According to AARP, 65.5% of Georgia’s citizens will be part of the state’s aging population by 2030. As a result, people are looking at ways to improve long-term care and to prevent elder abuse. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed two bills in May to help protect senior citizens from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
The Albany Herald’s recent article, “Legislation should help prevent elderly abuse,” explains that elder abuse can manifest in different ways. It can occur in a nursing home, an assisted living facility or in a person’s own home with a designated health care provider. It can also be exploitation of a senior’s finances by a family member. If an elderly person is attacked by a care provider or even by another resident in a care facility, that’s elder abuse. It can be malnutrition or dehydration in a nursing home. Elder abuse can also be a fall in an assisted living facility. Another example of abuse is polypharmacy, where a caretaker puts an elderly resident on too many medications to restrain them or to curb their behavior.
Elder abuse is a problem that’s more common than most people think. The National Council on Aging says that an estimated 5 million, or one in 10, older Americans are victims of elder abuse, neglect or exploitation every year. Experts believe that for every reported case of elder abuse or neglect, as many as 23.5 cases go unreported. An Augusta Chronicle article reported that Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan said that more than 3,000 people in Georgia had been charged with crimes against the elderly since 2010.
To help address and prevent elder abuse, Georgia Governor Deal signed into law Senate Bill 406 and House Bill 803. SB 406 requires direct care employees of nursing homes, personal care homes, assisted living communities, private home care providers and adult day care centers to do FBI background checks and fingerprinting. HB 803 prohibits the trafficking of older or disabled persons and the practice of shuffling seniors to various facilities to avoid detection by law enforcement.
If a family is looking for a long-term care facility, the Medicare website has a Nursing Home Compare tool that rates every Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing home in the country. The website’s ratings look at quality of care indicators like health inspections, staffing, and quality measures. Details on penalties a nursing home has sustained, are also available.
If a relative is already in a long-term care facility, the signs of physical abuse include rough handling, injuries inconsistent with medical diagnosis or explanation and forcing someone to stay in a bed, chair or room. Indicators of financial abuse are missing money or valuables, checks and other documents being signed when the person can’t write, and unpaid bills when someone else is charged with paying for them for the person. Signs of neglect are bed sores or rashes, malnourishment and a lack of appropriate clothing for weather conditions.
Reference: Albany (GA) Herald (June 5, 2018) “Legislation should help prevent elderly abuse”