Mississippi's adult day care crisis

I must admit, I was stunned to read the dreadful article in the Daily Journal recently about the 564 Adult Day Care facility violations across the Magnolia state.

How can a state that regulates our assisted living and nursing homes so closely fail to measure up when it comes to Adult Day Care centers? What makes matters worse, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found those 564 violations were discovered in only 20 facilities and 194 of the offenses were for health and safety shortcomings.

Adult Day Care facilities were designed to help supervise and take care of our elderly citizens during the day. Most centers try to provide activities that keep seniors occupied and stimulated.

On many occasions the seniors are entertained with puzzles, games, light exercise, social activities and arts and crafts. When the OIG inspectors made their rounds, they discovered violations for toxic chemicals, mold, unclean facilities, exposed electrical wiring, a dead rodent and an unsecured knife on the premises. What was disappointing, there appeared to be quite a bit of finger pointing as to who was responsible. Quite frankly, we should all take responsibility and demand better results by the business owners, regulatory bodies and our Mississippi elected officials. With 14.3 percent of our Mississippi population being 65 and over, we must expect better results than we are currently experiencing.

Our vulnerable Mississippians deserve better!

According to the OIG report, Mississippi failed to fully comply with federal and state requirements due to the state’s yearly inspections. The annual inspections are conducted to ensure a safe and non hazardous environment. Across America, thousands of people are injured in workplace accidents and we want to ensure our seniors are protected from hazardous conditions within Mississippi’s adult day care centers.

When there is a lack of oversight, elder abuse can occur in the form of physical, financial, sexual or mental abuse. When staff members are overworked, stressed or exhausted, things can happen, so it is our duty to pay attention.

Several things created the nightmarish report by the OIG, but a major one that exacerbated the situation was a lack of funding to regulate the facilities. If this is the case, our regulatory environment must have the resources to do their job. Budget cuts and limited auditor staffing and training coupled with the lack of state licensing requirements all played a part in provider non-compliance. Interestingly, the Mississippi Division of Medicaid didn’t dispute the OIG findings, however, in the agency’s response letter, they indicated the blame should fall on the shoulders of the adult day care providers.

We believe the Mississippi Division of Medicaid, Adult Day Care providers and our elected officials must all do a better job of working together for the safety of our older Americans.

This past July, CNBC ranked Mississippi in the top 10 as one of the best places to retire in America.

If we want to continue to make extraordinary progress for retiree’s, we must find a way to provide better oversight by our Mississippi officials and repair the significant challenges in our adult day care centers.

Conwell Hooper is executive director of American Senior Alliance, a not-for-profit organization that advocates on behalf of America’s greatest generation. He can be reached at conwell@americansenioralliance.com.

 

This article was featured as an Op-Ed on The Daily Journal.

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