Express Yourself: The meaning of long-term care

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By Wally Pearce
Winters Elder Day Council

Starting in November 2001, Congress recognized Long-term Care Awareness Month to make information about long-term care more accessible. Long-term care services include medical and non-medical support afforded to individuals that cannot conduct essential daily functions.

According to the Northeast ADA Center, a member of the ADA National Network, National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, Rehabilitation Research, and the U.S. Department of Education, major life activities include, but are not limited to: “caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.”

In some circumstances, long-term care services can occur in a person’s home, while in other situations might be that an individual in need would decide to live in an assisted living facility or nursing home. These professional services are designed to aid individuals to subsist independently and safely once they can no longer complete their daily activities. Long-term care facilities are defined as skilled nursing, assisted living and home health care.

November 2022 is National Long-term Care Awareness Month, a dedicated time when advocates advance the meaning of nursing homes to ensure that residents of any long-term care facilities are protected where they live. November also inspires adults to initiate a care plan for their future.

Long-term Care Awareness Month is also an opportunity to check in with loved ones who live in care facilities, to make sure that the care plans in place are effective. Reaching out to those in long-term care facilities can also have a positive effect on their happiness and safety, as isolated patients may be at a higher risk of elder abuse.

Conversely, as effective, and important as long-term care environments are, and while most long-term care facilities take great care to ensure the safety of their patients, still, some residents might experience various levels of abuse or neglect from staff. Recognizing, and identifying signs of resident home abuse, can save patients from severe emotional or physical distress.

Patients in long-term care environments may be especially susceptible to safety problems during their care, since patients requiring assistance in long-term care facilities are disproportionately older and chronically, and frequently sick, and often arrive at a long-term care milieu post-acute hospitalization.

Unfortunately, various forms of long-term care abuse are pervasive due to understaffing, inadequate education, and often, due to staff exhaustion. In California, any type of elder abuse, no matter the degree, when, or where the abuse occurs, it’s considered to be a crime. Under California Criminal law, Penal Code §368, elder abuse occurs “when a person knows that a victim is an elder then inflicts unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on the elder or willfully causes or permits that elder to suffer.”

California law labels elder abuse as abandonment, elder neglect, emotional abuse, financial abuse, physical abuse, self-neglect, and sexual abuse. 

In Yolo County, anyone can make a referral alleging elder abuse or neglect by calling 911, Adult Protective Services at 1-888-675-1115, or 211 Yolo County, Elder/Dependent Adult Abuse Reporting.

This November 2022, evaluating a long-term care environment places a necessary window of opportunity into their operations while inserting a valuable focus on how long-term care can be of enormous help to ensure that residents are receiving the level of care that they need and deserve.

Any individual might expect a long-term care experience if they sustain an acute, continuing health condition or serious injury and subsequent disability. Absent any warning, the necessity for long-term care can rapidly ascend, maybe after a stroke or heart attack. However, any illness is subject to a bit-by-bit progression as individuals age, or become weaker, as an incapacitating disease or debility takes hold to limit their daily life functions.

It’s clear, long-term care facilities are an important and central component within the fabric of our community, that provides critical daily support to patients who might not, and because of their health situation, by no means own the necessary human abilities and resources to safely care for themselves.

This November, please join the Winters Elder Day Council and help in recognizing the value of Long-term Care Awareness Month in our community.

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