Barbara Wogh, RN Senior Advocate
I have wanted to be a nurse ever since I was a little girl. When I was five years old, I remember tending to my father after he had cut himself with a chef's knife. The sight of blood did not bother me and I instinctively knew what to do. I became a registered nurse in 1998. During my hospital career, I worked in various critical care departments, so I have seen my share of older folks at the end of their lives and their families' struggles with managing their care in and out of the hospital.
My Journey Begins
In 2008, my aging mother, who had Alzheimer's, was increasingly frail and in need of more care than my 81-year-old stepfather could provide. Many of you have faced a similar challenge: I was married, a parent with two young children, running a CPR business, and I lived over 2800 miles away. I traveled across the country with and without my children to visit and to make arrangements for my mother that couldn't be made over the phone. When I wasn’t able to be there, I would call to check in with them, and then worry while I went about my days. It was stressful, to say the least.
During one of my visits, it became clear that my mother needed in-home care. With my nursing experience, and the time I’d spent working with many nurses' aides over the years, I felt qualified to choose the right home care agency for my mom. I researched several companies. The agency I eventually chose provided a live-in aide to keep my mother safe at night when she would wander.
The agency promised me time and again that they would take good care of my mother. Before I signed the contract, I asked the right questions, repeatedly: Do you do background checks on your employees? How often? Are all of your aides certified? What types of continuing education and/or training are your aides required to have? On and on.
Things Go Downhill Fast
Within two months of signing a home care contract, it became obvious that our nurse's aide, the one that I trusted to care for my mom and her husband in my absence, was a felon. A predator. She was supposed to be their “caregiver,” but instead, she took advantage of the fact that neither I, nor my siblings, nor my stepfather's family lived in the same state as my mother and her husband. The caregiver was creating chaos, telling lies, and stealing jewelry and money. She was expert at creating a false bond with my mother's husband by promising abundant care and companionship. She incited fear and dependence by making his family out to be the enemy. She isolated him and berated him.
After my mother died in 2012 and most of the money was gone, the “caregiver” tricked my stepfather into marrying her, got her name added to the deed to the house, sold everything he owned for cash, and took out a life insurance policy on him (he was 85 years old at the time).
We found out that at the time the caregiver was placed into my mom's home, the home care company was aware that she was wanted on two felony charges and had already been convicted of two misdemeanors (having already spent seven days in jail for the misdemeanor offense of driving on a suspended license). The felony warrants were for auto theft and check fraud. The home care company also knew that the caregiver had lied on her employment application about never being convicted of a misdemeanor, but kept her employed in 24-hour home care which is the most unsupervised position available.
My mother and her husband were abused, neglected, and financially exploited. It was hard to take because the caregiver quit the agency right after I started putting the pieces together. The agency was not taking any responsibility. All I could do to protect my mother was remove her from the home and place her in a Alzheimer's care facility. She and my stepfather were high school sweethearts who married late in life, so he had grown children of his own. It was out of my hands and it was like watching a train wreck.
The Bright Side
When my mother knew that she was getting Alzheimer's as her father had, she asked me to take care of things for her and to help her husband with her care management. I was able to fulfill my promise and keep her safe, but I wish that I would have been aware of the red flags in the caregiver's behavior that became so clear to me after the fact. Managing your parents’ care is an emotional experience that can cloud your judgment and dampen your instincts. Although my siblings and I couldn't have foreseen half of what happened, I now know what we could have done to prevent it.
As I write this, my siblings and I and my stepfather's children are involved in a lawsuit with the home care agency that placed a felon in their home as their “caregiver.” This was to be their helper and another layer of protection. What we got was over 6 years of angst, worry, and asset loss to the tune of 1.5 million dollars. This is not something that I want to happen to anyone else. Once something like this happens, it's impossible to undo.
As an independent RN Senior Advocate, I can help you help your aging parents. While you are simultaneously raising your family and caring for your parents, you will benefit from my objective assistance in finding the best help for your parents without sacrificing your irreplaceable time with your family. You won't have to undertake the time-consuming legwork involved in managing your parents' healthcare and/or facility placement while trying to keep them safe. Your stress, fear, and confusion will be reduced so you can make the best decision possible. I am passionately dedicated to helping you find the best possible care within your budget/insurance constraints. You will learn how to protect seniors from fraud and deceptive caregivers. You don't have to do it all alone!
I hold a Bachelor of Arts (BA) Degree in Communications from Michigan State University and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing (BSN) from Arizona State University. I have been a Registered Nurse in the state of California since 1998. I also hold a certificate as an Independent RN Patient Advocate (iRNPA) from the University of Arizona. Most importantly, I am passionate about seniors (especially those with Alzheimer's and dementia) and their families receiving the quality of care that they deserve, safe from the threat of predators or inadequate caregivers.
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