Could helping more of America’s seniors to live independently be a method for preventing nursing home abuse? If an elderly San Diego resident does not require the kind of care that an assisted-living facility or a residential care facility for the elderly (RCFE) would provide—if she can have that same kind of care at home—would she take away some of the risks of becoming a victim of elder abuse? One of our first steps in preventing elder abuse should be to make care facilities safer for older adults. But at the same time, even if we did want to push for more seniors to live independently, a recent article in Forbes Magazine suggests that our country simply is not providing the kind of assistance that would make this possible.
Older Americans Act (OAA) and Providing Assistance to Seniors
Every year, elder rights advocates and others attend the National Home and Community Based Services Conferences, which brings together professionals in various fields to discuss the state of independent living for older adults and those with disabilities. The conference is sponsored by the National Association of States United for Aging and Disability, and it has more than 1,400 participants. Indeed, Kathy Greenlee, the Assistant Secretary for Aging, gave an opening speech that marked the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act (OAA).
As Greenlee pointed out, the OAA and other laws aimed at assisting older adults have good intentions. At the same time, much work remains to be done. If we truly want older adults who are able to have the option of independent living, we need to do more. Greenlee articulated in her speech that, “as advocates, we specialize in being frustrated with these programs.” As she explained, “we know we need more funding for OAA, we know there are gaps in Medicare . . . and we know we need to do more balancing these frustrations.” Yet at the same time, Greenlee emphasized that the very existence of these programs at all points to a nationwide investment in older adults.
If we were to provide more through programs funded by the OAA, such as Meals on Wheels, would more of California’s seniors feel safe in their living environments?
Generating Funding to Prevent Elder Abuse
Helping more seniors to live at home as they age could provide those older adults with the sense that they are empowered to report situations of elder abuse or neglect. Yet elder abuse does not just happen in nursing homes. While the term “nursing home abuse” does refer to violence that takes place in a particular kind of facility, it implicates numerous forms of abuse that take place in nursing facilities, but also within the care of home health aides, visiting nurses, and even family members. To be sure, elder abuse is not relegated to a specific kind of space, and it can happen when a senior lives at home, too.
Why are so many elder safety advocates focusing on the reauthorization of the OAA? Should we not, instead, be focused on preventing elder abuse at home and within care facilities? The OAA and outreach efforts discussed at the conference do not deal solely with independent living practicalities. Indeed, the conference also focused, for instance, on generating more funding to raise awareness about the risks of elder abuse in dementia patients, and the need for “doctors to work with law enforcement to help them investigate charges of elder abuse where the victim may have significant memory loss.”
In short, advocates in many areas are working together to consider more ways to make aging healthier and to help prevent elder abuse among the aging population. If you are worried about an elderly loved one who is receiving care in a nursing home or an assisted-living facility, you should reach out to an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer as soon as possible. Contact the Walton Law Firm today to find out more about how we can help.
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