Looking out for the interests of our senior citizens is one of the jobs I take most seriously in the Legislature.

In the 2014 session, we passed several key pieces of legislation that will improve the quality of life for Oregon’s seniors.

Senate Bill 1542 enables all Oregonians to choose and hire qualified caregivers through the existing Oregon Home Care Commission’s registry.

Previously, only individuals covered by Medicaid could hire caregivers through the Oregon Home Care Commission Registry and Referral System. Testimony during the session indicated that Oregonians seeking home care workers on their own face difficulties finding quality, affordable in-home care for elderly or disabled family members and loved ones.

SB 1542 allows Oregonians at all income levels to access the state registry and hire a trained caregiver who has passed a background check and best meets their needs.

The registry system includes qualified caregivers in all 36 Oregon counties, and has been commended by AARP and The New York Times for helping seniors and people with disabilities remain at home.

SB 1577 requires law enforcement agencies to have response protocols in place for seniors who go missing, especially those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Similar to the Amber Alerts issued when children are missing, Silver Alerts will makes sure all emergency personnel and the general public have the best information to help find missing seniors and return them home safely.

Many law enforcement departments in Oregon already have policies in place, but SB 1577 will ensure that departments across the state are prepared to respond to a missing adult quickly and safely.

SB 1553 establishes a statewide public guardianship program aimed at meeting a growing need among senior citizens.

In today’s world, adults facing severe mental health conditions, developmental disabilities and age-related conditions may lack the capacity to make personal, medical and financial decisions. Without a trusted friend or family member to provide assistance, vulnerable adults must face tough life decisions without adequate support.

The statewide public guardianship program will provide access to trained and certified guardian or conservators to help make those decisions.

Additionally, the bill creates the position of Oregon Public Guardian and Conservator, who will work to provide services for seniors and other Oregonians who can’t afford to hire a private guardian.

House Bill 4151 sets consistent timelines for investigations of elder abuse cases by the Department of Human Services and directs DHS to adopt policies for the development of an electronic database of abuse reports and to standardize investigation and reporting practices.

The measure, which is the result of years of work groups focusing on elder abuse prevention and monitoring, will also establish a registry of people working or seeking to work in elder care facilities by Jan. 1, 2015.

Budget adjustments in the 2014 session included investing an additional $13.3 million in senior citizen services. Investments included:

  • $4 million more for Senior and Disabled Transit services;
  • $3.3 million for long-term care provider training;
  • $1.3 million for allowing more Oregonians to use the state’s registry of home care workers; and
  • Funding to establish the statewide Public Guardian and Conservator services.
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