Monday, May 1, 2017
I blogged a few days ago about an upcoming hearing for the Senate Committee on Aging. That hearing, on April 27, 2017, concerned the Mental and Physical Effects of Social Isolation and Loneliness. Testimonies from the hearing can be accessed here.
The April 27, 2017 hearing was the first of two parts looking into the issue. As noted in the first hearing
The risks of social isolation and loneliness compare with smoking and alcohol consumption and exceed those associated with physical inactivity and obesity. According to researchers, prolonged isolation is comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Isolation and loneliness are associated with higher rates of heart disease; weakened immune system; depression and anxiety; dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease; and nursing home admissions.
The next hearing is set for May 10, 2017 and will focus on Aging With Community: Building Connections that Last a Lifetime.
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
The Senate Special Committee on Aging has a hearing scheduled for April 27, 2017 starting at 9:45 a.m. The topic of the hearing: Aging Without Community: The Consequences of Isolation and Loneliness. Four witnesses are scheduled to testify, including two academics and the head of a Council on Aging from Pima County, Arizona. Video of testimony and resources will be posted to the committee's hearings website subsequently. Stay tuned.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
We all know about housing for elders, whether a CCRC, independent living, age-restricted housing, active adult housing, whatever one calls it. I was interested in this article from Kaiser Health News that discusses older adult children moving into the same housing complex for elders as their parents. Boomerang Seniors: Aging Adults Move To Be Near Mom Or Dad covers how the aging adult kids, whether members of the Boomer or Silent generations, are caring for their elder parents, and doing so by living nearby in the same housing complex.
Caregiving for an older family member is not what it was when first studied and coined as the “sandwich generation,” those people squeezed between aging parents and young children, said Amy Horowitz, a professor of social work at Fordham University in New York City.
“Now it’s the children who are on the verge of retirement or who have retired and are still having responsibility of older parents,” she said. “In New York City, I know somebody whose almost-90-year-old mother is living in the same apartment building. It becomes, how do you balance your own life?”
These very old parent and elder child relationships seem to be increasing, according to the article. It makes sense, when you consider the fastest growing segment of the population is the 85+ group. So with all of us living longer, the reality is that the children are past retirement age and caring for a parent who is in that "old-old" age cohort.
The article profiles some folks who have made this move. One couple profiled "are great-grandparents. Yet they’re among a growing group of seniors with a living parent, which means these 21st-century post-retirement years might well include parental caretaking. Expectations are altered amid the new reality of longer life expectancy and growing numbers of aged Americans." One expert interviewed for the article describes this trend as "aging together". The highlights advantages to such arrangements such as the adult child not having to drive to visit mom.
Sunday, April 2, 2017
Justice in Aging has announced a free webinar, Reverse Mortgage Servicing & Foreclosure: Emerging Issues. The webinar is set for April 19, 2017 at 2 p.m. edt. Here is the webinar description
Reverse mortgages allow older homeowners to age in place by supplementing income, providing funding for repairs or modifications to the home, or other necessary expenses by converting equity in their homes into cash. Recently there has been an uptick in reverse mortgage foreclosures due to property charge defaults and other issues, leading to the displacement of older adults from their homes. Homeowners and their families also face challenges when dealing with the companies that service reverse mortgage loans.
This free webinar, Reverse Mortgage Servicing & Foreclosure: Emerging Issues outlines issues facing reverse mortgage borrowers and offers strategies to address the challenges. This session will highlight recent changes to the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program.
To register, click here.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Are you a Parrot Head? (If you don't know what I mean, the answer to the question is no). Whether you are a Parrot Head or not, wouldn't you love to retire to Margaritaville? Now you can! Jimmy Buffet is opening a chain of 55+ communities within the next year or so. Forbes ran a story last week with the exciting news! Jimmy Buffett To Open String Of Margaritaville Retirement Homes By 2018 explains the plan: "[t]he golden years are looking even brighter with news that Jimmy Buffett is planning to open a string of luxurious Margaritaville retirement home communities, the first in Daytona Beach, Florida. Retirees will be able to live in a paradise where the party never stops and 'growing older, but not up' is encouraged. The price tag will start in the low $200s and furnished models are scheduled to open in early 2018 for those '55 and better.'"
So what will we do if we live in Margaritaville? According to the story "[t]his utopia promises retirees exciting recreation, fitness facilities, lap pools, spas, personal beachfront access, unmatched dining and an entertaining nightlife. Minto Communities has 60 years of experience developing award-winning, master-planned communities and building quality homes for over 80,000 families."
