By THOMAS DAIL
DAILY NEWS STAFF
The condition of a disabled woman whose caretaker has been charged with felony neglect improved Thursday, and she was moved from Onslow Memorial Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit.
According to a statement from Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown, the 42-year-old woman who suffers from multiple sclerosis told investigators Thursday she was unhappy that her caretaker, William A. Hall, 21, of 507 Sarah Court, has been charged with neglect of a disabled person.
“The victim displayed displeasure with Mr. Hall being charged,” the statement reads.
Hall was charged Wednesday after the woman, whose name has not been released, was taken to Onslow Memorial Hospital with a severe rash and sores. He was also charged with misdemeanor counts of possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
Due to the effects of medication, the woman was unable to speak to detectives after she was admitted to the hospital’s ICU Wednesday morning. She was taken to the hospital after a neighbor found her slumped over in a wheelchair in front of her house on Sarah Court.
According to the sheriff’s report, the Onslow County Department of Social Services had tried to offer the woman services on several occasions, but she refused.
Agenda Turner, social work program administrator, said she could not acknowledge any DSS involvement in the case, but said adult protective services has little recourse if an elderly person or disabled adult refuses services.
“Our approach is to try to sell the services to the clientele to promote their betterment and to enhance their function within their home environment,” she said.
They offer a variety of services from home health care and hospice to part-time nursing and respite care.
“We have a continuum of services to help individuals maintain their independence,” she said. “Because these services are voluntary, one has the right to refuse them.”
As long as the prospective client has the capacity to make decisions for themselves, DSS must respect those decisions. Social workers make the initial call. Any further questions about a client’s capacity must come through a second opinion from a mental health professional or an attending physician.
According to Brown’s statement, the woman in this case had no problem making decisions for herself and was relatively independent.
“The victim can walk but falls sometimes,” Brown’s statement says. “She is capable of handling medicine and medical needs.”
That often puts social workers from adult protective services in the position of salesmen, Turner said. Like salesmen, those social workers must find ways to customize services to fit each individual’s needs without being intrusive.
“Despite our findings, if that person has the capacity and tells us they do not want services, we can’t invade their privacy,” she said.
Typically, disabled or elderly adults will refuse care in an attempt to preserve their independence and privacy.
“They want to maintain their independence and their dignity,” she said.
“So we have to customize the services to meet their needs. The power of
persuasion is our best tool.”
© 2001 Jacksonville Daily News