The Department of Aging Wednesday recognized several individuals and agencies, along with a group of nursing home residents, for their innovation, dedication, and collaborative efforts to protect and advocate on behalf of older Pennsylvanians.
The awards were presented during the department’s two-day, annual Protective Services and Ombudsman conference. This year’s theme, “Solutions: It All Starts With U,” brought together more than 25 organizations and over 500 attendees. It included presenters on topics such as preventing professional burnout, emerging trends in senior scams, and when elder abuse hits home.
On Tuesday, Acting Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne joined attendees and presented a proclamation on behalf of Governor Tom Wolf declaring April 14-15 “Protective Services and Ombudsman Advocacy Days” in Pennsylvania and thanked all those committed to standing in voice and in action as advocates for older adults.
“As a Commonwealth with the fourth highest percentage of residents age 60 and over, Governor Wolf and I are committed to ensuring that our most vulnerable residents remain active and engaged, and most importantly protected from all forms of abuse and neglect,” said Acting Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne. “We honor all who dedicate themselves to the field of protective services as well as the local ombudsman, volunteers and peer volunteers who advocate daily on behalf of individuals residing in long-term care facilities.”
The Department of Aging, through its Bureau of Advocacy, works with the network of 52 local Area Agencies on Aging to ensure that ombudsmen and protective services workers are prepared and equipped with the resources necessary to protect vulnerable elders, those aging in place, as well as residents in long-term care facilities from becoming victims of physical, emotional, and financial abuse and neglect through action or inaction by themselves or by the individuals responsible for their care.
The recipients of the awards include:
— Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging – received the Innovation Award for creating an innovative solution to educating their community about elder abuse and advocating for the rights of individuals living in long-term care settings through the development of an informative video series;
— Centre County Office on Aging – received the Excellence Award for their overall provision of both protective and advocacy services throughout their service area. Through targeted recruitment and training, they added 40 additional Pennsylvania Empowered Expert Residents (PEERs) in the six long-term care facilities in their county;
— Toni Forsythe (Clarion Area Agency on Aging) – a protective services investigator, received the Protective Services Advocacy Award for commitment and collaboration with others in protecting older adults. Ms. Forsythe worked with local officials, and national fraud investigators to apprehend scammers who were preying on a local elderly woman;
— Mary Ann May, North Penn Legal Services, subcontractor (Luzerne/Wyoming Counties Area Agency on Aging) – received an Ombudsman Advocacy Award for her commitment and hard work in assisting individuals in long-term care facilities in two counties to find new places to live; and, advocating on their behalf and working with facility staff to promote a better understanding of resident rights; and
— St. Joseph Manor residents (Montgomery County) – a group of residents received the Pennsylvania Empowered Expert Residents Group Award for their advocacy work for residents in Pennsylvania long-term care facilities. The group of residents advocated for increases in the Personal Care Allowance that is provided to eligible residents through Medicaid. These residents met with a local legislator to express their concerns regarding PCA, and gathered and submitted petitions from other facilities throughout the state to in support of the increase. Their efforts continue today.For more information, visit the Department of Aging’s Ombudsman or Protective Services programs webpages. If you suspect elder abuse, report it by calling the statewide protective services hotline at 1-800-490-8505.