Strong case for the aged needed in General Assembly

January 31, 2013 

The lines to see leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly are long these days, as legislation is being shaped early in this long session of the legislature. Big-time, big-money lobbyists typically go to the front of that line, but many advocates with legitimate causes and deserving clients are in it as well.

Those who carry the case for the elderly to lawmakers do noble work, and it’s important work. With the state’s financial problems, descended from the Great Recession, easing just a bit, legislators can and should do more for groups that generally take the first hits when money is tight.

Consider funding for senior centers, those gathering places that bring together older citizens who might otherwise spend all their time alone.Counties pick up much of the expense for such places, but the state needs to do its part as well, particularly in poorer areas or in rural counties.

Then there are Home and Community Care Block Grants, which give counties funding for services such as Meals on Wheels and a little personal help that often make a difference between someone being able to live independently and being forced into a nursing home.

But one priority of groups supporting needs of the elderly must not be ignored. Advocates want the General Assembly to toughen background checks for people who work in long-term care homes.

At present, background checks are required, but facilities still have leeway to hiring people with a criminal past if other factors make them acceptable to facility owners. Those who are seeking tougher checks say that’s not good enough, that some crimes, violent ones, should rule people out no matter what other factors exist.

They’re right, and that should be an easy change to make, though some facility owners might fight it, given the difficulty in hiring people for what they want to pay.

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