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Ensuring that your parents obtain the best care available as they age

It is the National Year of Elder Abuse Prevention and Virginia is doing what it can to raise awareness of elder care in the state. While there are many programs available through the Virginia Department of Social Services and the Virginia Coalition for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, Inc. that seek to improve the lives of residents in assisted living facilities, far too many elders do not receive the care and attention they need.

An issue of national concern

A recent Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) Frontline exposé highlighted serious problems with care and services received in long-term care facilities in the U.S. Approximately three-quarters of a million people live in about 30,000 assisted living facilities across the country. A yearlong investigation revealed many inadequacies with assisted living providers, including the following:

  • Many facilities are understaffed and unable to provide adequate supervision of residents.
  • Employee training is often insufficient. For example, in some states, a person can become an administrator of a facility with only 40 hours of training.
  • Assisted living facilities are not as highly regulated - nor inspected as frequently - as nursing homes, allowing care providers to cut corners.

Not only are assisted living facilities failing to properly care for their patients, last year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed actions against two companies that provide recommendations of such facilities to consumers. The companies claimed that they carefully screened the facilities they recommended but the FTC findings revealed otherwise. Grown children of elderly parents often find themselves in a quandary as to how to provide the best care for their loved ones.

Finding a home for elderly parents

If a loved one needs more care than you are able to provide, it may be necessary to find in-home assistance or a long-term care facility. Assisted living facilities often offer independent living and homey atmospheres that are appealing and, even, necessary for quality living.

However, not all care providers offer the same benefits and it is important to do the following as you locate an appropriate living situation for a family member:

  • Do your research: Carefully research each option, identifying a facility that offers the best mix of supervision, medical care and independence that works best for your loved one. Lawsuits or complaints against particular facilities are generally available to the public but you may need to do a little digging.
  • Verify information: Do not rely on a mere recommendation or a single visit. Compare and contrast the available information for each option so you are certain it is correct.
  • Count the financial cost: Some facilities - or types of care provided - may not be covered by Medicaid or Medicare. Often, estate planning can help defray costs but must be set up ahead of time.

Most importantly, make sure you have the right to make decisions on behalf of a family member who is unable to care for his or her own medical or financial affairs. If an issue should arise and your loved one is mistreated or does not receive proper care, you need to be able to act quickly on his or her behalf.

An experienced elder law and estate planning attorney can help when you have questions about long term care or suspect elder abuse in Virginia.

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