At the top of the wish list for advocates of elderly and disabled Georgia residents are new ways to keep personal care home residents safe.
The CSRA Coalition of Advocates for the Aging put its list together on what it will ask members of the General Assembly for in the upcoming session. The emphasis on personal care home safety was spurred by an Augusta Chronicle investigation that found conditions in about a third of Augusta’s personal care homes endangered patients.
The death of Gregory Lauderdale, a 60-year-old veteran of the Army and Marines, prompted the newspaper’s investigation. Lauderdale died Jan. 31, 2013, after spending 14 months in a personal care home. He died after an infection from a bedsore seeped into his bones and ate through his flesh to expose his tailbone.
Lauderdale’s death also spurred Augusta Judicial Circuit District Attorney Natalie Paine to form a task force – Crimes Against the Vulnerable and Elderly – to focus on personal care homes. At a CSRA Coalition of Advocates for the Aging luncheon last month, Paine told the group she was shocked to learn about the vulnerability of residents at personal care homes .
The state’s Department of Community Health regulates personal care homes, but it lacks enforcement power. The agency’s goal is to inspect every home once every 17 months.
The Georgia Council on Aging and the American Association of Retired Persons want to push for greater accountability for personal care homes, and to give the Department of Community Health more options for sanctions.
Advocates for the elderly are also calling for an abuser registry – a registry of people with a history of abusing vulnerable adults.
Legislators will consider changes to law governing personal care homes in the upcoming session. One possibility is requiring every judicial circuit to create its own personal care home task force.
Paine said CAVE members have received calls from across the state from other agencies asking what can be done. Local task force members are still feeling their way through what needs to be done and what can be done, but she credited the passion of members for a string of recent prosecutions for exploitation of the elderly or disabled.
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