May is Elder Abuse Awareness Month. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging, in 2009 there were 39.6 million Americans age 65 or older. Over the next 10 years, the number of people 65 or older will increase by almost 30 percent according to National Public Radio Business. By 2030, less than 20 years from now, there will be about 72.1 million people in that category. Medicine and scientific improvements are helping people live longer lives, but certain aspects of aging are still not amenable to treatment.
Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia are unstoppable ailments that occur in the elderly. Once symptoms of Alzheimer's appear, the process cannot be reversed. The Alzheimer's Association reports that 1 in 3 seniors dies with the disease or some form of dementia. While dying with dementia is different than dying from dementia, these numbers show just how pervasive the disease is. Dementia is one aspect of the aging process that merits more and more attention. It is estimated that 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer's or dementia at this time. That number is expected to grow to 13.8 million by 2050.
Casey Kasem and his family have been in the news recently for possible elder abuse issues. His daughters and wife are battling for conservatorship powers and Kasem himself was missing for a short time. Kasem's daughters allege that his wife has been isolating him from his family. Kasem suffers from Parkinson's disease, and possible also Parkinson's related dementia.
It is still unclear exactly what is happening with the case involving DJ legend Casey Kasem, but as a recent case that has been filed in Chicago illustrates, a diagnosis of dementia does not prevent elder abuse. Having a valid will or trust along with a power of attorney can help prevent disaster, as even caregivers are not always trustworthy. Retired city engineer Marshall Davies was almost 90 when a nursing assistant, Carmelita Pasamba, at St. Joseph Hospital offered to be his caregiver after suffering a hip injury. Davies had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's a year earlier.
According to the Chicago Tribune and local prosecutors, three months after she began his at-home care, Pasamba hired an attorney affiliated with the Filipino community to draft a power-of-attorney order, a will and a trust document that gave her control over Davies' assets. She made her husband the executor of the will and named herself as trustee, prosecutors said. Her family and charities affiliated with her attorney were listed as the main beneficiaries of the trust, according to the charges. Pasamba wrote herself checks from the estate as power of attorney totaling $55,000. Pasamba also sold Davies' condo for $189,000 and kept $50,000 as a "bonus" for herself. For her 3 ½ years as part time caregiver for Davies, Pasamba also paid herself $170,000. Pasamba also hired her daughter and sister to help give Davies 24-hour care.
While Davies' estate was being pilfered from under his nose, other workers at St. Joseph were gossiping about Pasamba's new-found wealth. While no one reported their suspicions, as required by law, everyone seemed to know something was going on.
Attorney Alphonso Bascos, the lawyer who drafted the documents, stated he was unaware of the Alzheimer's diagnosis. Bascos states that he "asked Mr. Davies if he read the document, if he understood it, and he said, Yes." While
Pasamba, 62, who worked for 15 years as a nursing assistant at St. Joseph, was charged with financial exploitation of a senior citizen, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison, prosecutors said Friday. She was held on a $350,000 cash bail, the same amount of money allegedly siphoned from Davies' estate. Pasamba's sister Jocelyn Vargas Baker and husband Edgardo Pasamba have also been charged. Davies is now 94 and living in a North Side assisted-living facility.