You can read more about this project here .
See you there!
PS-have the song stuck in your head yet?
Monday, March 13, 2017
We don't know what the future holds for us, especially in our final years, but we can bet that we may be faced with some health care issues. Wouldn't it be great to have a guidebook for the final years? Well now you can. According to an article in Kaiser Health News, A Playbook For Managing Problems In The Last Chapter Of Your Life, there is "a unique website, www.planyourlifespan.org, which helps older adults plan for predictable problems during what Lindquist calls the “last quarter of life” — roughly, from age 75 on...“Many people plan for retirement,” the energetic physician explained in her office close to Lake Michigan. “They complete a will, assign powers of attorney, pick out a funeral home, and they think they’re done.”...What doesn’t get addressed is how older adults will continue living at home if health-related concerns compromise their independence." The focus isn't on end of life planning, according to the article, it's the time before. "Investigators wanted to know which events might make it difficult for people to remain at home. Seniors named five: being hospitalized, falling, developing dementia, having a spouse fall ill or die, and not being able to keep up their homes."
The result of the work is an interactive website that deals with issues such as falls, hospitalization, dementia, finances and conversations. The website offers that "Plan Your Lifespan will help you learn valuable information and provide you with an easy-to-use tool that you can fill in with your plans, make updates as needed, and easily share it with family and friends." Try it!
Thursday, February 23, 2017
The Population Reference Bureau released a report examining the correlation between an elder's neighborhood and her health. http://www.prb.org/Publications/Reports/2017/todays-research-aging-neighborhoods-health.aspx explores the various issues involved in staying put and aging in place. Here is an executive summary:
Most Americans say they want to age in place in their own communities, but their health and ability to remain independent is shaped in part by their neighborhoods. Research finds that the social, economic, demographic, and physical characteristics of communities may influence older residents’ health and well-being.
Neighborhood characteristics affect people of all ages, but older adults—classified here as adults over age 50—may be affected more than other groups. Older people typically experience higher levels of exposure to neighborhood conditions, often having spent decades in their communities. They have more physical and mental health vulnerabilities compared with younger adults, and are more likely to rely on community resources as a source of social support. As older adults become less mobile, their effective neighborhoods may shrink over time to include only the immediate areas near their homes (Glass and Balfour 2003).
This report summarizes recent research conducted by National Institute on Aging-supported researchers and others who have studied the association between neighborhood characteristics and the health and well-being of older adults. This research can inform policy decisions about community resource allocation and development planning. A growing body of research shows that living in disadvantaged neighborhoods—characterized by high poverty—is associated with weak social ties, problems accessing health care and other services, reduced physical activity, health problems, mobility limitations, and high stress.
This area of research is challenging because lower-income people tend to live in disadvantaged neighborhoods and many detrimental neighborhood features cluster together. Disadvantaged neighborhoods often have more crime, more pollution, poorer infrastructure, and fewer health care resources—making it difficult to pinpoint which neighborhood feature is responsible for particular health outcomes.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
The marketers of reverse mortgages often paint a rosy picture of how seniors will be able to draw on the equity in their homes to cover daily expenses, without risk of repayment before death. But details of these mortgages can be overlooked and as we've reported before, seniors can be surprised when terms and conditions create traps that can lead to foreclosure. However, from Florida, we're now hearing about cases where one of the simplest conditions -- the borrower continuing to live on site -- has become the subject of litigation.
“All of a sudden, we saw a spate of foreclosures where the mortgage companies alleged the seniors no longer lived in the home,” said Gladys Gerson, supervising attorney for Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida’s senior unit. “This has been happening around the state.”
About a dozen similar cases reached Gerson and other attorneys at Coast to Coast, who have helped a growing number of low-income seniors fight and win dismissals despite aggressive lender litigation.
Florida is ground zero for seniors’ issues, but as the strategy has often proved effective, it’s likely to spread, according to defense attorneys. “If you see the volume of national advertising that’s geared to seniors, I can’t believe this is limited to Florida,” Corona’s father and partner, Ricardo, said. “The servicers are not even based in Florida, so I don’t see why they would limit themselves.”
Corona admits he didn’t expect a hard fight when he first reviewed El Hassan’s case, but court records show he was wrong. Over the last 10 months, the ongoing litigation yielded two hearings, 40 docket entries and attempts by both sides to collect attorney fees.
