Words from Wiger: We must do better for our seniors

MN State Senator Chuck Wiger, District 43

“It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; …”  – Hubert Humphrey


The real measure of a civilized society is how its seniors are treated, which is why recent reports of elder abuse and neglect in Minnesota nursing homes and assisted living facilities are deeply troubling. We must take steps to protect vulnerable adults and hold abusers accountable. 

It was troubling to also read that some leaders in Washington are urging rollbacks in nursing home regulations. Our seniors and their families instead need more help.

I am encouraged that Gov. Mark Dayton has formed a new work group to address these issues. The new, independent work group will be led and convened by the American Association of Retired Persons. Citizen feedback can be provided via email to aarpmn@aarp.org.

Gov. Dayton is seeking more information on the following issues:

• Protecting the rights of residents and connecting them to resources

• Determining what changes to state and federal regulations are needed to protect seniors and families

• Strengthening the definitions of memory care, assisted living and housing with services so people can make better decisions on the proper placement for seniors

• Clarifying ways to ensure that family members are informed about how to report suspected abuse and neglect

• Removing barriers to communication with family members when there is alleged abuse

• Ensuring proper reporting to law enforcement about potential abuse

Last session, Gov. Dayton worked with the Legislature to secure new funding to increase staffing and resources at the Minnesota Department of Health to more quickly respond to alleged abuse of vulnerable adults. The legislation also called for MDH to engage stakeholders in these improvements.

The new work group will build off the feedback gathered from the three listening sessions the agency held this fall. Hundreds of seniors, family members and providers attended.

Here are some helpful websites for seniors and their families:

MinnesotaHelp: Minnesota offers more than 10,000 agencies that provide help for residents at www.minnesotahelp.info/specialtopics/seniors. The Seniors Section details services for senior Minnesotans, their caregivers and their families.

Minnesota Seniors Online: This website, www.mnseniorsonline.com, is a one-stop shop for information and resources. It is also a direct link to Minnesota products, services, shopping, entertainment, hobbies, events and happenings, city and county government information and other relevant information.

Senior LinkAge Line: This is a service of the Minnesota Board on Aging and the Minnesota Area Agencies on Aging. It is a free service that makes it easier for seniors and their families to find community services. Call 1-800-333-2433 or email senior.linkage@state.mn.us to find services near you or get help reviewing your situation to determine what service might be helpful. Senior LinkAge Line can connect you with caregiver support, financial assistance, health insurance counseling, home care, housing, housekeeping help, Indian elder program, legal assistance, meal delivery and nutrition, Ombudsman for older Minnesotans, snow/lawn care, transportation and volunteering.

Senior LinkAge Line staff have special knowledge in the areas of Medicare, prescription drug expenses assistance, long-term care insurance, caregiver issues and grandparents raising grandchildren. The phones are answered from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, and messages can be left 24 hours a day.

Area school districts also have many community education programs and classes that are geared to seniors and senior caregivers. Check the school district websites for more information.

One program you might find helpful, for example, is offered by the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale District 622 community education program, and it is sponsored by the Consortium of Lakes Area Senior Services. The program is called Community Conversation and it is intended to create more dementia-friendly communities in the Northeast Metro. It aims to change the way people think, act and talk about dementia. The first class this winter will be held Wednesday, Feb. 7, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the White Bear Lake School District Center. Call 651-407-2024 for more information.

The Mahtomedi and White Bear Lake school districts have similar community education programs. Check district websites at: www. mahtomedi.k12.mn.us or www.whitebearlake. K12.mn.us for more information.

As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions regarding any issue. You can visit me at the Capitol in my office in the Senate Building, room 2219, or you can let me know if you would like me to stop by your home or apartment. I can be reached by email at sen.chuck.wiger@senate.mn and by phone at 651-296-6820. My cell is 651-770-0283.

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