Legal Aid Justice Center’s Elder Law Initiative addresses the legal needs of the low-income elderly population living in the Thomas Jefferson Planning District using a combination of direct legal services, community education and outreach, and advocacy for reform. Our advocates participate at the state level to seek regulatory and statutory changes that benefit all elderly persons, and we work to promote targeted reform of the prevailing culture in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
We provide a range of services from advice to extended legal representation to individuals on consumer issues, housing, eligibility for public benefits, wills and powers of attorney, and protection from abuse and neglect. We have special expertise helping persons who experience legal issues related to nursing home care.
Legal Aid Justice Center launched the Community Partnership for Improved Long-Term Care (“Partnership”) in collaboration with the Jefferson Area Board for Aging (JABA) and others. From the beginning the Partnership has included the key voices needed to properly advocate improved care: family members who have experienced difficulties in obtaining adequate care for loved ones in nursing facilities, concerned health-care professionals including staff from local facilities, senior care ombudsmen from local agencies, members of the local bar, and professors from the University of Virginia Schools of Medicine and Law. The Partnership has worked since 2004 to determine the problems most prevalent within long-term care in the Thomas Jefferson Planning District, heighten public awareness, build up Family Councils within care facilities, and to be the voice for the residents and their families to effect meaningful change in quality of care.The Partnership helps improve conditions for local elders by:
- educating families and patients about their rights and how to exercise them;
- working with Long Term Care facility staff to improve working conditions so that there is less turnover and the quality of care can improve;
- mobilizing and empowering facility-based family councils to use their collective power to seek reforms within individual facilities;
- educating the local medical and Long Term Care community about issues of key importance, e.g., pressure ulcers; and,
- conducting collaborative research with Social Services and UVa physicians on abuse and neglect that leads to enhanced ability by caregivers, family, staff and patients’ advocates to identify instances of mistreatment and intervene quickly to protect elders.