California. She had paid $50,000 to replace a perfectly good kitchen floor in her father’s home simply because someone came to the door and offered to do it. We knew this woman needed medical attention and brought her to the hospital, where she was admitted for a few days.
In the meantime, our agency petitioned the courts for emergency protective services. We arranged for her admission to a local assisted living facility upon discharge from the hospital. We were happy to arrange supervised visitation with her children. Lutheran Services of Florida became her guardian and worked toward corralling her assets and ridding her of the seedy characters in her life. Under our protective supervision, she got better and became more accepting of her guardian. Our collective goal was to get her safely back into the community.
Her guardian made arrangements for 24-hour sitters, housekeepers and lawn care and turned the utilities back on at her father’s house. The home was filled with healthy and fresh food for her and the visiting children. It was time for her to return home, but not to California. She was, however, safely and securely back into a regular home environment. She could see her children once again regularly and was reunited with her pets to aid in her recovery.
Today, she remains at home with the help of 24-hour attendants and the support of Lutheran Services and her neighbors. Her medical needs are being met and slowing the progression of the disease. She can now hold her head high with pride for the remarkable progress she has made and the life she has lived.
This story is true, albeit unusual because this vulnerable adult had the financial resources and medical insurance to help pull her out. In many Adult Protective Services situations, that is not the case. Many vulnerable adults must choose between food and medication each month. Their choices sometimes have an immediate impact on their health. Frequently, family members are the alleged perpetrators, taking the liquid resources available. Often, DCF intervenes when adult children would rather have momma or grandpa home so they can use their Social Security checks instead of using their resources to meet their everyday needs. DCF’s Adult Protective Services ensures that obstacles encountered by the vulnerable adult are not permanent.
A vulnerable adult’s safety is so critically important. You can help. Take a stand in the fight against elder abuse.
Guest post by Adult Protective Services Human Services Counselor Lori Scott in Opa Locka.
After nearly 70 years, the man had accomplished much, including proudly serving in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years.
By the time we were notified about him, he was living in a small efficiency unit in an older building. The floors and walls were dirty. The bathroom floors and fixtures were covered in dirt and stained with mold and mildew. The refrigerator and freezer were also dirty with food stains. The entire unit needed a thorough cleaning, but he was unable to do this because of health conditions: He had a toe amputated from his right foot in March 2012. He also suffers from chronic leg pains that make it difficult for him to stand or walk for long periods of time. He receives all medical care from the Veterans Hospital in Miami.
The veteran had very little food in the home and no money to purchase food. He receives a military pension each month, but has a garnishment from the IRS and rent, which leaves him a small amount of money to purchase food and personal items during the month.
He has no family members living in Miami, so he relies on friends and the VA Hospital for transportation to his medical appointments. He does not have a home phone or cell phone, which makes it difficult for him to arrange transportation.
DCF was able to come in and help him by providing chore services that performed intensive cleaning of his entire home. He was also given daily meals and homemaker services to assist him with daily cleaning. The veteran also received a SafeLink cell phone that allows him to make contact with others when needed. He continues to receive ongoing meals that the Department arranged through Jewish Community Services. We also assisted him in completing an application for food stamps and will assist him with applying for social security benefits as well.
DCF Adult Protective Services becomes involved with vulnerable adults who suffer from neglect or abuse. This man wasn’t suffering abuse at the hands of another person, but was a victim of self-neglect.
Since DCF provided help, the veteran has expressed his gratitude for the services and ongoing assistance he received. The delivery of meals each day and a cell phone to stay in contact with others have provided some relief to the stress that he has endured for the last several months. We were happy to help!
If you or someone you know are suffering because of any kind of abuse or neglect, please call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-962-2873.