Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Synchronicity, Plumbers and Elder Abuse

Yesterday, I was composing a laundry list of the various disciplines and professionals that have a role to play in stopping elder abuse for a book I’m writing. It included all varieties of health and mental health care providers, bankers, judges, clergy, entomologists (don’t ask), auditors, mail carriers, social scientists and many, many more.

In the other room, my husband was dealing with a plumbing problem. The sewer line between our house and the outside line was clogged, causing the water from my morning shower to make the toilet belch. It’s a problem we have every year or two when roots and vines make their way into a crack between pipes.

Several plumbers refused to give estimates over the phone, despite the fact that we could tell them exactly where the clog was, the length of the line, and the approximate time it takes to unclog. We finally agreed to let one come and take a look. After glancing at the front lawn, the guy offered to do the job for $165, considerably more than it cost last time. When we declined, he countered with $150, and we declined again. Ten minutes later, he was back, ringing the doorbell, and offering to do the job for $125. By then, someone else had agreed, by phone, to do it for $90.

An hour later, Dan and the $90 plumber were discussing the wily ways of home repairers. Things were especially bad for old people, the plumber told him, especially those with slight dementias. The biggest problem, he went on, was with “rooters," those plumbing companies that specialize in drain rooting. He had served as an expert witness in several cases, one involving an elderly woman who’d paid $9,000 for the same work we were having done.

Years ago, a prominent gerontologist suggested that elder abuse was a non-problem dreamed up by social workers to create jobs for themselves. It‘s gratifying that so many people recognize the problem today, see it as a community concern, and want to help. I wasn’t in on the abuse discussion, only hearing about it afterwards. If I had, I would probably have invited the plumber in, questioned him about his cases, and suggested that he present one at a local MDT.

At any rate, back in my office, I added plumbers to my list.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.