For more, read the full article, Foreclosure Litigation Strategy Takes Aim at Seniors, Attorneys Say.
Thank you to my colleague, Dickinson Law Professor Laurel Terry, for this source.
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
I think designing homes to allow a person to age in place is great (and of course, we have to make the community accessible as well). So I was interested in this article that discussed making the home accessible when the resident used a walker or wheelchair. Kaiser Health News ran the article, How To Make A Home Much More Friendly To Seniors Using Wheelchairs Or Walkers. The article offers this sobering statistic "Researchers at the Harvard center found that fewer than 10 percent of seniors live in homes or apartments outfitted with basic features that enhance accessibility — notably, entrances without steps, extra-wide hallways or doors needed for people with wheelchairs or walkers." Yet, "[a]bout 2 million older adults in the U.S. use wheelchairs, according to the U.S. Census Bureau; another 7 million use canes, crutches or walkers... [and] [t]hat number is set to swell with the aging population: Twenty years from now, 17 million U.S. households will include at least one mobility-challenged older adult, according to a December report from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies."
The article discusses a list of items to be considered so that the home is accessible, including a ramp into the home, wider doors, turning radius, removal of under the sink cabinets, showers without curbs, and more.
Thursday, January 26, 2017
The Young Invincibles recently released a report that looks at the financial health of the Millennials. The Financial Health of Young America "compares the financial health of young Americans in 1989 compared to today’s young adults to reveal major declines across five key factors – income, assets, net wealth, home ownership and retirement savings. In summary, Boomers had higher incomes, owned more homes, and had twice the net assets that Millennials have today."
In addition, the report notes the following key findings:
Millennials have earned a net wealth half that of Boomers at the same age.
Young adult workers today earn $10,000 less than young adults in 1989, a decline of 20 percent.
Education attainment still an individual’s best pathway to financial security.
When Boomers were young adults, they owned twice the amount of assets as young adults.
Disturbing racial inequality persists and grows. Young African Americans’ median wealth declined by a third since 1989.
Student debt blunts some of education’s benefits.
The report makes various recommendations in the following categories: skills, education, income, employment benefits, housing policies, improving the ability to save and gain wealth, and improve portable retirement choices. This is the first of several reports. The full report runs 30 pages and is available here.
Friday, January 13, 2017
The plight of 108-year-old Ohio resident Carrie Rausch, facing the prospect of losing her spot in an assisted living community because she's run out of money, is generating a lot of attention in the media, including People magazine. Some states, such as New Jersey, have expanded the options for public assistance in senior living -- beyond nursing homes -- to permit eligible individuals to use Medicaid for residential care. Assisted living is usually much less expensive than a nursing home; but the pool of individuals who would might opt for assisted living rather than the "dreaded" nursing home is also larger. Ohio, along with many states, hasn't gone the AL route:
If Rausch can’t raise the money needed, she’ll have to leave what has been her home for the past three years and move into a nursing home that accepts Medicaid.
[Daughter] Hatfield worries about the toll the move would take on her mom, who is more lively and active than most people 10 or even 20 years her junior. . . . “We need a miracle,” she says.
Ms Rausch's adult daughter -- herself in her late 60s -- has turned to GoFundMe to attempt to raise the $40k needed for a year of continued residence, and as of the date of this Blog post, more than 700 donors have responded.
At a deeper level, however, this story reveals important questions about public funding for long-term care on a state-by-state basis. This funding issue is repeating itself throughout the country for seniors much younger than the frugal and relatively healthy Carrie Rausch. On a national basis, GoFundMe "miracles" seem an impractical solution.
Sunday, December 11, 2016
A recent article, We Spent a Weekend at an Assisted Living Facility, is a close look at "[a]n intimate peek at aging from the residents of Stonewall Gardens." This ALF is described by the authors as "not your typical senior community. It’s the only operating LGBT-friendly assisted living facility in Southern California (and, as of [the authors'] visit, the US)." The article is written in a conversational and entertaining style and tells stories from a number of residents.
The article mentions challenges when a person needs an ALF:
Falls, injuries, memory loss, isolation, and illness are often key determining factors for individuals and families when it comes to considering and discussing long-term planning. For many, the topic is overwhelming with much to consider: logistics, expenses, and emotions, not to mention the different personalities and opinions of those involved. But being at Stonewall has opened our eyes to the fact that there are tools and resources that can help with the transition. And plenty of options. Stonewall, like most assisted living facilities, offers private apartments, on-site caregiving, meals, housekeeping, and help with medicine and other aspects of everyday life, including the opportunity to feel like a part of a community.
