Earlier this week we discussed how the Administration of Aging’s Administration for Community Living (part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) revealed its plan to enact proposed rule changes to the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOPs).
On Tuesday those proposals were officially released, providing all those with a stake in these programs the chance to get a look at how the program in their state may change if these rules are adopted. You can view those proposed rules in full here.
By way of quick background, these Ombudsman programs are operated under the provisions of the federal law known as the Older Americans Act. As previously mentioned, the purpose was to provide all community members in different long-term care settings to have organized advocates on their side representing their interests and assisting when elder neglect or mistreatment issues arise.
However, the specific guidance about running the programs in each state was lacking. Over the years more and more individuals involved in the program have asked the Administration questions about whether or not each individual state was meeting the obligations required by the program. As you might imagine, depending on the preferences of leaders in individual states, some locations provide more aggressive protection for residents while other states are more lax, in deference to the long-term care industry.
That is where this new proposed rule (actually a set of changes) comes into play. As the release this week explained, “HHS estimates that a number of states may need to update their statutes, regulations, policies and/or practices in order to operate the program consistent with federal law and this proposed regulation.”
The proposed rule is comprehensive in scope, and it requires a close analysis of the full details of the proposal to understand all that may be affected.
For example, the new rules tackle the specific definitions of critical categories like “immediate family,” “Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, and “Representatives of the Office of the State of Long-Term care ombudsman.” In recent years, disputes of the very definitions of these terms has led to wildly different procedures in individual states, sometimes at the detriment of proper care for seniors. Uniformity will hopefully raise the bar nationwide.
In addition, the new rule explicates the actual functions of the LTCO in each state. This includes clarification on who can designate representatives and other employees. These decisions are critical, because the choices of who make individual choices affects the ‘aggressiveness” of action to protect resident rights.
There are many other critical issues touched on by the proposal.
Don’t forget, the Administration will be taking public comment on this rule for the next 60 days. All those with a stake in these issues should take the time to review the material and share their thoughts to guide protections down the road. The goal, of course, is ultimately to stamp out elder abuse and nursing home neglect in its entirely. While a this federal guidance won’t solve everything, it is an important step that can be used to improve lives.
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