Legal services, programs to assist senior population
Margaret Brackett Contributing Columnist
This week our special guest is Cat Angus Zavoras from the Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging. Ms. Zavorus is the Legal Services Developer and manages the Friendly Visitor Volunteer Program. The Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging has many programs or partner with entities who provide services that assist our senior population. The Agency provides help with issues like Alzheimer’s Disease, Respite Care, Family Caregiver Support, Medicare applications and address Medicare fraud issues.
We have been extremely busy. As a past member of the SC Aging Advisory Council, you know better than most that the Lt. Governor’s Office has many programs or partner with entities who provide services that assist our senior population. We can provide help with issues like Alzheimer’s, Respite Care, Family Caregiver Support, Medicare applications through the State Health Insurance Program, and we address Medicare fraud issues.
We also address Home and Community Based Services, including things like senior transportation, group dining, and home delivered meals for seniors. Our listeners may be familiar with those programs through the senior center right here in Newberry. What I want to talk about today, however, is our Elder Rights Division, which is the division where I work. The Elder Rights Division includes our Legal Services Program, our Volunteer Friendly Visitor Program, and our Ombudsman program. We are a division of advocates, we seek to protect and empower seniors to prevent neglect, abuse, and exploitation.
Let’s begin by discussing the Ombudsman program. Ombudsman is a Swedish word that means a Protector or Mediator. Ombudsmen are advocates who investigate complaints and try to bring about a fair settlement. As ombudsmen, we go into long term care facilities, advocate for Resident’s Rights, and help residents advocate for themselves. Our State Long Term Care Ombudsman program in the Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging provides advocates for seniors and vulnerable adults.
Anyone who is 60 years old or older is, by federal law, a senior. By SC’s legal definition, a vulnerable adult is a person 18 years of age or older who has a physical or mental condition which substantially impairs them from adequately providing for his or her own care or protection. This includes those who are impaired because of the infirmities of aging. A resident of a facility is a vulnerable adult. In SC, we advocate for seniors and other long term care facility residents. My office also advocates for adults who reside in Department of Mental Health or Department of Disabilities and Special Needs Residential Facilities.
What does advocate mean? What advocacy do you provide?
•We seek to protect and empower seniors to avoid neglect, abuse, and exploitation.
•Our ombudsmen go into long term care facilities where they educate residents and their families on Residents’ Rights and help residents advocate for themselves.
We also have a Friendly Visitor Volunteer Program and a Legal Services Program.
What are Residents Rights?
Residents Rights are the rights of facility residents that are set forth by SC Law. People usually think that when you move into a long term care facility, you lose your rights. That’s not true. You actually have rights that are stated in law. All facilities must have posters telling the residents and families what these rights actually are.
What are some of these Residents Rights?
There are more than 30 different rights that are specified in the law. For example, you have the right to choose your own medical provider. You have the right to participate in choosing the care you will receive and you have the right to have all of your medical records treated confidentially. Your care should be provided in private. You have the right to have your personal possessions maintained securely, and you have the right to manage your fiances and make your own decisions.
Residents also have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, and to be free from abuse. Residents have the right to see the people they choose to see — and they have the right to refuse to see anyone they don’t want to see. That includes relatives and even court appointed guardians. If you live in a facility, you must be given a written explanation of all of your rights and you must be told what to do if you think your rights have been violated.
Another thing is that you must be given the policy on refunds and you cannot be discharged without being given a 30 day notice in writing. These rights are all designed to protect the residents of nursing homes, and all residents of all licensed long term care facilities are entitled to them.
The ombudsmen ensure that residents have these rights. Ombudsmen go to the facilities and visit the residents. If a resident has a complaint or concern, the resident can discuss this privately with the ombudsman. Then the ombudsman can investigate and try to resolve the issue. Also, the ombudsmen educate residents and their families and facility staff on these rights.
Note: Part 2 of Margaret Brackett’s column will be in Friday’s edition of The Newberry Observer
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