State Guardianship Systems Require Expedited Reform

State Guardianship Systems Require Expedited Reform


Recent news articles spotlight egregious acts conducted by court-appointed guardians against the older individuals entrusted in their care. These reports highlight some of the worst situations occurring within a system that requires expedited improvement, now.

AARP has long fought for state laws to protect older individuals—and their assets—from abuse, and to make sure guardians—public, private, and family caregivers—have the information they need to do their job. Over the past 4 years alone, AARP State Offices across the country have passed more than 45 guardianship-specific laws to address this serious issue.

But more needs to be done, including clamping down on the bad actors by increasing court monitoring, oversight and training of guardians, and mechanisms to follow up with protected individuals.  Specifically, AARP believes reforms must emphasize, at minimum:

  • The Individual: Every individual has different needs and preferences. State laws should emphasize individualized guardianship plans and require courts to order less restrictive options for individuals who are capable of making their own decisions.

 

  • The Guardian: State laws must spell out the duties and responsibilities of a guardian, providing a standard for decision-making focused on the expectations of the person under guardianship, and outline standards of practice and training requirements.  It also must provide a detailed procedure for getting rid of bad actors.

 

  • The Courts: State laws should guide judges to use the least restrictive option available when considering cases for guardianship, including supported decision making, and focus on court oversight and monitoring to help prevent abuse and exploitation.

AARP will continue to work, on a state by state basis, to urge policy makers to ramp up reform of the adult guardianship system because no elder should face abuse or exploitation, especially at the hand of the person tasked with their protection.

For now, if you suspect abuse of a protected individual by a guardian, here’s how to get help:

If you have a story to share about your experience as a guardian for an older individual, we encourage you to visit aarp.org/iheartcaregivers.

To sign up for updates on AARP’s advocacy efforts in your state, click here.


Elaine Ryan is the vice president of state advocacy and strategy integration (SASI) for AARP. She leads a team of dedicated legislative staff members who work with AARP state offices to advance advocacy with governors and state legislators, helping people 50-plus attain and maintain their health and financial security.

Photo: iStock/LPETTET 



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The Power of the 50+ Voter

The Power of the 50+ Voter


“The polls got it wrong.” We hear this a lot when election outcomes don’t match pre-vote predictions.  But what about the exit polls – the Election Day surveys that pollsters and pundits use to tell us what really happened? Turns out, there is a lot those tallies miss – particularly when it comes to older voters.

AARP commissioned an analysis by Echelon Insights of how many people in different age groups actually voted last November using what campaign pros call the ‘voter file’ – state by state data on registered voters and their voting activity. This research revealed some really interesting things.

First, the 2016 exits polls significantly underestimated turnout of older voters. Looking at counts of actual voters in 42 states (the remaining 8 and the District of Columbia do not keep track of voters’ ages), more than half of the 2016 electorate – 55% — was age 50 and up. This is a full nine percentage points higher than the 46% shown in the national exit polls.  In fact, 50+ voters topped 50% in every one of the states where voter file data is available.

Second, voters age 65 and older are the most consistently undercounted. According to national exit polls, this segment of the older voter population was 16% of the 2016 electorate, when the true share is closer to 25%.  And, all of the 25 statewide exit polls conducted in 2016, underreported voters age 65 and older, some by more than 10 percentage points.

Why is this important? The role of older Americans in deciding elections should not be understated.  Americans age 50 and up were not only the largest single voting bloc by age in the last election – they were the majority of voters. This is a trend that we’ve seen over the last few election cycles and one that will continue in 2018.

In fact, older voters will be even more important in 2018 than they were in 2016. Historically, older voters make up an even higher share of the electorate in midterm elections, when participation of younger voters – who are more likely to vote in Presidential years — drops.  In 2014, almost 60% of the 65+ and close to half of 45-64 year olds reported voting – compared to a little over a third of 35-44 year olds and less than one-quarter of 18-34 year olds.

This statistical reality means that in most races, across both red and blue states, older voters pick the winner. They are perhaps the most important swing voters in the country.  In 2016, the 50+ voted for the winning candidate in 17 out of 19 Senate races where we have exit poll data by age. (In Nevada and New Hampshire, the 65+ voted for the winner, while the 50-64 voted for the other candidate.) There was a similar story in 2014. Looking at 23 Senate races, all but one of the winning candidates carried 50+ voters.

With 2018 on the horizon, candidates of both parties need to think about – and talk to – older voters in their states and districts. They are the nation’s most reliable voters. They are informed and engaged . . . and they make up their minds early. So, word to the wise . . . there’s no time to waste.



