Of the 60,000 military personnel present for the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941, about 3,000 are still alive.
Seventy-four of them belong to the San Diego Chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. Their numbers are rapidly declining and the vast majority of them are in their late 80s or 90s. They are a national treasure, a link to an important place and time in American history. When they are gone, this living link will die with them. During their days on earth, they should be afforded the utmost respect and gratitude this nation has to offer.
In many ways, I’m sure 93 year old Arnold V. “Max” Bauer would consider himself a “typical” but proud Pearl Harbor survivor. He has a special Pearl Harbor survivor’s license plate on his car. He appeared in a documentary about the attack in 2009. Now he is in the news again, but for all the wrong reasons. After his wife of 62 years died in 2007, he grew frail and a caregiver, 63-year-old Milagros Angeles, moved into his suburban San Diego County home.
In 2011, Angeles was arrested when sheriff’s deputies discovered she and Bauer were living in unimaginable squalor. Alert employees at Bauer’s Chase Bank branch became suspicious about the absence of activity on his account and reported it to authorities. Caregiver Angeles is being held responsible and has been charged with several felony counts of elder abuse. She had pled not guilty and awaits trial.
This episode is so painful to me on several levels. First, that one of our nation’s most venerable and noble citizens should ever be subjected to this kind of treatment. I ask myself, of all the neighbors and acquaintances I see quoted as having some vague idea of Bauer’s decline, why did none ever really check into the situation? Why were his two adult children unaware of what was going on? Why isn’t there a stronger safety net for our nation’s veterans?
But even more so, as the president and founder of a private duty home care agency for 27 years, I can tell you without a doubt that this should not have happened. Not if whoever hired Angeles as Bauer’s caretaker had been diligent in doing his or her homework and hiring a caregiver from a reputable, accredited agency that does background checks on all its employees and maintains independent supervision of them. I recently published a checklist with the type of questions a person should ask before hiring a caregiver. You can find them at this link: http://bit.ly/AYHFchoosingcaregiver
My great fear is that unless we educate ourselves and remain vigilant as a society, this problem is only going to grow worse as the “Silver Tsunami” of aging Baby Boomers hits. Elder abuse experts agree. Seniors and their loved ones may not be aware of a gradual decline and may be reluctant to accept reality, or unable to plan for needed care. They can be taken advantage of, most often by family or by “trusted others” including caregivers. But for many, private caregiving in the home is all that’s needed to prevent or at least prolong the time before more intensive assisted living is necessary. Everyone wants to stay in his or her home as long as possible. As taxpayers, we should aggressively embrace this model of senior care, because it is the most cost effective as well as the most humane.
The good news is this: it is possible with minimal assistance from a professional caregiver provided through a reputable organization for seniors to stay safely in their homes and maintain their autonomy, dignity, and independence. We must as a society devote more resources to this type of support, by far the most cost-effective and most humane way to care for the men and women who devoted themselves to their family and to their nation. We owe them this much.
Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!