Elders and Their Care TodayPage 5 of 16

3. Legislation Supporting Elders

More than 11 million people served, 145 million meals paid for, and 10.6 million hours of adult daycare were subsidized by OAA in 2016.

AARP Bulletin, April 2019

Older Americans Act

[This section is taken from acl.gov, 2017, 2017a.]

Older American Act (OAA), 1965

Congress passed the Older Americans Act (OAA) in 1965 to address a lack of community social services for older persons. The original legislation established authority for grants to states for community planning and social services, research and development projects, and personnel training in the field of aging. The law also established the Administration on Aging (AoA) to administer the newly created grant programs and to serve as the federal focal point on matters concerning elders (ACL, 2017).

Although older individuals may receive services under many other federal programs, today the OAA is considered to be a major vehicle for the organization and delivery of social and nutrition services to this group and their caregivers. It authorizes a wide array of service programs through a national network of agencies on aging, service providers, and tribal organizations. The OAA also includes community service employment for low-income older Americans; training, research, and demonstration activities in the field of aging; and vulnerable elder rights protection activities (ACL, 2017).

The OAA has been amended and reauthorized many times in the intervening years, with a number of significant changes made in 2006, embedding the principles of consumer information for long-term care planning, evidence-based prevention programs, and self-directed community-based services to older individuals at risk of institutionalization (ACL, 2017).

In 2016 OAA reauthorized programs for FY 2017 through FY 2019. Among the many changes were provisions aiming to protect vulnerable elders by strengthening the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program (see below) and elder abuse screening and prevention efforts. It promoted delivery of evidence-based programs, such as those for falls prevention and chronic disease self-management programs. It also required the Assistant Secretary for Aging to issue guidance for states who are serving Holocaust survivors (ACL, 2017, 2017a).

OAA identifying current health needs

The OAA is currently (2019) up for reauthorization and supporters are hoping this time it will not take five years, as did the previous one. In addition to continuing support for fighting elder abuse, supporting aging-in-place programs, supporting caregivers, providing jobs for the needy, focusing on policy supporting an older population, and setting up advocacy agencies, supporters would like to see more food programs, more support for caregivers, more resources to fight Alzheimer’s disease, and pilot programs for transportation alternatives for older Americans (AARP, 2019b).

Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program

[This section is taken from acl.gov, 2019.]

Authorized under Title VII, Chapter 2, Sections 711/712 of the OAA, the States’ Long-Term Care Ombudsman programs work to resolve problems related to the health, safety, welfare, and rights of individuals who live in LTC facilities, such as nursing homes, board and care, and assisted living facilities, as well as other residential care communities. Ombudsman programs promote policies and consumer protections to improve long-term services and supports at the facility, local, state, and national levels.

Begun in 1972 as a demonstration program, today the Ombudsman program operates in all states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam, under the authorization of the OAA. Each state has an Office of the State LTC Ombudsman, headed by a full-time State LTC Ombudsman who directs the program statewide. Ombudsmen designate staff and thousands of volunteers as representatives to directly serve residents.

The OAA requires Ombudsman programs to:

  • Identify, investigate, and resolve complaints made by or on behalf of residents;
  • Provide information to residents about LTSS;
  • Ensure that residents have regular and timely access to ombudsman services;
  • Represent the interests of residents before governmental agencies and seek administrative, legal, and other remedies to protect residents; and
  • Analyze, comment on, and recommend changes in laws and regulations pertaining to the health, safety, welfare, and rights of residents (ACL, 2019)

There are other support services and programs for older adults, including those for elders who have Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias and for their caregivers. Comprehensive information on all of these can be found on the Administration for Community Living website, which is the overarching entity that includes the Administration on Aging (AoA).

Elder Justice Act

[This section is taken from acl.gov, 2017b.]

The Elder Justice Act was passed in 2010 and is the first comprehensive legislation to address the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of older adults at the federal level. The law authorized a variety of programs and initiatives to better coordinate federal responses to elder abuse, promote elder justice research and innovation, support Adult Protective Services systems, and provide additional protections for residents of long-term care facilities.

The Elder Justice Act established the Elder Justice Coordinating Committee to coordinate activities related to elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation across the federal government. It is also a source of authority for ACL programs and activities that include:

  • Elder Abuse Prevention Intervention Demonstrations (PPHF)
  • Elder Justice Innovation grants
  • State grants to enhance Adult Protective Services
  • Voluntary consensus guidelines for State APS Systems
  • National Adult Maltreatment Reporting System (NAMRS) (ACL, 2017b)

Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act

This model legislation first proposed in 2016 by AARP and promoted by its state offices has now become state law in 42 states and territories. It requires identification, notification, and education of family caregivers of individuals who are hospitalized (AARP, 2016). It is discussed in more detail in the section on Caregivers at the end of this course.