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One woman's crusade against elder abuse

-  Loved ones in care facilities have a new advocate


by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Cindy Young became a certified nursing assistant to provide a voice to those unable to speak for themselves. She was dismissed from her job at a local nursing facility after telling administrators they were breaking the law with inadequate staffing that was putting residents at risk for injury.

Statistics compiled by the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging indicate that elder abuse can be found in one in three nursing homes nationwide.

Closer to home, a 2012 study by the Oregon Department of Health and Human Services discovered 542 allegations of elder abuse and neglect in facilities in Multnomah County alone. More than 70 of those were found to be substantiated cases of abuse.

We may be confident that the senior facility we’ve chosen for mom and/or dad is safe and provides compassionate care, but can we be equally as confident that our loved ones are OK when we’re not there?

Meet Cindy Young, a certified nursing assistant (CNA) who has witnessed what goes on behind closed doors in assisted living and skilled nursing care facilities. While most are committed to caring for residents in a compassionate and clinically sound manner, Young said there are facilities religiously breaking the law and putting their patients at risk. She has even been fired for blowing the whistle on a large, corporately owned local facility that was endangering residents with inadequate staffing and cutting corners on care.

Young recently founded Advocacy to Stop Elder Abuse, a one-woman crusade to improve the lives of those in care facilities and provide peace of mind to family members who can’t be there 24/7. She provides safety checks on loved ones in nursing and assisted living facilities, as well as adult foster care homes, aiming for a trusting relationship with residents that gives them a resource to confide in if they are having issues with their care.

“I want to make a difference in the lives of those who need someone to help, listen, speak up and represent them when they are the most vulnerable, alone and scared,” she said. “It’s unacceptable what’s happening out there.”

Young, 62, has had a lifelong passion to stand up for those unable to stand up for themselves. From animals to juvenile victims of sexual abuse, Young doesn’t fear calling attention to abuse nearly as much as she fears the ramifications if she doesn’t.

Born and raised in Gresham, Young graduated from Centennial High School in 1969. She went on to study criminology at Oregon State University, aiming for a career as a police detective investigating child sex abuse and sex crimes. She married, became a widow at a young age and remarried.

But after a divorce, Young went back to school to become a CNA as a way to support herself. She received her certification from the Caregiver Institute in Portland in 2011 and went to work for a care facility in Milwaukie. Within days, she recognized the facility was violating state laws with inadequate staffing to care for the residents. After receiving a written warning for refusing to lift a resident twice her size by herself, Young immediately brought it to the attention of her superiors.

“I was raised by a cop and military man, so I get the chain of command,” she said. “But when you go through them and nothing happens, you have to go outside.”

Young was dismissed from her position because she “wasn’t a good fit” with staff at the facility. She began investigating complaints against care facilities and discovered an overall fear among caregivers to report violations for fear of losing their jobs.

“That’s what blew me away,” Young said. “Their lack of care and empathy for these people. I started to wonder, ‘Am I the Lone Ranger here?’ But what was happening to the residents wasn’t worth my paycheck.” by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Young said her experience as a victim of abuse is what led her to become an advocate for those unable to speak for themselves.

Young eventually settled with her former employer, who also was investigated and later fined for several violations. The whole experience, she said, is what motivated her to found her business and become a watchdog on behalf of the most vulnerable.

“My passion is to protect as many elders in homes as possible,” she said. “I know there are people who don’t like visiting nursing homes, but I can be the family’s eyes and ears. Abuse and neglect must be reported or your loved ones are in more danger. I want these facilities to know they’re being watched.”

Young’s commitment stems from a time when she needed an advocate. Her experience as a victim of abuse, she said, helps her comprehend the cycle of disbelief and fear in reporting it. But she has no tolerance for those who fail to recognize the emotional damage they are inflicting on the most vulnerable.

“When I look at these elders, it takes me back to a time in my life when I had no voice,” Young said. “That’s why this is so important to me. To not speak up and turn away from injustice is a crime. All it takes is one person to make a change.”

Did you know? In 2012, the Oregon Department of Health and Human Services found that only one out of every 24 cases of elder abuse or neglect is reported to authorities. Signs that your loved one may not be receiving proper care and attention include bedsores, dehydration, malnutrition and soiled bedding or clothing. Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns if you see signs of questionable care, Young says. Contact the facility’s administrator or local health department authorities.

For more information on Advocacy to Stop Elder Abuse, call Cindy Young at 503-449-6397 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Young’s website is advocacytostopeldertabuse.com




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