Opinion: On the Record on senior care in Ga.

Georgia appears to be moving toward improving oversight of senior care facilities. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Georgia appears to be moving toward improving oversight of senior care facilities. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

From Feb. 28 floor remarks by State Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, before a 160-1 vote approving HB 987:

“I bring a very important bill to you today. One that will hopefully rectify many of the problems that have been identified in our assisted living facilities and our memory care units and in our large personal care homes; problems that are putting our citizens at risk or even of serious injury or even death.

“Elderly people consider these facilities their homes. They make friends, and they are fragile.”

“You see these ads for these wonderful facilities, people are having cocktail parties … many of the places do have these amenities, but the people coming to live in them are not the people that have just turned 65.”

“Over time you gradually lose many of your (faculties), both mentally and as far as motor skills. When those decrease, you definitely still want to live as independently as possible, but you want help to be available when you need it.”

“I’m a nurse; I believe in prevention, (and) this is a proactive approach.” “Let’s get the staffing and the provisions we need to make sure the people living in these facilities have better oversight and I think we will have less need for people to go in after we have complaints and severe injury or death.”

From a Mar. 3 editorial in The Augusta Chronicle:

As America’s population grows grayer, protecting seniors unquestionably must take a higher priority.

So you protect where the need is great - senior care homes.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation several months ago found almost 700 cases of neglect and abuse - and 20 deaths from poor care - in homes statewide.

Spurred by those shocking numbers, the Georgia legislature is gratifyingly stepping up. On Friday (Feb. 28) the state House passed a bill - the first, we hope, of many - that would strengthen some of the regulations governing residential facilities designed for retirement and assisted living.

While this bill tackles the larger care facilities, further bills should be crafted to bring more pressure to bear on the most deplorable acts of neglect in unlicensed personal care homes. Often they hold just a handful of patients - and their unscrupulous operators basically steal residents’ Social Security checks and endanger clients’ health in filthy conditions.

From a Sept. 29 AJC Op-Ed by State Rep. John LaHood, R-Valdosta:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s examination of the assisted living industry has appropriately brought unsettling details of some negative situations to light, and I regard every noted infraction as important and believe that accountability as absolutely essential. In no way do I want my words to sound callous, but I believe it is also fair to illuminate the overwhelming positives of our industry, and thus far, the coverage has not focused at all on the compassionate, quality care provided to more than 28,000 residents in the state’s more than 400 senior care communities with 25-plus beds.

For any industry, the goal is always to figure out how to minimize, and ideally eliminate, problems, and the assisted living industry is no different. We always strive for perfection, and Georgia’s senior care providers work diligently to ensure they are complying with laws and regulations governing the industry. Additionally, many are now providing staff training that exceeds state requirements with the ultimate goal of preserving the safety, independence and dignity of residents.

Assisted living facilities, including memory care communities, have proven to be extremely popular with residents and their families as a less-restrictive, community-based alternative to nursing homes. As the rate of Alzheimer’s disease increases among seniors and as researchers seek a cure, assisted living can provide a safe, homelike environment that promotes dignity and respect with trained staff who are knowledgeable about the condition and its symptoms.

By 2050, the population of Americans who are 85 and older will triple. Falls, heart disease, osteoporosis and dementia are common, chronic conditions at the age of 85 — the age of a typical senior living resident. Senior living providers understand that the aging process is universal but not the same for everyone and that on any given day, an ALC (assisted living center) or PCH (personal care home) could be the site of an unfortunate event.

Risks are reduced through ongoing quality assurance processes, and expectations are reached through trust and communication. One-on-one care at all times is not feasible for most, and even a resident who is monitored can experience a negative incident for a variety of reasons. Through a commitment to best practices, policies and procedures, negative incidents can be minimized. But, make no mistake, neglectful or abusive treatment of individuals should be punished to the full extent of the law, and any provider who does not grasp the seriousness of these issues should not be licensed.