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Don't Boo, Volunteer



Wow ... I hope the recent article ("The Death of Jeannie Newstrom," Aug. 4) is a wakeup call to all who have family or friends living in assisted living facilities. As horrible as this situation is, this is not an isolated incident of elder abuse in our community.

While the majority of the assisted living facilities do provide adequate care, current regulations (Title 22, Division 6, Chapter 8) allow residents such as Mrs. Newstrom to slip through the cracks. These original Title 22 regulations written in the 1970s for nursing homes, included "Board and Care," now called Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFE), in 1981. The original intent of these RCFE's was to provide a place to live for seniors who no longer wanted to live independently and may need assistance with activities of daily living; but the facilities may not provide medical care.

Today these same RCFEs are keeping residents well beyond that level of care — some with "exceptions" from CCL, some with "Hospice" clients — but the regulations remain the same. For example, a resident care staff person needs only 10 hours of training to care for these seniors. A facility is required to have "enough staff to meet the needs of the residents," what does that mean? While we do need stronger legislation to hold these facilities accountable, each of us needs to be sure our seniors are receiving the best possible care available. One would hope that if you are paying a facility $4,000-plus you would not need to check to see if your loved one is being well cared for; this article proves that may not be so.

If you are interested in being a part of a program that not only advocates for residents' rights in RCFEs and those in local nursing homes, but also helps to protect these vulnerable seniors from suffering severe neglect like Mrs. Newstrom, please give the local Long-Term Care Ombudsman program, which I manage, a call at 269-1330 and volunteer. We need you but, most importantly, our seniors need you. Together we can make sure this never happens to another senior in our community.

Suzi Fregeau, Eureka

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