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(SACRAMENTO) – The California Attorney General's Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse (BMFEA) and Crime and Violence Prevention Center (CVPC) today joined with AARP in announcing the release of a comprehensive consumer guide to help Californians protect their elderly relatives and friends.
The booklet, 'A Citizen's Guide to Preventing and Reporting Elder Abuse,' provides helpful hints on how to detect the most common warning signs of physical, emotional and financial elder abuse and neglect in long-term care facilities. The 36-page guide also offers guidance on ways to protect yourself and loved ones from becoming a victim and contains a list of valuable web sites and other resources for additional advice and information.
"This guide serves as the most comprehensive and first-in-the-nation resource to address the serious and significant problems of elder abuse,' said Suzanne Miller, AARP spokesperson. 'Whether it is physical or emotional abuse, financial abuse or abuse that occurs within a long-term facility, this reference will be the first line of defense.'
Collin Wong, executive director of the Attorney General's BMFEA, said selecting a residential care or skilled nursing facility can be an extremely difficult process for a senior and his or her family. One segment of the booklet provides helpful information about making this important decision.
"We encourage potential residents and their families to visit the facility at different times of the day and night and to talk with those living there to determine whether they are happy and healthy in their home,' Wong said. 'Families should also ensure that the facility offers services their loved ones want: What kind of religious services are offered, does the staff speak the language the resident is most comfortable with, or are the activities the resident enjoys available?'
The guide represents the first in what will be other outreach programs funded by a three-year, $6 million grant received by the Attorney General's CVPC to create a statewide Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse Media Awareness Campaign.
CVPC Director Paul Seave said about 225,000 cases of elder abuse occur every year in California. But it is estimated that for every case of elder abuse reported, five more are not.
"Elder abuse can happen in your family, your neighborhood or in a facility,' Seave said. 'We hope that individuals will use this guide to learn what elder abuse is and how best they can protect themselves and their loved ones from becoming a victim.'
Elder Abuse is one of the top priorities of the Attorney General's Office. In 1999, the size of the elder abuse prosecution program was doubled and staff was directed to use its civil, administrative and criminal enforcement powers to bring poorly performing care facilities into compliance with federal and state laws governing the care of patients. As a result, over the past four years, the BMFEA has prosecuted 311 criminal elder abuse cases. As a point of reference for comparison purposes, only 47 criminal cases were filed from 1995-1999.
The Attorney General also launched 'Operation Guardians,' a multi-agency task force that conducts surprise, on-site inspections of California's 1,500 skilled nursing home facilities. The task forces identify and correct violations of federal, state and local laws and regulations designed to protect elderly patients.
Last year, the Attorney General's Office produced and distributed a mandatory elder abuse training curriculum for all employees in long-term facilities. This curriculum instructs all employees in facilities about their legal obligation to report known or suspected cases of elder and dependent adult abuse. More than 18,000 copies of the curriculum have been distributed.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services last year honored the Attorney General with a national award, recognizing the office for having the top-performing health care fraud and elder abuse prosecutorial program in the country.
Wong, the executive director of the BMFEA, said, 'The beginning of the New Year is generally an occasion when we take stock of our relationships and reflect on how we can better contribute to our families and communities. So as resolutions are made for 2003, the Attorney General's Office hopes that Californians will join us in embracing the civic responsibility of protecting the safety and dignity of our elders.'
The guide is now available in English, but Chinese and Spanish versions will be published within 60 days. The guide and other information on preventing elder abuse is available online at www.ag.ca.gov/bmfea/ and www.safestate.org. Consumers also may have copies of the guide mailed to them by writing the Office of the Attorney General, c/o Crime and Violence Prevention Center, 1300 I Street, Suite 1150, Sacramento, CA 95814. Please allow four to six weeks for delivery.