Nightmarish stories about elder care in Minnesota have dominated the state’s news in recent months. The reports were especially striking given the state’s reputation as a haven for seniors: Minnesota has historically been named one of the best states for seniors, including by AARP’s 2017 state scorecard on long-term services and supports, where it ranked second overall.
But providers there are stepping up against abuse and trying to counter the headlines in the process, working on legislation and to improve their care practices.
Using data for best practices
LeadingAge Minnesota, which represents not-for-profit senior care providers in the state, is taking a deep dive into the reports of abuse. Complaints notoriously piled up at the state’s Office of Health Facility Complaints (OHFC), but LeadingAge had been trying to use the information in the reports even before they felt the media spotlight, according to Jodi Boyne, vice president of public relations at LeadingAge Minnesota.
Now the organization has begun distributing a weekly alert that summarizes reports where the OHFC found substantiated maltreatment.
“Our goal is to learn from the these terrible incidents that have happeened in long-term care facilites across the state, so we can prevent it from happening again,” Boyne told Skilled Nursing News. “Right now, there is not a seamless or transparent way to do that.”
The office posts newly resolved investigations every week, but historically, many of the maltreatment complaints were in a paper-based system, which made it difficult for anyone to go through and scan them easily, Boyne said.
Though there is a report of the total number of complaints filed, it doesn’t provide insight on what the OHFC sees on a monthly basis, she added.
One of the LeadingAge summaries detailed how a fall that resulted in a resident’s death stemmed from a mechanical failure where a rubber tab came off a lift arm. The incident illustrates how the reports can be used by the facilities to improve, Boyne said.
“What we can do is put out an action alert to all our members saying, ‘If you use this type of equipment, please do an equipment check,’” she explained. “It should be our job to make sure that providers know that happened as soon as we can.”
In addition to the reports, the LeadingAge MN Abuse and Maltreatment Prevention Task Force, which was created to help providers forestall abuse and maltreatment, is examining the data more closely to develop training and best practices.
Legislation In progress
The report from a working group convened by AARP Minnesota issued several recommendations to respond to the state’s elder abuse crisis. LeadingAge Minnesota agrees with many of those recommendation, Boyne said, particularly on the issue of transparency and providing information to those who need it.
LeadingAge MN is also taking steps to help foster change in the state, joining Care Providers of Minnesota, the state’s American Health Care Association affiliate, and others in testifying before the MN Senate Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee on Feb. 28. The Long-Term Care Imperative (LTC Imperative), a collaborative legislative effort between LeadingAge MN and Care Providers of Minnesota, supported several bills that were introduced in the state legislature last week.
House File (HF) 3561 and its companion Senate File (SF) 3100, both introduced on March 8 and supported by the LTC Imperative, would authorize electronic monitoring in certain health care facilities. These facilities include licensed nursing homes, boarding care homes, or those registered as a “housing with services establishment” under Minnesota law.
Residents would have to conduct the monitoring at their own expense. However, facilities would have to make a notification and consent form related to electronic monitoring available to residents and inform them of their option to use such surveillance in their rooms or private living spaces starting Jan. 1, 2019.
Another set of LTC Imperative-supported bills, HF 3296 and SF 3099, would establish a working group to examine crimes against vulnerable adults. Appointments to the group would include representatives from LeadingAge Minnesota and Care Providers of Minnesota and must be made by July 1, under the bills. It would have to submit a report with findings, recommendations and draft legislation to the appropriate committees and legislative members by Jan. 15, 2019.
HF 3308 and companion SF 3103, which are also both supported by the LTC Imperative, would modify the health care and home care bills of rights, change requirements for reporting maltreatment of older adults, and provide protections for older and vulnerable adults, among other steps. HF 3308 was introduced on March 5, SF 3103 was introduced March 8.
These bills are more expansive in their approach and would tackle several aspects of the senior care ecosystem in the state. One section aims to bolster patient and resident understanding of their rights, while another targets data management and providing more information about investigations of maltreatment. It establishes various working groups and panels for this purpose.
One step at a time
The expansive nature of HF 3308 and SF 3103 highlights Boyne’s argument that the state’s care models will also need to be examined. In one example, the assisted living with services model was created 20 years ago, and the profile of a senior being served today is very different, she said.
“We’re focusing on, from [a] provider perspective, that which we can get done immediately and that which we can continue to collaborate on,” Boyne said.
Written by Maggie Flynn