October is Residents’ Rights Month (LTCO Spotlight)

For most of us, we have no problem letting someone know when our rights are being violated. But, have you thought about the rights of residents who happen to live in a long-term care facility? Do a person’s rights change when they are no longer completely independent?

October is “Residents’ Rights Month.” It is an annual event to honor those living in long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, personal care homes, and assisted living communities. It is an opportunity to focus on and celebrate awareness of dignity, respect, and the rights of each resident. The federal Nursing Home Reform Law guarantees residents’ rights and places a strong emphasis on individual dignity, choice, and self-determination. The law also requires nursing homes to “promote and protect the rights of each resident.” State law also protects the rights of all long-term care residents. Residents’ Rights Month is a time to raise awareness of these rights and celebrate residents.

This year’s theme, “Connection Matters”, emphasizes connections – to family, to friends, and to the community – as an essential component of good health and quality of life for residents. During this time of pandemic, in-person visits are extremely restricted. It is more important than ever to help residents stay connected with family and friends using technology, window visits and other options. Residents’ Rights Month is an opportunity for residents, staff, families, ombudsman representatives, and other advocates to work together and promote quality long- term care.

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program gives a voice to resident concerns, advocates for system and legislative changes, addresses complaints, and provides information and assistance to long-term care residents. We strongly encourage the community to participate in Residents’ Rights Month activities because our residents continue to be important members of our
communities. To learn more about Residents’ Rights Month overall, please visit https://www.georgiaombudsman.org/ or call 1-866-552-4464, option 5 to connect with our ombudsman representatives.

Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight – Ser Familia

Ser Familia’s mission is to equip Latinos of all ages with the tools, resources and skills they need to go from crisis to thriving.   Our vision is to have all families flourish and contribute to the well-being of their communities.  Our 65 and over Latino population has been especially hit with the pandemic situation caused by COVID-19 and we are more committed than ever to provide mental health services that are linguistically and culturally appropriate to this population.

According to the US Census Bureau, The Latino population in Georgia, age 65 and over, grew over 200% in one decade (*2010 Census vs 2019 Census). In 2010, Latinos over 65 made up 4.7% of the population. By 2019, the percentage was 14.3%.

With the population growth and the outbreak of COVID-19, the need for Mental Health Services, as well as Emergency Assistance has only increased exponentially.  Ser Familia has filled that void by quickly launching and continuing support programs assisting the golden population and their families in their language”

Learn more at https://serfamilia.org/

Belisa M. Urbina
Executive Director
Ser Familia, Inc.

A Message From Your GGS President

2020. What a year it has been! As I write this, we are only half-way through, and I am positive each one of us has been affected in some manner. COVID-19, political uncertainty, the pain of social injustices, economic hardship, social isolation, social division, and the reminder that we have a long fight ahead of us when it comes to addressing social inequities.

Given the intersectional nature of the challenges that we face, we are reminded daily of the importance of the work that we do both individually and collectively. Our organization’s mission states, “The Georgia Gerontology Society is a statewide multidisciplinary professional network that educatesserves, and advocates for older adults and their families.” We work for all older adults, and these challenges have renewed our resolve to fight even harder for those who are most vulnerable.

The American Society on Aging recently noted that “Age offers no immunity to racism and violence.” Older adults are at highest risk from COVID-19, and older adults of color experience compounding risk factors that have real and lasting consequences on their health and well-being. The accumulation of stress from a lifetime of experiences with discrimination and racism, inequities in healthcare, and a systematically perpetuated racial wealth gap, all contribute to older adults of color being at higher risk for health challenges.

As the state of Georgia’s largest organization of multidisciplinary professionals in the field of aging, GGS will continue to advocate for all older adults and their families to have equal access to services and supportive community resources. We will continue to support decisive actions that address longstanding inequities and eliminate social injustice when and wherever we encounter. We will also work harder to amplify the voices of people of color in our field and recruit professionals from underrepresented groups for leadership positions to ensure that we are working effectively for all older adults in Georgia.

GGS is committed to ensuring our membership and older adults in Georgia remain our focus, especially in these complicated and dynamic times. We are advocates, so it comes naturally to us to want to make our organization better. Stronger. To stay as relevant as possible to those we serve. And, the only way forward is to listen. Carefully. Any questions, suggestions, or feedback? Please reach out to us. We are all ears and we want to do better. In the meantime, please continue to take COVID-19 seriously and remember that washing our hands is the least we can do to protect our most vulnerable community members.

