Guest column: Supporting seniors in care facilities: vital info.

Published 8:30 am Monday, November 20, 2023

Guest column by Martha Jones Sichko

Amid the whirlwind of busy lives, it’s easy to overlook the quiet corners where the wisdom of age resides. We need to ensure that our family and community members living in long-term care and assisted-living facilities receive high-quality care and advocacy. Because when seniors and residents receive mistreatment, be it physical, emotional, or financial, it is unacceptable on every level, and we must stop it.

Martha Jones Sichko

A multi-pronged approach is necessary to combat abuse in senior facilities. The residents and their families need to understand reporting mechanisms and advocacy organizations they can turn to if they experience neglect or need their rights protected.

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I became a senior advocate because one of Albert Lea’s senior living communities evicted a beloved pillar of our community and his wife during below-zero temperatures in February 2018.

They said the wife needed increased care. However, after contacting experts to assess the situation, that wasn’t the case. In my opinion, management could reap more money from insurance in long-term care rather than assisted living and then get more money for their apartment. And Minnesota law at that time allowed them to do it.

Elder Voice Advocates (EVA), a coalition of family members who experienced abuse, neglect, and exploitation of loved ones by care providers, pushed for increased protections and parity of rights for those in assisted living with those in long-term care. In 2019, they secured its passage into law.

This Minnesota-based nonprofit continues to champion solutions to prevent abuse, neglect, and exploitation, promoting the highest standards of care for elders and vulnerable adults and creating a safe space for families to empower them. They launched Elder Care IQ ( to help families screen long-term care providers and review investigation reports on abuse.

Seniors and family members can also contact the Office of Ombudsman for Long-Term Care. This government organization will offer a regional ombudsperson to help residents exercise their rights to make a complaint and investigate privacy, abuse, neglect, financials, or discharge issues.

According to the Freeborn County website, seniors can have public health nurses or social workers come to them to help identify needed resources and services that can improve health and well-being. Once services are identified, they will help plan those services. The visit is free of charge.

Protecting and serving seniors in care facilities is an essential societal responsibility.

Upholding their dignity and respect is a fundamental principle, ensuring that they receive the necessary medical, social, and emotional support, thus enhancing their overall quality of life and health outcomes, for in doing so, we honor the tapestry of life.

Contact information:

Freeborn County Public Health Freeborn County Senior Advocate

Elder Voice Advocates

The Office of Ombudsman for Long-Term Care

Martha Jones Sichko is a senior advocate, helping to ensure affordable, accessible healthcare in Freeborn County