This letter is in response to the letter published May 17 by Ann T. Nunnemaker relating to "frivolous citations" purportedly issued by the Nevada Division of Aging Services (DAS). Unfortunately, Mrs. Nunnemaker's letter contains serious errors and misstatements of fact.
Ms. Nunnemaker referenced the trial of Norma and Mike Childers on elder abuse charges allegedly based on "frivolous citations' by DAS. As a point of clarification, the case was prosecuted in court. A preliminary hearing was held where the courts found sufficient evidence to conduct a trial; i.e., the charges were not frivolous. A jury found the Childers not guilty of the charges. While we as advocates for Nevada elders may disagree with the verdict, we accept and respect the decision of the jury.
It is important to note, however, that the case did not involve "citations because they serve too much fresh fruit." The case did involve serious allegations of neglect, including false teeth that were moldy and green and other problems that most families would find repugnant and criminal for their loved ones.
Ms. Nunnemaker asserted that the "State Division of Aging writes them up citations." It is important to note that DAS is not a regulatory agency. It does not have any statutory authority to issue "citations" or impose sanctions of any kind. Through its Ombudsman Program, DAS advocates for residents in long-term care facilities, including group homes, and it investigates complaints made by or on behalf of residents that concern elder abuse and the health, safety, welfare or rights of the residents. Any problem identified is referred to the appropriate agency that can take action. For example, the Bureau of Licensure and Certification regulates long-term care facilities and can cite deficiencies.
As advocates, DAS strives to encourage and support a wide range of high quality services and placements for Nevada's elders. This includes "convalescent homes" (nursing homes) that often are challenged with the most needy residents. This is essential for elders to maintain their dignity and as much independence as possible for as long as possible.
Finally, it must be stated that elder abuse is a serious crime and a complex social problem. The victims typically are frail and unable to advocate for themselves. While many facilities offer wonderful services and compassionate care to the elderly, not all do. It is vital to Nevada's frail elders that facilities maintain minimum standards of care and that Ombudsman in partnership with the community and families remain vigilant on their behalf.