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U.S. Senate considers RAISE Family Caregivers Act

U.S. Senate considers RAISE Family Caregivers Act


This week, the U.S. Senate began its consideration of the RAISE (Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage) Family Caregivers Act – an important piece of legislation that would start a national conversation about ways to aid American’s greatest support system – family caregivers. Thanks to the leadership and support of Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) the bill was quickly approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee (which goes by the very appropriate acronym . . .HELP).

Every day, more than 40 million Americans across the country are caring for parents, spouses, children and adults with disabilities and other loved ones so they can live independently in their homes and communities for as long as possible. They manage medications, help a loved one with bathing and dressing, prepare and feed meals, arrange transportation to medical appointments (or do the driving themselves), handle financial and legal matters and much, much more. Many do all of this while working full-time and raising families.

The unpaid care family caregivers provide — a staggering 37 billion hours valued at about $470 billion annually — helps delay or prevent more costly care and unnecessary hospitalizations, saving taxpayer dollars.

I know from firsthand experience that caring for a loved one is a tremendous responsibility. As my two millennial sons and I care for my husband, their father, who has ALS, I know that, while my experience may be in some ways unique, I have much in common with my fellow caregivers. Every family caregiver I encounter – including the thousands who have shared their stories on AARP’s I Heart Caregivers – expresses a need for support, whether that means help at home, training, workplace flexibility, or the opportunity to get some relief from their caregiving responsibilities.

The RAISE Act Family Caregivers Act recognizes this tremendous need and calls for the development of a national strategy to support family caregivers, bringing together stakeholders from the private and public sectors to identify specific actions communities, providers, government, employers and others can take to make it easier to coordinate care for a loved one, get information, referrals and resources, and improve respite options so family caregivers can reset and recharge.

AARP commends the sponsors of the RAISE Family Caregivers Act — as well as the co-chairs of the bicameral, bipartisan Assisting Caregivers Today (ACT) Caucus — for their leadership on this important issue. They understand that family caregiving is not a Democratic or a Republican issue, or even an older or younger person’s issue. Recent research shows that a surprising one-quarter of Millennials are family caregivers.  And, according to a poll we conducted, four-in-ten Millennials say that they are already worried about taking care of their parents on a day-to-day basis.

In fact, this is a family issue that touches us all. We are either family caregivers now, were in the past, will be in the future — or will need care ourselves one day.

Last year, we made tremendous progress on this important piece of legislation. This year, we look forward to working with the bill’s Senate and House champions – as well as other organizations that advocate for and support family caregivers as well as family caregivers themselves – to push this bill over the finish line.


Nancy LeaMond, chief advocacy and engagement officer and executive vice president of AARP for community, state and national affairs, leads government relations, advocacy and public education for AARP’s social change agenda. LeaMond also has responsibility for AARP’s state operation, which includes offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

You can follow her on Twitter @NancyLeaMond.

Photos: iStock/BraunS, iStock/ktaylorg, AARP



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Thank You, Nurses.

Thank You, Nurses.


During National Nurses Week, I am making a special effort to say, “thank you,” to all the nurses in my life, and I invite you to do the same. Each and every day, in communities across the country, nurses help their patients to get and stay well.  They use their incredible skills to comfort us in difficult times, and care for us when we’re at our most vulnerable.

For America’s 40 million family caregivers, nurses often become even more heroic as they help us care for our parents, spouses and other loved ones. For me, Nurse Sue was an invaluable member of our family’s team. Her assistance was critical to keeping my Mom safe at home.

Family caregivers often share their stories with us on I Heart Caregivers and the @AARPadvocates Facebook page.  It seems many also have their own versions of Nurse Sue:

Judith: “I could not have been my mother’s caregiver without all the care and advice given to me by the nurses. THANK YOU ALL.”

Nana: “When my husband was alive the nurses were angels. They really took care of my husband in our home, especially the hospice ones, they were just awesome.”

Barbara: “Where would we be without them [nurses] to care for us & our families when we need them?”

Dolores: “Nurses are in a league of their own! They do such wonderful work and it often goes unnoticed. I have a lot of admiration for nurses!”

Nurses heal. Red tape doesn’t. 
That’s why AARP is fighting to cut through the red tape that prevents nurse practitioners—and all advanced practice registered nurses—from doing their jobs. Right now, 28 states still have outdated rules that restrict nurse practitioners from using all their skills and training to provide primary and preventative care, including:

  • routine health care such as diagnosing and treating patients,
  • management of chronic conditions,
  • ordering lab tests,
  • prescribing medications
  • performing annual exams
  • and much, much more

Keep in mind: nurse practitioners have master’s or doctoral degrees and advanced training, so they can give patients the care we count on. By modernizing state rules, patients, family caregivers—and our loved ones—will have better opportunity to receive the care we need, when and where we need it.  And, yes, this means: at home and in our communities.

To all nurses, again, I give you my thanks.  Your caring helped make me a better, stronger family caregiver. For that, alone, I am grateful.

