Weekly Feature

2017-06-15 / Editorial

Help is needed for seniors in New York

Bee Editorial

June 15 marks National Elder Abuse Awareness Day. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are around 383,000 people age 60 and older living in Erie County. The last of the baby boomer generation, which makes up 20 percent of the American public, turned 50 back in 2014. There is no doubt the number of aging Americans is on the rise.

In May, the Erie County Legislature passed “Ruthie’s Law,” which forces nursing homes to notify families or guardians within two hours of any injuries to a resident. The law was named in memory of Ruth Murray, a woman living at a nursing home in Erie County, who died after she wandered into a dementia patient’s room and was badly beaten.

Medical records show the nursing home staff failed to notify authorities within 24 hours; they also were cited by the state Health Department for failing to properly supervise residents. “By requiring that local facilities follow the guidelines of Ruthie’s Law, we take important steps to protect residents and their families, and work toward safer nursing home care,” said Erie County Legislator Joseph Lorigo.

With the aging population on the rise, these kinds of laws will be critical in keeping what is becoming a large number of Americans safe. It is unavoidable that families will have to make the difficult decision to place loved ones in assisted living facilities or nursing homes.

Right now, an estimated 3 million New Yorkers are spending a combined 2.6 billion hours caring for family members. There often isn’t enough financial support for caregivers, and what little is offered comes mostly from volunteer organizations. As the number of older Americans grows, the problem of finding caregivers is also coming to the forefront. A study from the Journal of the American Medical Association shows the ratio of potential caregivers for each person older than 80 years is estimated to decline from 7 to 1 in 2010 to 4 to 1 in 2030.

What New York needs is more laws aimed at helping the senior population. Whether this means more aid for caregivers or higher standards for nursing facilities, this generation is in need of assistance from the younger generation.

Failure to act would not just impact the baby boomers; it will also hurt the younger generations who love them.

If you or a loved one is in need of assistance, visit the New York State Office for the Aging at www.aging.ny.gov.

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