Nursing home abuse is a growing epidemic within the country. And in South Carolina, it seems to be growing by the day. In 2016, 7,100 vulnerable adults suffered some type of abuse, a number that increased by an astounding 140 percent since 2010.
South Carolina’s Adult Protective Services is trying to help as many of these people as they can, finding them beds or homes when they no longer have one of their own. To do it however, they need more funding. It was with that knowledge that they have recently placed an appropriations request within the Legislature.
That appropriations request is asking the government to increase the state funds for vulnerable adults by $2 million. Currently their budget is $3 million and that amount is simply not enough. Considering that Child Protective Services is currently funded at $72 million, it is easy to see how severely vulnerable adults within the state are being overlooked.
It is not just the budget either. Looking at how the state treats children without a proper home compared to how the state treats vulnerable adults in the same situation, the differences are glaring.
“When a child can no longer remain in their own home, they are placed into a foster home,” says Summerville personal injury attorney Lad Howell of Howell & Christmas. “But vulnerable adults have no place to go.”
And that is all too true. Often, they end up in the emergency room. Greenville Memorial Hospital alone accepted approximately 250 vulnerable adults in 2017. Once reaching the hospital, vulnerable adults stayed in the emergency department for a collective 548 days. Average stays were two to three days for each adult, but some remained as long as 45 days.
The problem is that these adults are not sick. They simply have no other place to go. So, until a nursing home or another facility could admit them, their only choice is to remain in the emergency room. This is damaging to vulnerable adults because they are not getting the proper therapy they need including physical therapy and speech therapy. But it is also detrimental to the communities those hospitals serve.
While doctors and nurses are busy trying to find a placement for each vulnerable adult, they could be seeing thousands of patients. Not to mention that it is also costing the taxpayers thousands of dollars each year.
Taxpayers are also paying for pricey Medicaid beds in nursing homes when there is a vulnerable adult that needs nursing home services but has no way of paying for it themselves – a problem that many adults face every day in South Carolina.
But the appropriation bill, if passed, could change all that. In addition to the 85 caseworkers Adult Protective Services currently has, the funds being asked for could allow them to hire and train 33 more. It would also open up 15 emergency room beds that would give vulnerable adults a place to stay temporarily until another solution could be found.
And while there would still be waiting lists and a need for emergency rooms, a solution is needed. The passing of this appropriation bill would be a step in the right direction for vulnerable adults that deserve proper care just like anyone else.