Pulitzer Prize

Spineless inaction: the bystander effect

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Courageous or spineless? Our actions, or inactions, decide | Opinion | The Seattle Times.

“Someone else will step in.”

“My God, this is horrible; someone should really do something!”

That someone is you and me.

from "The Colors and Letters of Jen Elek and Jeremy Bert" (Seattle)
from “The Colors and Letters of Jen Elek and Jeremy Bert” (Seattle)

In the attached article from today’s Seattle Times newspaper, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, Leonard Pitts Jr., poses a question that all of us should readily be able to answer.  If you see someone in need of help, do you wait for someone else to do the right thing, or do you step in?  Do you need to look to other people, watching the same emergency situation as you, to receive the correct “cue” as to what is required of you?  No, each of us should assume that if I don’t help this person, no one else will.  That’s what Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged us to do when, during one of his speeches, he relayed the story of the Good Samaritan from the Bible.

Pardon my paraphrase, but his message went something like this:

When I happen upon someone in obvious need of assistance, instead of hesitating and wondering what will happen to me if I render assistance, I should be asking myself, “What will happen to this person if I don’t stop and help?”

Some needs are obvious as detailed in one of the stories in Mr. Pitts’ article: Just outside of a New Jersey McDonald’s restaurant, a female McDonald’s worker was savagely beaten by a co-worker who was upset because the other woman gossiped about her.  During the beating, no one stepped in to help.  While the crowd exclaimed over what they saw – and even took photos and videos of the beating – the only person who came to this victim’s aide was her two-year old son who did what he could to get the mean woman off of his mommy.  Not one person at this McDonald’s eatery called 911.  I encourage you to read Mr. Pitts’ account to learn the outcome of this story.

Some needs aren’t as evident: in the heat of a summer’s day, you see an elderly man walking down the street when you leave the house to do some errands, and on your return trip a couple hours later, this same elderly man is sitting on a boulder at the side of the road – a bewildered look upon his face.  That’s when you need to trust your gut.  You say to yourself, “This isn’t right.  This guy must be lost and most certainly could be dehydrated,” and so you pull over the car.  I wrote an article last summer on this very subject matter, Trust your gut!, resultant from an experience that reinforced my belief that if something feels wrong, it is wrong.

Whether a need is obvious or not-so-obvious, you’re the someone who needs to step up to meet that need.  Life is too precious to be an apathetic bystander.

Seattle Times: Seniors for Sale, Part 4

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Seniors for Sale, Part 4: Suspicious Deaths

It doesn’t get much worse than the video attached above.  Two suspicious deaths are the focus of this episode of the Seniors for Sale series.  The two cases discussed in this video occurred at the same Adult Family Home (AFH), Houghton Lakeview, located in a very swank area of Kirkland, Washington.  It goes without saying that this Adult Family Home was shut down.

The Seal of Washington, Washington's state seal.
The Seal of Washington, Washington’s state seal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Family members whose loved ones died at the hands of these caregivers speak out about how the abuse was discovered, and how the State of Washington did, or did not, effectively respond.

One of the family members whose father died at the hands of the caregiver/owner of the Adult Family Home poignantly stated:

It’s unfathomable to realize that we were paying these people to abuse our loved one!

Conviction results (attached) of one of the suspicious deaths was reported by the same Pulitzer Prize winner, Michael Berens, who wrote the series, Seniors for Sale.

Seattle Times: Seniors for Sale, Part 3

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What Needs to be Done?  is the subject matter of Part 3 of  Seniors for Sale.  In this episode, the viewer is encouraged to do research about a facility, Adult Family Home or otherwise, prior to considering a move to that senior housing alternative.  In my article, “Avoiding the pitfalls of selecting Senior Housing,” I provide helpful resources that everyone can use in order to find out:

  • if any complaints have been filed against a particular home;
  • if the State issued any citations, and the nature of those citations;
  • if the Long-Term Care Ombudsman office received particular complaints and the nature of those complaints.
The Seal of Washington, Washington's state seal.
The Seal of Washington, Washington’s state seal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No one has to go into this housing search blind.  Please view the very brief video provided in Part 3 of this Pulitzer Prize winning series by Michael Berens of the Seattle Times, then click on the attached article that I’ve provided for your assistance.  Although the links I provided relate to resources in the State of Washington, similar resources exist nation-wide.  Check with your State Ombudsman office or Department of Health and Social Services for your State’s equivalent.

Seattle Times: Seniors for Sale, Part 1

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My local newspaper ran an investigative report about the Adult Family Home (AFH) industry in Washington State.  Depending upon where you live, a similar  assisted living home may be called a Group Home.

The Seal of Washington, Washington's state seal.
The Seal of Washington, Washington’s state seal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Washington State, no more than 6 residents can live in an Adult Family Home.  These “businesses” popped up all over Washington State over the past several years as entrepreneurs realized how much money they could make taking in residents and charging thousands for rent and resident care.  At this writing, there are close to 2,900 AFHs in the state.  Since 2010, 446 of those were cited for violations of health or safety standards.  Caveat: there are many Adult Family Homes that are doing an extraordinary job, but it’s the bad ones that make the Headlines and that’s the way it should be.

June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month.  I thought it appropriate to provide Michael Berens’ series, “Seniors for Sale” in six parts this week, but I provide it with a warning that this Pulitzer Prize winning expose can be very difficult to read, and watch.  Nevertheless, awareness is key, so I hope all will benefit from his extensive work on this piece.  Whether you live in the United States, Singapore, the United Kingdom, or elsewhere globally, abuse occurs world-wide and it’s the vulnerable adults in this world who are its targets.

Seniors for Sale – I provide this link to Part 1 of the series – “Ann.”