Offices vows to get tougher on seniors abuse
Harsher penalties for seniors abuse and stricter admission laws for carers are among the legislative and regulatory amendments being considered for recommendation by the newly named Ageing and Disability Services office.
The Bermuda Government’s National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged announced its relaunch at a press conference yesterday afternoon, which includes a reorganisation and extra services for seniors and people with disabilities.
The former office came under fire at the start of this year following a Royal Gazette investigation that exposed senior abuse cases that had slipped under its radar. The investigation suggested that the office did not properly respond to complaints or help people find suitable accommodation as was set out in its remit.
Acting manager for the Ageing and Disability office Keeona Belboda said measures were being put in place to avoid such abuses in the future.
She told The Royal Gazette: “We were waiting for this event to happen and now we are looking to make some amendments to the legislation to give us more teeth so that we can ensure that our seniors and disabled have the adequate support that they need.
“The amendments would be to our Residential Care Home and Nursing Home Act, Residential Care Home and Nursing Home Regulations and the Senior Abuse Act.
“We haven’t had meetings yet but once we get past today’s event we are going to look into meeting with the various stakeholders to get the support we need to get the amendments made.
“We are certainly considering recommending harsher penalties and changing the regulations that speak to how a nursing home administrator is employed. Currently they just have to be 18 years old, of good character, and have a management background. There is no real support to that — anybody can do that.
“Now we are going to make sure it is really defined in terms of what they need to know. They need to know about what it takes to run a seniors’ home, they need to have more management expertise and perhaps a nursing background and some solid qualifications.
“We are really trying to hone in on the nursing homes because we know that is where the area of concern is again. It is not going to happen over night but we have made a start.”
The new name of the office aims to reflect its expanded remit to provide services to people with disabilities rather than those with physical challenges only, while replacing seniors with “ageing” to be consistent with the Bermuda Government’s plan to promote such initiatives as the National Ageing Plan.
The service provides a variety of different functions including regulation and compliance, coordinating services and promoting awareness.
It will provide oversight of the integrated production and functional skills programmes at the K Margaret Carter Centre, formerly The Opportunity Workshop and The Orange Valley Centre, and provide advice and guidance on best practices for accessibility to both public and private sectors, among other services.
Ms Belboda said the team has already begun to make improvements and will be looking at ways to ensure standards are properly monitored going forward.
She said: “We have been meeting with rest home administrators to let them know that we are changing the way that we do business and we are looking at improving our services across the board, ensuring homes are up to compliance. We know it is not going to happen overnight. Most of these homes have been in existence for 20-plus years and we have to correct some behaviours but that comes with time. I believe we are actually making a start.
“We are looking to implement a report or scorecard system for the rest homes and nursing homes because we want families to have a bird’s-eye view of how they are rated. We have a spreadsheet that is colour-coded to see where the areas of deficiency are and where homes are non-compliant so we can get on board and enforce some of our standards.”
Ms Belboda said that the office would increase communication with the chief medical officer and staff from the former Opportunity Workshop have been brought to the team.
“That provides additional support to the office that wasn’t there before so we are able to effectively manage cases. We have highlighted the ways of monitoring senior risk referrals or abuse cases versus cases of neglect or people just need help in the comminute.”