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Know Your Rights – Government Resources for Seniors Christina Morales

October 14th, 2014

know your rightsKnow Your Rights! Many families are in a Catch 22: you are unable to take care of a family member due to financial or medical reasons and yet you are hesitant to put your loved one in a nursing home because of the bad reputation that so many have. Fear not! When you know the rights of your loved one, you will be able to make the best choices for him or her.

I know that there has been a ton of controversy over Obamacare, but fortunately little to none of it applies to Medicare and the rights of the elderly. The government has set programs in place to protect the rights of seniors and to assist their families during the aging process. Here are a few tools to use:

  1. Websites – Check out USA.gov and “Senior Citizens’ Resources” for help with money, housing, health, and even consumer protection. Medicare.gov is a great website full of valuable information from providing a checklist when evaluating nursing homes to tips for paying for long term care to updates on awareness campaigns that inform seniors on important current issues involving seniors. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS.gov) also has a variety of information concerning senior health care options, coverage, enrollment, and ensuring patient quality care. You may also want to check out the Administration on Aging’s website. They have tremendous insight on long term care planning, they can direct you to local programs, and their mission statement includes “maintaining the dignity and welfare of older individuals.” If you suspect abuse or neglect or if your loved one isn’t getting the proper care that they require, one of these websites can direct you to finding the help that you need.
  2. Nursing Home Inspections – State governments oversee the licensing of nursing homes with help from the health department or department of human services. The State conducts inspections of each nursing home that participates in Medicare and/or Medicaid about once a year. The State inspectors may go in more frequently if a nursing home is performing poorly and will also investigate complaints about nursing home care. From interviewing patients, ensuring fire safely, monitoring cleanliness, and checking storage areas, the government has a strict protocol that they follow before they continue to contribute Medicare funding.
  3. Elder Abuse Prevention – In 1987 AoA established the Prevention of Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation program and in 2012 nearly $5 million was dedicated to this cause. This program trains law enforcement officers, health care providers, and other professionals on how to recognize and respond to elder abuse. It also supports outreach and education campaigns to increase public awareness at both the state and local levels. Elder abuse is a serious issue that affects millions of seniors every year. If you suspect elder abuse, please contact the Eldercare Locator website or call 1-800-677-1116.

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