Thank you in advance for your review and recommendations,

Barbara J. Hall

October is the Time to Honor Long-Term Care Residents

On October 9, 2019, Georgia Department of Human Services Commissioner, Robyn Crittenden,  joined with Division of Aging Services Director, Abby Cox; State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, Melanie McNeil; Long-Term Care Ombudsman Advisory Council members, volunteers and the staff of the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman to recognize the month of October as “Residents’ Rights Month”.

In 2018, more than 1,000 nursing home residents from across the state sent letters and petitions to the Governor and their state House and Senate members asking for an increase in the Personal Needs Allowance (PNA). Governor Kemp and the members of the Georgia General Assembly responded positively. In 2019, residents again contacted their House and Senate members urging an increase to the total PNA authorized in law. Lawmakers agreed and increased the PNA to $70. Many Ombudsman Representatives worked with residents, resident councils and nursing home staff to assist residents with this advocacy effort.

The PNA is the monthly sum of money that residents who receive Medicaid may retain from their personal income. Any income above the allowance is applied toward the cost of their care. The PNA allows residents receiving institutional care Medicaid benefits to keep from their income $70 each month to pay for personal items such as clothing, shoes, haircuts, snacks, cards and postage, small gifts, etc.

We strongly encourage the community to participate in Residents’ Rights Month activities and to visit residents, who continue to be important members of our communities. Our staff and volunteers advocate for Georgia’s long-term care facility residents, empowering residents to exercise their rights to make their own decisions.

Mental Health and Illness in Late Adulthood

Submitted By: Wendy Haus Hanevold Ph.D.

Wendy Haus Hanevold is a licensed clinical psychologist who focuses on working adults and families who have experienced complex developmental trauma. She specializes in working adults (50 Plus) who need to get back on track when life knocks them off balance. Her interests revolve around building positive and healthy attachments, acceptance of grief and loss, and helping people and families bloom where they are planted. (Her Website is www.WendyHanevoldPhD.com)

This column/blog is designed to explore how Mental Health and Illness manifests during late adulthood . It is created to provide practical information to professionals, volunteers and family members who are not mental health professionals but who are working and living with older adults.

Providers and Caregivers need information and tools to screen for problems and challenges that are common to all ages as well as emerging issues that are more prevalent among older adults. They need to know what questions to ask and what to observe on both the non-verbal and verbal levels. Examples of questions include: Can the person I am working with hear? Can they see? Did I remember to ask about substance use and sexual behaviors? ( Or did I assume they are too old for that kind of stuff). And of course, the specter of cognitive impairment raises its scary head. The bugaboo of medical problems complicates the appearance of mental health challenges. The impact of medication(s) further complicates the story. This is in addition to loss, transitions and change.

Grief, for example, is a common challenge caregivers encounter in older adults. Grief is not depression. Yet an individual may have a long history of recurring or ongoing depression complicated by grief. Grief may set off old trauma symptoms that had been held in abeyance through a secure connection to a loved one who is now lost. Grief may result in a return to old addictions—like alcohol or food. Grief may be a transition time that needs to be navigated with wisdom, support and companionship but does not need “treatment.”

Over the next several months, we will explore the major categories of Mental Health Diagnoses and how they manifest in the general adult population and in older adults. Major Mental Disorder categories include depression, anxiety, substance abuse, mood disorders, and eating disorders. Lifelong challenges revolving around social communication, attention, and learning issues do not disappear just because someone is older. Personality disorders can muddy multiple levels of interactions. Early development trauma, acute stress and chronic stress further complicate the presentation of problems. These challenges need to be balanced with explorations of resilience, earned wisdom, ability to be present in the here and now, family, community, and skills in navigating life’s trials and tests.

Resources will be shared for providers and family members. Tips for managing challenging behavior will be provided. Landmines to avoid will be identified. Guidelines for consultation with family members will be given. Web and print resources will be shared. The goal of this blog is to become an ongoing resource for providers and family members on Mental Health and Illness. It will not explore issues connected with Alzheimer’s or dementia beyond the screening level. Information will be shared. Answers will be gathered. Experts will be consulted. Please join us on this journey of healing and support. Please send suggestions for topics and questions you would like to be addressed to administrator@georgiagerontologysociety.org. Together we can become sources of knowledge, compassion and healing for the adults in later life and families with whom we work and live.