Last year, Kathy Coleman (pictured right) and her husband decided that their age prevented them from providing their 31-year-old son, Cameron, with the care he needed, reports KCBS-TV, so they hired Jay Nolan Community Services to find their son a home and provide around-the-clock care. But last summer, Kathy started noticing bruises on her son's body and that he seemed frightened of his caregivers. So she decided to install hidden cameras in his Los Angeles home. The footage she uncovered would devastate any mother, purportedly showing her son's caregivers beating, taunting and spitting on him.
The Colemans have filed a civil suit against Jay Nolan Community Services, the company that they hired to provide in-home care for their son. Cameron reportedly has a form of nonverbal autism and the mental capacity of a 3-year-old. Her attorney, Steve Gambardella, called the abuse in the footage "tantamount to torture."
When Kathy Coleman confronted the home's managers, they allegedly responded by rifling through her son's room to try to destroy the evidence, Gambardella told the station. Two workers have been fired in connection to the alleged abuse, one has been arrested, the arrest of the other is pending, and a warrant is expected to be issued for another, the station reported.
"We understand that incidents are being reported that certain conduct fell below the high standards we hold," Jay Nolan said in a statement. "Any such claim is taken very seriously ... and this reported conduct was immediately communicated to adult protective services and the police."
Families are increasingly employing in-home caregivers; as the baby boom generation ages, more and more families are broken up geographically, and both women and men work full-time. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 70 percent growth in home health and personal care aides between 2010 and 2020. But the intimate and unsupervised nature of the work, and the inability of many of the elderly and disabled people in care to speak out, makes it particularly vulnerable to abuse. Last month, a woman also claims to have uncovered caregiver abuse with a camera that she hid in the plant pot in her 89-year-old grandmother's nursing-home room. "the silent epidemic among us," after a report came out documenting 34,000 cases of such abuse in the prior year, ranging from physical and sexual violence to financial exploitation and neglect.
But exploitation and abuse can work in the reverse direction, too. Caregivers are primarily women of color, often undocumented immigrants, who labor in isolation with few legal protections. A national survey last year by the National Domestic Workers Alliance found that 1 in 4 domestic workers, which includes nannies and housecleaners in addition to caregivers, were paid below their state's minimum wage, and 1 in 3 said they had been insulted, verbally assaulted or threatened in the past 12 months.
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