Senior care

Buckham West invited Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault, and Sen. Karin Housely, R-Stillwater, to speak about the Elder Care and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act Tuesday, Aug. 20. The goal of the new legislation is to address the issue of elder care and vulnerable adult maltreatment in long-term care facilities. (Stock photo)

Minnesota lawmakers wants to mitigate serious and complicated issue involving maltreatment of elders and vulnerable adults in long-term care facilities, and a turning point began in May when the Legislature passed the Elder Care and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act of 2019.

To help consumers and family caregivers understand the legislation, Buckham West arranged for Sen. John Jaskinski, R-Faribault, and the bill’s author Sen. Karin Housely, R-Stillwater, to speak from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20. Guests are required to register in advance by calling Buckham West.

“Now that this is in a setting where the laws are going to change, we thought it was really important to get this information out there,” said Brenda Johnson, caregiver support and senior center programming coordinator for Buckham West. “…Even when a loved one moves to a facility, family caregivers are still caregivers and need to be aware of what’s happening.”

Supporters and stakeholders for the bill include state regulators, AARP Minnesota, LeadingAge Minnesota, Minnesota Elder Justice Center, Care Providers of Minnesota, Elder Voice Family Advocates, and Alzheimer’s Association. Together, this group developed a report that states the public policy actions necessary to prevent further abuse from happening in long-term care facilities. The report also includes stories from the families of victims.

According to the report, from 2010 to 2017, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) found maltreatment reports skyrocketed by 600%. Of the 20,761 reports from providers, only 1% could be investigated.

“A facility was not required to tell [consumers] when an incident of abuse or maltreatment happened,” said Johnson. “Part of this new law will give consumers more rights.”

Jasinski said the new legislation also deals with the installation of cameras in the rooms at assisted living facilities.

“This helps healthcare officials make sure patients are being cared for,” said Jasinski. That’s the biggest concern.”

Another piece of the bill delves into the topic of licensing assisted living facilities.

Johnson, who served as a nurse at a skilled nursing facility for many years, said that while Minnesota doesn’t license assisted living facilities, there are regulations facilities need to follow. She said these regulations are confusing, and facilities lack a proper way to enforce them.

To simplify an otherwise complicated framework, the new legislation puts into place a major shift in the system with Assisted Living Licensure and Certification of Dementia Care.

“I don’t want to downgrade assisted living facilities,” said Johnson. “…[But] if there’s not a standardization from one facility to another, how can they provide a consistent level of care?”

Johnson looks forward to seeing how the new processes change the standards at care facilities and believes the senators’ talk will help consumers and caregivers know what to expect.

“We don’t want to frighten [caregivers],” said Johnson, “but we do want to assure them that measures are being taken to what I think is going to be a new and improved version of elder care.”

Reporter Misty Schwab can be reached at 507-333-3135. Follow her on Twitter @APGmisty.

©Copyright 2019 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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