Georgia’s State Capitol.

Opinion: Looking toward better care for elders

Two columns by long-term care experts offer advice on ways to improve care, as well as tips on making informed choices as consumers.

The Sept. 22 launch of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s reporting series “Unprotected: Broken promises in Georgia’s senior care industry” began our presentation of this newspaper’s investigation into the quality of care offered by Georgia’s assisted living and large personal care homes.

We believe the information and data we’ve discovered, and will be presenting to readers through year’s end serves important purposes.

In terms of public policy, the AJC’s findings can help point lawmakers and regulators toward shortcomings in how Georgia monitors these care facilities. Improvements should come as a result.

The information that comprises “Unprotected” can also play a critical role for Georgia families and seniors who are walking through the arduous process of finding care options.

These personal decisions will become increasingly common, given our graying population. The AJC reported that people 65 and older made up less than 12% of the 20-county metro area in 2015. Projections are that this group will comprise nearly 20% of metro Atlanta by 2040.

Our series is the result of a detailed investigation of every assisted living community and personal care home of 25 or more beds in Georgia from 2015 through 2018. The series found issues of concern at about one in five of these places. Problems ranged from allegations of neglect or abuse to shortcomings in administering medications, and shortages of staff or training that compromised resident care.

We hope “Unprotected” helps jumpstart needed conversations about improving care of residents in these facilities. Toward that end, today we present two columns by long-term care experts who offer their groups’ advice on ways to better oversee and improve care as well as tips on making informed choices as consumers.

To also help people gather useful information about care facilities, the AJC has developed a new website. At ajc.com/unprotected, you will find a searchable database that includes robust information about assisted living communities and large personal care homes in Georgia, and a consumer guide from our investigative journalists who spent months studying the industry.

The database includes more than 3,500 reports from the state Department of Community Health, which regulates these institutions. To help readers sort through what is important, our journalists reviewed and categorized each of them. On our searchable database, symbols and flags will help you identify homes with a pattern of serious problems, inspections that identified harm to a resident and homes where the same problem was detected more than once by inspectors. The database also includes information collected from police reports and inspections of dining facilities at the homes.

This information has not previously been available in a readily usable single source.

For those who’ve not had to do so, choosing a facility – for yourself or a loved one – is, at best, a stressful, agonizing and jarring experience.

We hope that our findings, and database, will help make these tough decisions a bit easier.

The Editorial Board.

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