JANUARY 30, 1995 VOLUME 2, NUMBER 30
In May, delegates from around the country will convene in Washington, D.C., for the fourth White House Conference on Aging. Arizona's delegation will include 34 representatives from advocacy groups, professional organizations and agencies. Elder Law Issues publisher Robert Fleming will be one of the delegates.
Last weekend Arizona's delegates (together with about 100 delegates to the State Conference) met in Phoenix at the "Arizona White House Conference on Aging" to discuss the issues and make preliminary recommendations for the national Conference. Presentations focused on:
- Elder's legal rights,
- Health (and mental health) care,
- Minority and other special populations,
- Financial security for the elderly, and
- Long term care.
Tremendous amounts of timely information were provided. For the next few issues of Elder Law Issues, we will be synopsizing some of that information; at the conclusion, we will report some of the Arizona Conference's final recommendations.
Estimates are that as many as 1.5 million elderly Americans may be victims of abuse and exploitation. Only 1 in 8 elderly individuals receives protective services. Nationally (and locally), police and prosecutors often decline to pursue abusers and exploiters, claiming that such cases are difficult to win.
Elderly citizens routinely find their personal autonomy and dignity compromised or lost through institutionalization, even in the best nursing facilities. Legitimate concerns for safety often become the basis for unnecessary or even counterproductive guardianship actions.
Government benefit programs require bewilderingly complicated application procedures, frequently overlap and are not well-understood by seniors. Appeal procedures are often unknown to seniors who have lost benefits or been denied eligibility. Millions of older citizens may be unaware of programs which they should benefit from.
Guardianship, advance directive and exploitation laws in Arizona (and in many other states) have been reformed, but progress is uneven and often incremental. The "ombudsman" program (operated in Pima County by the Pima Council on Aging) is an excellent example of available resources, but is not well enough known among the elderly population (nor well enough funded) to be as effective as might be possible. Similarly, case management agencies and adult protective services help protect elders, but are insufficient to ensure full protection to all.
To complicate this picture, current expectations are for dramatic reductions in funding for many existing government programs. Against that background, the preservation of legal rights of the elderly is especially difficult.
[Next issue: Health Care]