Position Paper
Legal Protections for Older Adults and People with Disabilities

Aging Life Care Managers® … coordinating services to optimize health and quality of life.

The Aging Life Care Association® (ALCA), is an organization of practitioners who use a holistic, client-centered approach to caring for older adults or others facing ongoing health or other challenges of aging and/or disabilities. ALCA is committed to maximizing the independence and autonomy of clients and strives to ensure the highest quality and most cost-effective health and human services. Members help clients and their families cope with challenges faced by people with disabilities and older adults through education, advocacy, counseling, and service delivery.

Aging Life Care Managers:

Recognize how the interplay of legal and health issues, such as abuse, neglect, discrimination, rights infringements, and difficulty accesses services can impact clients’ and families’ emotional and physical health. The integration of medical, social and legal needs can address critical issues such as housing, access to medical services, and mental health care. Understanding the interdependence of individual and societal factors is essential to provision of person-centered practice. ALCA members work to:

  • Help protect clients and families from fraud and exploitation: Older adults and people with disabilities are often targeted by fraudulent charities, unscrupulous telemarketers, identity theft schemes, salespeople peddling unneeded and/or overpriced home improvements/repairs, and other forms of financial theft.

  • Prevent and protect older adults and vulnerable persons from abuse and neglect: Elder abuse comes in many forms: financial, physical, verbal, sexual, emotional, and neglect. Abuse occurs in a variety of settings, from one’s own home, community settings, and nursing home facilities. Statistics compiled by the National Center on Elder Abuse and Administration for Community Living show that the prevalence of elder abuse is about 10% and abuse of adults with disabilities who use personal assistance services is as high as 30%.1,2 Neglect can be defined as failure by individuals to provide the support for physical, emotional, and social needs of adults dependent on others for their primary care.3 Types of neglect include physical, emotional, and financial neglect, abandonment, isolation, and self-neglect.

  • Help in accessing benefit programs: Government and community-based programs often require navigating a maze of daunting forms and procedures. Federal and state programs include, but are not limited to: Social Security Retirement, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Medicare, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Veterans’ Administration benefits, subsidies for housing, home modifications, utilities, food/nutrition, and transportation. Many individuals find that they cannot access these programs, or they find that they receive less than what they are entitled to and have difficulty advocating for themselves.

  • Intervene and advocate when health insurance companies deny or restrict coverage: for medical care, therapeutic services, medications, durable medical equipment, or supplies which should legitimately be covered.

  • Facilitate discussion and services which help clients and families understand legal documents from Federal and state agencies, financial institutions, insurance companies, and other entities.

  • Advocate and inform appropriate parties regarding the increasing use of binding arbitration clausesby facility and community-based care, which tend to favor the rights of institutions over consumer rights.

  • Disseminate information about the benefits of advance care planning which helps ensure clients’ wishes regarding medical and financial matters are documented and the risks of exploitation are reduced.

  • Promote protection of client’s right to reasonable self-determination when cognitive function is impairedbalancing concerns for autonomy, health, and safety.

In light of the importance of these matters, ALCA supports:

  1. Establishing laws and regulations to protect the rights of older adults and those with disabilities across federal, state and local levels with strong and consistent enforcement mechanisms.
  2. Providing federal and state funding to support programs that are engaged in legal advocacy for older adults and people with disabilities.
  3. Access to comprehensive and well-formed durable power of attorney documents that are designed to safeguard the rights of vulnerable persons and prevent exploitation, abuse, and neglect.
  4. Enhanced quality and funding of adult protective services throughout the country.
  5. Establishing and enforcing mandatory reporting laws for designated professionals who become aware of possible abuse during the course of normal interaction with their clients
  6. Improving laws and regulations around guardianship, conservatorship, and related issues to favor supported/supportive decision making and alternatives to guardianship when possible. These laws should provide for minimum intrusion into the rights of impaired or incapacitated individuals, while promoting health and safety.
  7. Public and professional education which expands awareness of legal rights, fraud, abuse, neglect, exploitation, substitute decision making, and available legal resources.
  8. Academic research and formalized study of legal issues impacting older adults and persons with disabilities.

Resolutions Approved by the ALCA Board of Directors October 27, 2017. Reviewed, updated, and approved by the Public Policy Committee on January 10, 2023. Reviewed and Approved by the Board of Directors on January 28, 2023.