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San Diego County Tightens Oversight Of Elder Care Facilities

Evening Edition

Aired 3/12/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Dianne Jacob, Chair, San Diego County Board of Supervisors

Paul Greenwood, San Diego County Deputy District Attorney

Aaron Byzak, Founder, Hazel's Army

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday tightened oversight of residential care facilities for the elderly and funded a one-year pilot program to investigate and prosecute crimes committed at care homes.

The supervisors unanimously approved establishing an eight-member unit in the District Attorney's Office tasked with enforcing required standards of care, and working to identify and prosecute criminal there.

"We work very hard to help victims of elder abuse and hold those who prey on them accountable," District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said.

Supervisor Greg Cox said the county would also restore funding to its Long-Term Care Ombudsman program, which had been cut in half in 2009.

The board ordered doubling the number of patient advocates that make unannounced visits to facilities and investigate complaints.

"By restoring the program back to the level it was, we can put more eyes and ears into the field to safeguard residents and advocate for their needs," Cox said.

Also included in the vote was working with industry professionals and consumer advocates to come up with a grading system or a seal of approval to help families seeking a quality care facility for their loved ones and backing several state assembly bills.

"Many of our oldest and most vulnerable citizens live in care facilities. These folks survived the great depression, they fought in wars," Jacob said following the meeting. "We owe them a great debt — to ensure that they get the best care possible. We must fight for them like they fought for us."

County officials estimate that the number of residents at least 75 years old would nearly double by 2030, but the services and resources available to older residents was not keeping pace. Officials dubbed the upcoming boom as the "Silver Tsunami."

Recent news reports highlighted gaps in staff training and supervision at long-term care and assisted living facilities, along with a lack of rigorous state oversight. Board Chairwoman Dianne Jacob also cited a recent government report that stated one in three in nursing facilities had suffered an infection, a medication error or another for of harm related to their care.

"While many assisted living homes and skilled nursing facilities do right by our elderly, others are a source of shame," Jacob said. "The conditions at some homes are deplorable. There's not enough staff training, There's not enough supervision. There's not enough state oversight. And when the state does not act, the penalties lack punch."

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Avatar for user 'cselder'

cselder | March 22, 2014 at 2:40 p.m. ― 3 years ago

CARR, too, is optimistic these initiatives will improve the lives of frail elders living in long-term care facilities.

CARR strongly supports the restoration of funding to the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program. The Ombudsman’s office provides valuable and much needed advocacy for residents in long-term care facilities. They have been referred to as the "eyes & ears" within facilities given the absence of state inspectors.

CARR strongly supports the development of a rating system for RCFEs that relies on both qualitative and quantitative data. Despite the high profile of assisted living, quality information on RCFEs remains largely unavailable to consumers. Most of the information readily available is ‘telephone directory’ information, amenity menus and a handful of professional websites that rate facilities based on self-reported information.
CARR is hopeful objective, compliance history information will become part of the County's rating system.

CARR enthusiastically supports the initiative for a multi-disciplinary Special Prosecution Unit in the DA’s office to investigate and prosecute crimes committed in long-term care facilities. Based on our public records research, we know that crimes specifically committed in RCFEs are rarely referred to either local law enforcement or to the Department of Justice/BMFEA. Crimes continue to elude exposure, professional investigation, or criminal prosecution, in large part because Community Care Licensing and its internal Investigations Bureau are authorized to conduct their work internally. Until crimes are consistently and timely investigated by local law enforcement and/or the Department of Justice, abusers will continue to go unpunished and residents will remain at risk.

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