Granny Snatching: Connecticut’s Seniors Fared Well This Year

It is time to say goodbye to another year, with all of its successes and failures and the sometimes unsettling realization that we are all a year older too.

Connecticut’s seniors have had a reasonably good year what with passage of a law that gives them some added protection if they are incapacitated. Dubbed Ella’s law, the new statute which went into effect on October 1, makes it illegal to file false complaints of elder abuse and provides both jail sentences and fines.

The law was championed by State Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, co-chair of the Standing Committee on Aging, who helped craft it late last year and then shepherded it through the state legislature. The law still allows mandated reporters, such as visiting nurses, to report suspected incidents of elder abuse without penalty if the complaint doesn’t hold up.

However, false complaints made with malice carry a stiff penalty, and even those who conspire to make such complaints can be charged. Chalk one up for elder caregivers!

Ron Winter

Another major issue for the elderly this year was Gov. Dannel Malloy’s issuance of Executive Orders 9 and 10 which provide for the unionization of some health care and day care workers.

One group already has voted to unionize although the circumstances seem a bit odd. Specifically child care providers who receive state funding through the Care 4 Kids program voted 1603 to 88 the week before Christmas to allow the CSEA/SEIU Local 2001 to represent them in negotiations with the state.

News reports on the vote said the workers were “allowed” to organize as a result of Malloy’s executive order, which is an interesting phrase considering that only one union was involved and more than half the affected people didn’t vote. The low participation could have been a result of the so-called “card check” form of voting in which the election didn’t provide for a secret ballot.

According to news reports CSEA/SEIU 2001 spokesman Matt O’Connor said ballots were mailed to about 4,100 eligible providers and just under 1,700 were returned with respondents voting 1603 to 88 to join the union.

I can’t help but wonder whether this vote could withstand a legal challenge since it wasn’t conducted under controlled circumstances.

Opponents of Malloy’s executive orders including Sen. Joseph Markley, R- Southington, also have expressed concerns about the vote as reported by the CT News Junkie website.

“The whole thing, to my mind, has been extremely peculiar and rushed,” he said.

Markley also questioned whether the majority of day care workers even wanted to unionize since less than half the number of ballots were actually returned, thus the majority of people did not vote to unionize.

Markley’s legislative ally, Rep. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, said he didn’t think most of the people understood the process or, that if they really did want to be part of a union that they could have had other unions compete for their membership … and their dues.

“It’s looking more and more likely that one day soon a lot of people in this state are going to wake up and find out they’re in a union—whether they wanted that or not,” he said.

Obviously this is an issue that will bear watching in the coming year. Sooner or later we all will be affected  since more and more people will be providing care for the state’s elderly. How much it will cost is going to be a big question.

On that front progress is being made in the effort to return some 5,000 institutionalized elderly and disabled residents to a home or community based care setting. Currently, nursing home care averages about $12,000 per person per month, and usually that money is paid by Medicaid.

Independent analysts have estimated that the state could save nearly $1 billion annually if a higher percentage of the elderly are cared for at home.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out here  that the state has a hidden gem in the Commission on Aging, a small group working in the state Capitol which is taking on some huge issues.

According to its website the commission consists of 21 volunteer “voting” members from throughout the state who are appointed by state legislators or the governor.

The Commission’s day-to-day functions are performed by an executive director, Julia Evans Starr, and three full-time professional staff:  Robert J. Norton, Director of Communications; Debra Polun, Legislative Director; and Deborah Migneault, Community Liaison and webmaster.

I like to write about the commission on aging since so much of the press on state workers and state agencies is of the negative variety. These guys don’t fit the stereotype, and I believe they will be a significant asset in the continuing efforts to provide the best possible lives for our elderly while simultaneously keeping costs in check.

There is much to do in the coming months, including close looks at guardianship, assisted suicide or euthanasia, nursing home care, and advances in our knowledge of Alzheimer’s and other age-related diseases and afflictions.

For the moment I just like to say I hope we all have a happy, safe, and prosperous New Year!

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