The Atlanta Journal-Constitution hosted a community conversation about the AJC’s investigation “Unprotected” at Georgia Public Broadcasting on Thursday, October 17, 2019. Panelists were (right to left) Bill Nigut, host and executive producer of Political Rewind for Georgia Public Broadcasting; Carrie Teegardin, AJC investigative reporter; Brad Schrade, AJC investigative reporter; State Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta; Jason Marbutt, Cobb Senior Assistant District Attorney; Melanie McNeil, Georgia Long-term Care Ombudsman; and Ginny Helms, President of LeadingAge Georgia. (Tyson Horne/
Photo: Tyson Horne
Photo: Tyson Horne

Opinion: Pushing toward senior care solutions for Ga.

A few years ago, it was reported that Georgia’s nursing homes ranked highest in percentage of residents on antipsychotics in nursing homes across the country.

When the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began an initiative to reduce the use of antipsychotics in nursing homes, Alliant Health Solutions, our state’s Quality Improvement Organization took the lead and groups like LeadingAge Georgia, the Georgia Healthcare Association, the Alzheimer’s Association and others came together and helped develop a plan of improvement.

Nursing homes across Georgia rose to the challenge and Georgia’s rate of the use of antipsychotics decreased. The same type of collaborative, consumer-driven response is needed in light of the abuses highlighted in certain assisted living and personal care programs.

Georgia’s older adults have long demanded to live well and thrive in the least restrictive setting possible. This has led to more frail and medically complex elders living in personal care and assisted living communities.

Funding and regulatory reform has not kept pace. Increased funding is needed to ensure the Georgia Department of Community Health has ample inspectors to properly monitor providers while providing timely reporting information to the communities and allowing for correction of deficiencies. Regulatory requirements regarding training of personnel need to be more robust and include person-centered care to ensure the provider has appropriately trained leadership and direct-care team members — particularly those working with residents living with neurocognitive disorders.

State Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, has indicated that she will be introducing legislation to address concerns raised regarding some of Georgia’s assisted living and personal care homes. We will support a collaborative, consumer-driven response to ensure quality care for all of Georgia’s residents living in assisted living and personal care communities.

LeadingAge Georgia is the association for not-for-profit and other mission-driven housing and services providers serving older adults and our goal is to help members create and maintain mission-driven cultures that reflect the well-being of older adults and those who serve them.

Ginny Helms is president of LeadingAge Georgia.

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