Friday, August 22, 2014

TX: New Rules for Elder Care Facilities After KXAN Investigation

KXAN’s Investigation into alleged sexual assaults at an Austin assisted living facility has triggered coming changes to help better protect your elderly loved ones.  In May we first told you about the allegations Longhorn Village, a retirement community and assisted living center created by the University of Texas Alumni Association – the Texas Exes. During our investigation the Texas Department of Aging and Disability (DADS) services admitted it broke state law in the course of its investigation of the allegations.

We discovered that despite having a court ordered guardianship stating she was mentally incapacitated and incapable of making her own decisions, DADS investigators didn’t have it before determining the sexual assault allegations were unsubstantiated.  Neither Longhorn Village nor DADS reported the allegations to law enforcement, as required by state law.

Now, because of what we uncovered, elder care facilities in Texas will be required to keep guardianship orders on file for residents who have them.

“We are going to have positive change,” said state representative Elliot Naishtat, who saw our story and took immediate action. Naishtat is the Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Public Health and also sits on the House Committee on Public Health and House Committee on Aging. He says since our investigation aired he has been in discussions with top officials at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) and DADS.

DADS, which oversees elder care facilities in Texas, will also have new marching orders.

“Any investigator or case worker who has a situation where there are concerns about the resident who has been abused or neglect will be able to go to the file and see whether or not letters of guardianship have been issued for this individual and then to act accordingly,” said Rep. Naishtat.

First, DADS will direct facilities to keep guardianship orders in a resident’s file.  Then the state will adopt new rules officially requiring it.  Representative Naishtat says he will introduce a bill in the upcoming legislative session proposing penalties for those who don’t follow the new rules.

“We support the idea of having some notation on a medical record that a person has a guardian,” said DADS spokesperson, Melissa Gale.

But does that go far enough?  For the alleged victim in our investigation, maybe not.  Her family alleges in a lawsuit against Longhorn Village that a male resident sexually assaulted her there in 2012.  The suit also alleges staff did nothing to protect her even though she had a guardianship order.

DADS reopened the case after our investigation and finally reported the allegations to law enforcement, but again determined the allegations to be “unsubstantiated.”

“The facility believed it was protecting this resident’s rights,” said Gale, “…the right to engage in a relationship.  The right to privacy and independence,” she continued.

“Even though she was ruled incapacitated by a court, they still felt like they didn’t need to communicate what was going on to the family or the state or a law enforcement agency?”  asked Brian Collister.

“After interviewing residents, staff, they concluded, the investigator determined that the facility had not violated any regulations in protecting this woman,” Gale responded.

Full Article and Source:
New Rules for Elder Care Facilities After KXAN Investigation


Thelma said...

How will having guardianship orders on file help protect the residents from sexual assault?

StandUp said...

My question exactly, Thelma. Yea for KXAN, but I don't see anything here to celebrate.

Anonymous said...

I guess they're trying to argue the sexual contact was consensual, but she did not have the capacity to consent -- duh.

The real takeway news here is that Texas did NOT require that guardianship orders to be on file in facilities -- Wow! What a no brainer!

BAEA said...

The idea that they wouldn't have records of who has been placed under guardianship is crazy. Guardianships just keep staying under the radar.