Some agencies weren’t measuring up, though. So, Washington State passed legislation that went into effect January 1 of this year, to put referral agencies under increased scrutiny. The Elder and Vulnerable Adult Referral Agency Act came about in part as a result of public outrage beginning in 2010 over media coverage of referral agencies referring elders to care providers who had documented cases of neglect and abuse.
At year's end, I can say the wake-up call sounded January 1 was good. If you're looking for in-home care, assisted living or adult family homes and use an agency, the law gives you and your aging parent added protection. For example, the law mandates that if an agency refers you to a care provider, within 30 days of the referral, they must have checked the Department of Social and Health Services website www.dshs.wa.gov for assisted living and adult family homes or the Department of Health website www.doh.wa.gov for home care. The agency must look for State Enforcement letters (letters that point out violations, fines and stop placement orders), and give you copies of the letters. In addition, referral agencies need to keep detailed information about every provider they refer to and update it at least annually.
There are other provisions that protect you, the consumer. Each agency must have $1,000,000 worth of professional and general liability insurance. And agency employees are "mandatory reporters." This means that if they witness or suspect any abuse, neglect or financial exploitation they must report it to the appropriate authorities.
A key provision of the law requires an extensive intake of the elder which includes questions on diagnoses, medications, daily routine, food preferences, allergies, personal care needs and more. When done well, the intake helps a provider determine whether he or she can meet the elder's needs. The law also requires that confidential health care information be treated the same way your doctor treats it.
I work for a housing and care referral agency called Silver Age. I'm proud of what we do to help families, and proud of the protection the new law has given to vulnerable adults.
Bottom line: the law was needed, both to protect elders from abuse, and to keep all referral agencies accountable. That's good for you and your aging parent.