- To increase staffing for the Forensics Special Initiatives Unit.
- To increase staffing for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program.
- To increase transportation services for seniors.
- Support for the Family Care Act, which would allow employees to use sick days to care for an elderly relative.
- Support for a Medicaid Demonstration Waiver so more seniors can receive home- and community-based services.
- Support Oral Health Care for Seniors so dental hygienists can provide services in nursing homes and other elder care settings.
- Support for Pharmacy Audit Bill of Rights that would not punish providers for making routine clerical errors. The bill supports seniors by strengthening providers they depend on for their health care needs.
- Support for increase in registered nurse staffing hours at all skilled nursing facilities. Current law requires nursing homes to have a registered nurse on duty for eight hours a day, and this would raise that to 24 hours a day.
Source: Georgia Council on Aging
When it comes to taking care of Georgia’s senior adults, there are two dominant concerns right now:
Doing more to prevent elder abuse, and helping those who can no longer drive get where they need to go.
When Kathy Floyd, executive director of the Georgia Council on Aging, traveled the state earlier this year to meet with aging advocates and seniors, she had one main request of them: "Tell us what's on your mind."
“We wanted to hear from people in the field about what the problems are,” Floyd said.
In short, any improvements in Georgia’s senior care will first have to bubble up from those who work in the trenches and know what’s really going on.
For six weeks during the spring, the state aging council accepted recommendations for senior concerns about funding and legislative issues from anyone who wanted to submit one. The only stipulations were the issue had to impact seniors statewide and be solvable through legislation.
“We don’t make judgments on whether it’s good enough” to be brought before lawmakers, Floyd said.
From that process, the council is now putting to a vote 11 issues that have been recommended. Some 600 members of the statewide Coalition of Advocates for Georgia’s Elderly will have until 5 p.m. July 31 to cast their ballots for the top three issues — one for funding and two for legislation.
These will be brought before lawmakers in January, giving the group a unified voice on senior concerns for the 2017 General Assembly. It’s a democratic process, and even the council’s executive director doesn’t have a greater say-so in what gets selected.
Each issue is explained along with a short video presentation on the council website gcoa.org. Members can vote online through SurveyMonkey.
“It’s very, very unusual to have it be totally democratic,” Floyd said.
This year, the prevailing concerns revolve around elder abuse. Several funding requests have been made for more workers and training for those who investigate abuse complaints.
One request came from a retired professor from the University of Georgia School of Social Work who saw the need for increased training for Adult Protective Services caseworkers who handle situations involving abuse, neglect or exploitation of adults. While the state has added staff over the past three years, funding for training has not kept up, according to the council.
“We’re way, way under the national hours recommended for training provided,” Floyd said.
Staffing increases are being recommended for Adult Protective Services and for the Office of Public Guardianship. Staffing and training increases are recommended for Forensics Special Initiatives, a unit that investigates and shuts down unlicensed personal care homes. Staffing increases are also recommended for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman office, those who serve as advocates for residents in long-term care facilities and often get involved when there is an abuse complaint.
The increase in transportation funding has also been identified as a priority. Transportation for seniors is the top unmet need across the state, according to the 12 Area Agencies on Aging in Georgia.
“Every issue a senior deals with involves transportation,” Floyd said.
After issues are voted on, work will begin on putting legislation together to be presented in January for the 2017 legislative session.
During the past session, the council was successful in having one of its top issues passed and signed into law. The bill expanded the abuse registry to include certified nurse assistants who work in the home setting. This gives seniors and their loved ones another way to check credentials of those who provide care. Lawmakers and senior advocates will continue to work on expanding the registry to protect seniors, Floyd said.