Last updated: February 13. 2014 5:17PM - 305 Views
Margaret Brackett Contributing Columnist

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Residents of all licensed long term care facilities have these rights, regardless of the level of care being provided. Level of care means how much care a person needs. There are personal functions that we do every day, like dressing, walking, bathing, feeding ourselves, or taking care of our personal hygiene. These are called activities of daily living or ADLs for short. If you can do most of your own ADLs, but maybe you need just a small amount of assistance, for example, getting dressed in the morning, you might live in an assisted living type of residence.

If you need help with ADL, can a person be put in a nursing home?

First of all, nursing homes provide a skilled level of care. That means they can provide medical care, skilled nursing care, and do things like provide treatment and administer medications. A person can’t just be placed in a nursing home. In SC, the Department of Health and Human Services, DHHS, has a division called Community Long Term Care. They perform assessments to determine the level of care that someone needs. More often, people go into Assisted Living Residential Care first.

The important thing to remember is this: As long as you have the ability to make your own decisions, you have the right to say no. If you still have the “capacity” which means you haven’t been ruled incapacitated by the court, you can make your own decisions about where you live. Sometimes, having assistance is the best option for quality of life. Sometimes it’s not, but that is a personal decision. As we age, we fear losing our autonomy. Most of us don’t want to leave our homes and go live in a facility.

Statistically, it is much less expensive and much healthier to stay in your own home. However, you have to be sure that you are not endangering yourself by that decision. For example, if you can’t take care of your personal needs, such as eating or taking your medications, you might cause harm to yourself. That is called self-neglect. In those kinds of cases, the Department of Social Services may step in.

DSS deals with children’s welfare, but it also has an Adult Protective Services Division. If you are endangered, they can be called and investigate the situation. Sometimes, by law, they can remove people from their homes when the person is self-neglecting. In those cases, they will move the person into a long-term care facility. It’s important to be sure that you can take care of your personal needs and that you have the services you need to remain in your home.

That is where the Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging can benefit our seniors. Programs like transportation, meals, and caregiver support can help seniors stay at home and we can help their caregivers and loved one provide important services and assistance. Also, our readers should be sure that they have taken car of all of their important legal issues and documents. Since you mentioned legal issues, let’s talk about another of those “hats” that you wear. You are the Legal Services Developer for the Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging.

What does a Legal Services Developer do?

I ensure that seniors in our state who need legal services can get them. Some of our seniors are very low income, and, depending on the issue, we may be able to actually refer them to an attorney who can help at no cost to the senior. If their issue doesn’t qualify for assistance, or if the senior has the resources to afford an attorney, we can still refer them to knowledgeable, reliable sources.

I have been working on some projects under a grant from the federal government since my last visit to Newberry. We have published a handbook with the help of the S.C. Bar and some very dedicated attorneys. A.S. C. Senior Citizens Handbook has been published, which is a guide to Laws and Programs Affecting Senior Citizens. It is a comprehensive guide that covers all kinds of topics, ranging from Health Care and Health Care Financing, to Rights and Protections, to Protective Services, and even Financial Assistance.

We accomplished our grant with the oversight of the SC Bar, and the exceptional help of Cindy Coker, their Public Services Director. Our readers can request copies from our office at 803-734-9900 or they can actually look at the handbook online by going to our website or the SC Bar’s website. Our website is www.aging.sc.gov. The Bar’s website is www.SCBar.org.

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