State leaders fight for rights of older Georgians

State leaders fight for rights of older Georgians

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - There’s a problem in Georgia and the country as a whole right now, many older adults can’t afford senior living. They also don’t qualify for government assistance and housing and now they’re left looking for help.

Families across the nation are being left with no other option but to quit their jobs to take care of parents and family members who can't afford senior living care.

“In 2019, caregivers will provide an estimated 18 and a half billion hours of unpaid care,” said Valdosta Representative John LaHood.

State Representative John LaHood, R-Valdosta. (Source: John LaHood)
State Representative John LaHood, R-Valdosta. (Source: John LaHood)

LaHood said the amount of care given in these situations is equal to $234 billion across the nation. Now he’s created a committee to find solutions to housing older Georgians.

“Basically, middle class senior adults who aren’t wealthy enough to afford luxury senior living, but they aren’t poor enough to qualify for the government programs that are available,” said LaHood.

Georgia Council on Aging and CO-AGE representatives met with legislators, like LaHood, every day during the past legislative session, in hopes of giving voices to the seniors who may not be able to make it to the Capitol to do so themselves.

“For them to be forgotten, for them to be neglected, is a travesty,” said Duane Tolson, the Social Services Coordinator with GCOA.

Along with the new committee, the past session saw several other bills that show a sign of hope and progress to protect seniors from harm and neglect in personal homes, to fund transportation services for older adults and to help low income adults with out-of-pocket health costs.

“These seniors will need to be taken care of, and it’s the responsible thing to do in my opinion to plan accordingly,” LaHood said.

The study committee is made up of five House of Representative members.

They have until December to make recommendations to help Georgia seniors in the future.

More bills to help crack down on elder abuse:

Two new bills will make it easier for police and the courts to crack down on elder abuse in Georgia.

An issue that hits close to home after seven older or disabled adults were left to beg for food in an Albany neighborhood.

In the state of Georgia, elder abuse used to be a misdemeanor charge.

Now because of legislators fighting for tougher laws, it will be a felony.

Attorney General Chris Carr’s office is in the middle of an investigation into an elder abuse case right here in Albany.

Seven disabled or older adults were found in a home at South Jackson Street and Flintside Drive back in 2017.

The owner, Michelle Oliver, was arrested and is facing charges for exploitation and intimidation of disabled adults, elder persons and residents, neglect of a disabled adult, elder person and resident, and for operating an unlicensed personal care home.

A case the new bills could help strengthen.

“The fact that we have this case, working very closely, with the federal partners, the DA, working with Greg Edwards and his team, we are seeing progress. We are holding the folks accountable that have taken advantage of others, taken advantage of the system. We’re pleased with the progress we’ve made, but we’re not done, we’re going to stick with it,” said Carr.

Attorney General Chris Carr. (Source: WALB)
Attorney General Chris Carr. (Source: WALB)

House Bills 246 and 247 will strengthen elder abuse laws.

One will allow law enforcement to inspect unlicensed personal care homes when the owners aren't present.

And it allows higher penalties for elder abuse crimes and clarifies the definition of exploitation.

The second bill makes sure the abused seniors in any cases don’t pay for the depositions themselves.

The bills passed the House and the Senate and are waiting to be signed by Governor Brian Kemp.

Copyright 2019 WALB. All rights reserved.