Berge & Berge, LLP Blog

Friday, March 18, 2016

Senior Protection Legislation Clears Legislative Hurdle

What can be done about unscrupulous elder care referral agencies?

Legislation designed to protect seniors and their families from unscrupulous elder care referral agencies is working its way through the California legislature. Authored by Sen. Tony Mendoza, the bill will put in place tougher licensing and financial disclosure requirements for these agencies. The bill recently received bipartisan support by the State Senate and is now under consideration by the State Assembly.

In some cases, situations arise, like a health crisis or incapacitation, that require long-term decisions to be made quickly, leaving many seniors and their families susceptible to pressure, inadequate information about care facilities, and shady referral agencies.

"Minimum standards for disclosure are needed to ensure that seniors, and their families, are making the most informed choices when it comes to their long-term care needs." said Senator Mendoza.

New Disclosure Standards

As more seniors require elder care, for-profit businesses have sprung up that provide valuable assistance for individuals and their families in finding long-term care facilities. Because of weak licensing requirements, however, and no disclosure requirements, many of these agencies have engaged in a wide range of unscrupulous practices that lead to financial abuse of the elderly.

What Is Long-Term Care?

Long-term care (LTC ) refers to the care needed by an individual who depends on others for help with daily activities. LTC is designed to assist people with chronic health problems or dementia by enabling them to live as independently as possible. Long-term care often takes place in a nursing home and involves a variety of services and supports to meet health or personal care needs over an extended period of time, sometimes for the rest of an individual's life.

Unscrupulous Practices

There have been reports of referral agencies advertising free services when, in fact, the agencies receive undisclosed commissions, incentives and bonuses for placements. This can lead to unsuitable or potentially harmful placements. Other practices involve hospitals sending patients to placement agencies that demand high fees only to then be referred to unlicensed facilities. Seniors have also been placed in facilities on a short-term basis only to be sent to other care providers in order to generate ongoing and ill-gotten commissions.

The Mendoza Bill

Proponents of the bill believe new licensing requirements and minimum disclosure standards will enable seniors and their families to make informed decisions about appropriate care facilities. Individuals have a right to know whether referral agencies garner commissions, what qualifications the referral agencies have. In short, referral agencies should be required to act in the best interests of their clients.

While the legislation should provide protection to seniors and their families when making long-term care decisions, elder abuse continues to be a growing problem in California. If you or a loved one has been the victim of elder fraud, or any other kind of abuse, you should consult with an attorney who has expertise in elder law.

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