In Recognition of Elder Abuse Awareness Month, I would like to bring attention to this real problem in our community. There are articles about the failure of CWS to respond to reports of child abuse and this is certainly an eye-opener for our community ... these little ones are our future and deserve protection. However, speaking of "the future," we also have similar problems in the senior community, and they also need our protection.
I am speaking specifically about those living in the local nursing homes, and our assisted living facilities. Unfortunately, these facilities are for-profit and privately owned, thus no local regulatory oversight. It ultimately is the responsibility of each facility/staff to report any suspected abuse. Because such reports could result in unwanted publicity, a "fine," other disciplinary action or loss of revenue, I am greatly concerned they are failing to report as mandated. The agencies that oversee these facilities are in Santa Rosa; you can imagine how quickly they respond. I have been involved with CASA and know the problems that exist in our community, but now I am working with the "other end of life" and I see those same problems almost daily.
I wish we had an authority, such as the grand jury, to do a full investigation of the day-to-day operations of these facilities. Our program works closely with APS and HCSO, but it seems they all suffer from lack of staff, turnover, inadequate training in working with elders, etc., which makes their jobs difficult in responding to reports of abuse. As a community, we must get together to protect both our young and our old ... we all will be "there" some day and I am hoping these types of reports will become obsolete.
As the long-term care ombudsman program manager, I urge you to become another set of eyes for these precious individuals, whether young or old — volunteer in your community.
Suzi Fregeau, Eureka