Teresa Arnold, state director of AARP South Carolina, will address two Senate bills and explain new caregiving resources AARP is supporting with the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging concerning the Vulnerable Adult ad Litem Program.
The first bill is Senate Bill 662 — Electronic Monitoring in Long Term Care Facilities. The bill summary defines long term care facility to include nursing homes and assisted living facilities; requires facilities to provide notice that electronic monitoring is permitted (not mandatory); prohibits a facility from refusing to allow the use of monitoring equipment; establishes penalties for tampering with equipment.
This legislation is good for seniors and persons with disabilities (and facilities). AARP policy notes that the federal government and the states should enact laws that clearly establish the right of nursing facility and supportive housing residents — or their legally recognized decision makers — to use video technology for the purpose of surveillance, documentation of care, and virtual visitation.
This technology should be allowed only when protections are in place to ensure that it does not infringe on roommates’ right to privacy. Nursing facilities and supportive housing residences should be prohibited from removing or refusing to admit a resident who chooses to use such technology.
Adults who reside in nursing facilities are usually in very poor health; they are often unable to care for themselves and to protect themselves from harm. Arguably, the greatest reason folks fear being sent to a nursing home is that they fear losing adequate contact with loved ones and being subjected to mistreatment
Family members or caretakers often suspect mistreatment when they begin noticing unexplainable bruises or missing personal items. As a result, many would like to place cameras in their loved one’s room in the hopes of gaining an explanation. And often times, what the camera reveals can be heartbreaking and unimaginable. Caregivers working in the facilities can better monitor the people they are assigned to care for.
Facilities that operate with due care and consideration for their residents will have documentation that they are providing quality care.
The second bill is Senate Bill 764 and House Bill 43l49 — Vulnerable Adult Guardian ad Litem Program. This Bill establishes a volunteer adult guardian ad litem program within the Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging; develops a statewide system to recruit, train, and supervise volunteers to serve as court-appointed guardians ad litem for vulnerable adults in abuse, neglect, and exploitation proceedings within the Family Court; outlines duties of the volunteers to include: representing best interest(s) of the vulnerable adult, providing an assessment for court proceedings and submission of written reports to the court; sets out standards and criteria for the volunteer (may be an attorney or non-attorney). This legislation is needed.
In 2010 in South Carolina, there were over 3,000 reports received of vulnerable adults being abused, neglected or exploited. Over 500 of these reports resulted in court proceedings. State law requires that vulnerable adults have access to a guardian ad litem in certain court proceedings. A change was made in 2009 to Rule 608 of the SC Appellate Court Rules that ended the practice of appointing attorneys to serve as GALs for these vulnerable adults.
The S.C. Department of Health and Human Services and the Arnold School for Public Health’s Office for the Study on Aging partnered to create a three-year pilot program that would build an infrastructure to train and provide volunteer GALs to the Family Courts. The program is currently housed at the OSA and is in the final year of the pilot phase. Vulnerable adults and the state need a permanent home for this program.
GALs are a tool to ensure volunteer guardian ad litem program to project vulnerable children, so we need a program to protect vulnerable adults. The Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging would recruit, train and supervise a pool of volunteers from which the courts would appoint as cases arise. The Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging estimates it will need $492,200 in the 2014-15 fiscal year budget to run the program.The request includes salaries for a Columbia-based director and assistant, as well as four regional coordinators.
Under the Omnibus Adult Protection Act, whenever there is a court action in which the Department of Social Services seeks to provide protective services to vulnerable adult (including having the adult placed in protective custody), the court must appoint a guardian ad litem to advocate the best interests of the vulnerable adult.
According to information collected by AARP, the 1998 Elder Abuse Incidence Study estimated that more than 500,000 older adults were abused in 1996. A 2003 study conducted by the National Research Council Panel to Review Risk and Prevalence of Elder Abuse and Neglect estimated that between one million and two million older adults are abused each year. A 2007 study sponsored by the Department of Justice showed that 12.4 percent of older adults reported at least one form of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse or potential neglect and 11.2 percent reported financial exploitation by a family member or stranger.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists, among the consequences of elder abuse, injuries, pain, poor nutrition, increased vulnerability to new illnesses, worsening of health conditions, and premature death. Other consequences include higher levels of distress and depression. Elder abuse may also induce post-traumatic stress disorder and other anxiety disorders. Financial exploitation additionally can exhaust senior’s incomes, reduce health care options, and leave seniors impoverished and even homeless.
There is a group of people who really do need assistance. It could be people in your own neighborhood that you don’t even realize are having these issues. These are middle-class, upper-middle class families that reach circumstances where they can’t carry on. Sometimes family members get enmeshed and don’t see how bad it is.