If you didn’t have a chance to join our webinar last week on this topic you missed an informative, fast-paced hour of information key to managing your senior care business.
Joe Greenman, an attorney who specializes in issues for senior care providers was our special guest. He discussed timely issues surrounding elder abuse, and provided experienced guidance for managing this within your business or community. Among the key points discussed:
The Elder Justice Act, part of the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act, won’t be going away with the revision/repeal of “ObamaCare.” The provisions in this Act are designed to promote a more consistent and coordinated investigation into elder abuse allegations. It establishes four areas of elder abuse: physical, emotional, mental and financial, and focuses on programs to stop elder abuse.
Providers are impacted by more agencies identifying neglect as a lack of providing quality of care or meeting a standard of care to be expected. Providers can face fines, penalties and license revocations if they are found in violation of these standards.
Enforcement in the elder care professions has historically been aimed at nursing homes, but expect the same standards and consequences to begin coming across the spectrum of senior care, including assisted living, home health and home care.
As a provider, being proactive to protect yourself and your clients is essential. Among the steps you should take are:
Have formal policies and procedures surrounding abuse. Include training and awareness, reporting policies and internal policies when abuse is suspected or alleged.
Know how to conduct an internal investigation.
Know how to document thoroughly, objectively and appropriately.
Take follow up action if your internal investigation finds training or skills lacking. Document the action steps you’ve taken as well.
Respond immediately to allegations or suspicions of abuse or neglect. Don’t wait – make action your top priority.
Be vigilant in the top areas of presumed neglect, which may be reported as neglect by emergency room staff or the client’s health care provider. Train, document and treat aggressively to avoid negative consequences. These include: Skin care and wounds, falls, dehydration
Providers face an increasing risk that civil lawsuits will follow any state investigations of abuse or neglect that have positive findings. These lawsuits are costly and time-consuming, even if the outcome is in your favor.
Documentation of an internal investigation is crucial. Some tips for appropriate documentation include:
Create a separate investigation file for any allegations or suspicions. Don’t use the client or the employee file for your notes.
Identify the most objective, analytical member of your team to do the investigation and the documentation of findings.
Keep notes of interviews, comments and work product in the file, but create a report that is objective and fact-based only. This report may be the only thing provided to inspectors, but keep your work file stored away but accessible.
Don’t share your work file with anyone except your attorney unless required by law or subpoena. Share your final, fact-based report only.
Get an attorney involved as early in the process as possible if the allegation is serious or inflammatory, for example involving sexual assault.
As managers and administrators, you have an obligation to act fast when someone alleges abuse among your clients. While reporting windows vary by state, in general you should report a physical abuse allegation or suspicion to the required state agency within 2 hours and within 24 hours for all other types of abuse.
Understanding the risks and management of elder abuse is essential if you own or operate a senior care business today. It’s not just about providing good service and quality care; it may affect your very ability to provide care if you don’t take steps now to be prepared for an incident or allegation of elder abuse.