Will MN Lawmakers Address the Elder-Abuse Crisis?

Will MN Lawmakers Address the Elder-Abuse Crisis? Click to Enlarge

ST. PAUL, Minn. - With less than a week left in the Minnesota legislative session, it's unclear whether either house will pass meaningful elder-care legislation.

Advocates for seniors say abuse in assisted-living facilities has reached crisis levels, with about 400 cases reported across the country every week.

According to Kristine Sundberg, president of Elder Voice Family Advocates, which contributed to a report on the problem, the elder-care industry is failing to put patient safety first, largely because of staff who are overworked, under-trained and underpaid.

"The industry's accepting more and more people with greater and greater needs," Sundberg said, "yet they aren't staffed to handle those needs."

She said in the worst cases, those staff members become callous toward their jobs - and the people in their care.

Minnesota is the only state in the country that doesn't require licensing for assisted-living facilities. Opponents of licensing bills have claimed that severe abuse is rare, and more regulation could drive some care providers out of business.

Sundberg said Minnesota's rapidly aging population makes better regulation of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities even more pressing.

"Currently one-in-nine people are 65 years or older. By 2040, one-in-three is going to be 65 and older," she said. "We've got a tsunami approaching us, and we need to figure out how we care for our elderly in a respectful, safe manner."

On Wednesday, Gov. Mark Dayton sent a letter to legislators asking for standalone bills. But a House bill backed by AARP Minnesota and the Alzheimer's Association has been abandoned, while another, less popular measure to study the need for elder-care licensing has been wrapped into an omnibus bill.

Senate File 3437, requiring elder-care licensing, has been stuck in the Senate Finance Committee.

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