Where does your state stand when it comes to rules that allow nurse practitioners to do their jobs?

Sign up to get involved and help AARP cut the red tape.


Elaine Ryan is the vice president of state advocacy and strategy integration (SASI) for AARP. She leads a team of dedicated legislative staff members who work with AARP state offices to advance advocacy with governors and state legislators, helping people 50-plus attain and maintain their health and financial security.



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AARP Public Pension Guide Breaks Down Complex Issue for Elected Officials

AARP Public Pension Guide Breaks Down Complex Issue for Elected Officials


Pop and his grandaughter

My pop was a bus driver for 25 years.  Once in retirement, I would have loved my Mom and Pop to relocate to D.C. to live with me. But they loved their life and community and wanted to age in their own home – just like millions of Americans.

Luckily, pop had a public pension, which gave him and my mom the financial security they needed to retire with confidence and dignity—and to keep living independently in their own home.  Pop worked hard and counted on having his pension for their financial security. Firefighters, nurses, teachers, and other public employees all across America also count on their public pensions.  

Exactly for this reason, it’s critical that our elected officials and those who advise them understand how public pensions operate. This helps them meet the needs of employees and retirees, as well as employers and taxpayers.

To help with this effort, AARP has created a new public pension resource, Understanding Public Pensions: A Guide for Elected Officials, coauthored with the Center for State and Local Government Excellence.  We hope that many state and local policymakers will get the chance to review the guide, prior to making changes to their states pension plans, in particular.

The guide provides key facts about public pensions. It also discusses the important role policymakers play in making sure their state and local pension plans are well designed and adequately funded. This helps ensures they can meet the goals of all stakeholders, including:

  • attracting and retaining employees
  • workforce management
  • retirement security
  • keeping pension costs manageable


The guide also reviews:

  • Options for public pension plan design
  • The importance of adequate financing
  • How to develop a sound pension funding policy
  • Important considerations when making changes to a pension plan
  • The effects of various proposals on the workforce and employees, and resulting financial impacts

Fighting for You
AARP is working to make sure that state and local policymakers have the information they need. This helps support strong public pensions which:

  • Enables our firefighters, nurses, teachers and other public employees to have financial independence in retirement
  • Promotes financial security which keeps people from requiring costly public services to meet their basic needs as they age


This is why AARP’s state offices from Oregon to Colorado to South Carolina to Rhode Island continue to advocate for a defined benefit pension as an important means for ensuring financial security in retirement.

This guide is the third in a series of public pension resources recently supported by AARP. The other reports, which examine how state governments have pre-funded their pensions and review significant changes made to public pensions in recent years, can be found here.


Elaine Ryan is the vice president of state advocacy and strategy integration (SASI) for AARP. She leads a team of dedicated legislative staff members who work with AARP state offices to advance advocacy with governors and state legislators, helping people 50-plus attain and maintain their health and financial security.

 



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Recognizing The Value of Volunteers

Recognizing The Value of Volunteers


When you work for an organization powered by more than 58,000 exceptional volunteers, National Volunteer Week is more than a footnote on the calendar. It’s an important reminder to thank and honor the unpaid heroes who make a difference in our communities through their time, experience and dedication.

I see the incredible value of volunteers’ commitment every day. There is honestly no way that AARP could meet our goals for improving the lives of older Americans without their hard work.  Across the country, AARP volunteers are making a contribution through actions large and small. Many are serving in our efforts to support family caregivers, help individuals save for retirement, and fight against proposals that raise healthcare costs and cut Medicare and Medicaid benefits. Others help friends and neighbors file taxes, protect against fraud, improve their driving skills and brush up their technology know-how. Still more are working on ways to making their communities great places to live for people of all ages.  The list goes on and on.

Of course, our volunteers are far from alone. More than 62 million Americans devote their time (an estimated 7.9 billion hours a year!) – and passion – to service.

Why do they do it? According to an AARP survey of people 45+, the top reasons are all about giving back and making a difference for their communities and people in need. While being acknowledged for their efforts didn’t even crack the list, genuine appreciation from those we love and value goes a long way.

So please, take a little time out of your week to recognize the volunteers in your life with a cup of coffee, a hug or simply your heartfelt thanks. It requires so little and means so much!

And, THANK YOU to all of our wonderful AARP volunteers! (You should know that my relationship with AARP volunteers goes back a long way. I was actually introduced to the organizations by volunteers . . . . my parents and other family members who served through an AARP Chapter in New Jersey.) You truly are the secret to our success.


Nancy LeaMond, chief advocacy and engagement officer and executive vice president of AARP for community, state and national affairs, leads government relations, advocacy and public education for AARP’s social change agenda. LeaMond also has responsibility for AARP’s state operation, which includes offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

You can follow her on Twitter @NancyLeaMond.



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