SEATTLE - This past weekend, the Seattle Times newspaper began
a series of reports, entitled "Seniors for Sale," by reporter Michael
Berens, on abuse and neglect of elderly residents in adult family homes
in Washington. Some find it shocking that the owners of these
facilities need only 48 hours of training - and some manage to bypass
it - while their staff members get 35 hours.
Washington voters in 2008 overwhelmingly approved increasing training
for long-term care workers to 75 hours, and requiring criminal
background checks, but the state has put off implementing Initiative
1029 because of budget problems. Nancy Dapper, executive director of
the Alzheimer's Association of Western and Central Washington, says she's not surprised by the sad cases detailed in the articles.
"If you don't invest in the system, and have the right training for
workers and the right regulatory environment and enforcement by the
state, the stories are what happens every day."
Dapper says at least half the people in long-term care have some form
of dementia and multiple medical problems that make specialized
training important. She is concerned that frail seniors are too quickly
overlooked when state dollars are tight.
"This affects everybody. So, if you've got a mom, a dad, a grandma, I'm
telling you, you're going to want to know that you have a state system
that has the right level of regulation and the right level of
enforcement. And I think you're willing to pay it, when it's your own
Dapper believes the state has the right idea for its long-term care
system by keeping people in home settings as much as possible as they
age, but only if training and follow-up is sufficient to keep them
This year, Gov. Christine Gregoire has already proposed delaying Initiative 1029 for another 18 months, for budget reasons.