Families face fears when putting elderly relatives into nursing homes

Jasper, AL (WIAT) – A group representing the interests of the elderly is pushing for new laws to help protect seniors in Alabama nursing homes. Among the fears: abuse and neglect.

Reporter Melissa
Crabtree spoke with older parents and their adult children about the
fears they're coping with when it comes to caring for seniors.

Bo and Eilleen Chamness are celebrating 65 years of marriage.

Now
that Eileen quit driving a year and a half ago and Bo is legally blind,
daughter Karen Miller is dealing with the shifting roles we all
eventually face.

Miller explains, “They've almost become like my children again.  They totally depend on someone else for all their needs.”

Miller
says when it became physically and medically impossible to take care of
her grandmother, the family had to put her in a nursing home. Her concerns about it still linger to this day.

“Sometimes people in that profession they get cold to things they see everyday I know it happens all the time,” Miller says.

Her parents still live independently in their own home, but she's prepared for them to live with her.

Miller says, “A nursing home would be my last option.  It's hard for me to even think about that right now.”

Director Joann Elmer has become a friend and confidant to many of these seniors.

Elmer explains, “They're
losing their independence and that's the reason I stress until that
time comes it may benefit everyone to get out and enjoy activities with
places like the senior center.”

Elmer says too often once seniors
enter nursing homes the responsibility to check on them falls on one son
or daughter. She says the only way to avoid abuse and neglect is
constant visitation by family and friends.

“Let that person know you're going to be there.  That you haven't forsaken them,” Elmer says.

For now Bo and Eileen are content to dance just like they did back in 1947.

The Silver Haired Legislature is asking Alabama lawmakers to pass laws help keep senior citizens safe in nursing homes.

Among
the group's proposals: a law requiring nursing homes to alert residents
and their family members if a convicted sex offender is admitted into
the facility.