If you want your students to get a look at an ALF with lots of activities (and you don't have time for a field trip) have your students read this article.
Thanks to Julie Kitzmiller for sending the article.
Monday, December 5, 2016
The 1st Annual Report of the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (WH-LAIR), Expanding Access to Justice, Strengthening Federal Programs was released last month. A fact sheet accompanying the report is available here. According to the DOJ website, the reason for WH-LAIR is
to raise federal agencies’ awareness of how civil legal aid can help advance a wide range of federal objectives including improved access to health and housing, education and employment, family stability and public safety. The Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable’s message included that providing legal assistance to people who cannot afford it can also have substantial economic benefits by preventing outcomes that are harmful to them and expensive for the communities.
WH-LAIR is made up of a number of federal agencies. The fact sheet highlights some of the accomplishments, including an ElderJustice AmeriCorp which provides teams of attorneys and paralegals to help elder abuse victims. This first report covers the 4 years of operation of WH-LAIR. The report highlights the participating agencies' efforts to incorporate legal aid into their programs. policy recommendations to improve access to justice, furthering strategic partnerships, furthering data collection, evidence-based research, and concomitant analysis. The full report has 3 sections: (1) legal aid overview and its correlation to advancing federal priorities, (2) how the agencies have incorporated legal aid into their programs and (3) future opportunities to continue and expand their work.
December 5, 2016 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Legal Practice/Practice Management | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
The NY Times ran an article recently focusing on bias against LGBTQI residents of nursing homes. No Rest at Rest Home: Fighting Bias Against Gays and Lesbians starts with telling the story of one resident who ended up filing suit, in which the resident "accuses the housing center and its managers of failing to protect her from hostile residents who have insulted and verbally abused her. The suit says that she has been pushed, shoved and spit on, and that she was injured, including bruises on her arm, a bump on her head and a black eye." As well in the suit the resident alleges that the facility's "management not only of failing to meet its responsibility to stop the harassment but of retaliating against her for complaining about the abuse and seeking to push her out of the facility."
The article calls this suit as having the potential to "set a legal precedent establishing the responsibility of housing providers to actively address discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation under the federal Fair Housing Act. The law states that discrimination based on “sex” is prohibited."
The article quotes our friend Eric Carlson from Justice in Aging, as well as a survey they had previously conducted.
A survey of L.G.B.T. adults living in long-term care settings by Justice in Aging, a legal advocacy group, found that a majority believed they would face discrimination from housing staff if they were open about their sexual orientation. The report captured hundreds of stories of problems encountered by L.G.B.T. seniors with housing staff, ranging from harassment to refusals to provide basic services or care.
“You’re in a communal living setting that puts a lot of pressure on people,” says Eric Carlson, directing attorney for Justice in Aging. “Imagine how oppressive it is to have to be guarded about who you are or your family and friends.”
The article discusses another study and the scope of discrimination against LGBTQI elders as well as HUD's work to redress such discrimination.
Thursday, November 17, 2016
AARP is offering a online chat on November 21 from 3-4 p.m. on Home Sharing: A Powerful Option to Help Older Americans Stay in their Homes. The website offers a summary of this upcoming chat:
The vast majority of older adults have told AARP that they want to “age in place” by remaining in their current home and neighborhood. But much of the U.S. housing stock isn’t very aging-friendly (stairs are an example), and millions of older Americans face economic hardships that challenge their ability to afford the costs of safe and suitable housing.
The rise of home sharing — in which people rent space in their residence to a traveler or short-term tenant — is allowing people of all ages (but especially older adults) to literally earn an income from where they live.
Join AARP’s Nancy LeaMond, former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Airbnb executive Sarah Bianchi and Gene Sperling, an economist and consultant to Airbnb, for an online discussion and Q&A about the benefits of home sharing for older adults and the new Airbnd report “Home Sharing: A Powerful Option to Help Older Americans Stay in their Homes.”
The accompanying report will be available here starting November 21.
Thursday, October 27, 2016
The Administration for Community Living (ACL) released on October 26, 2016 the unpublished final regulation for independent living programs (the reg is officially published on October 27, 2016). The rule is effective November 25, 2016.
The discussion section explains the new rule
The federal Independent Living (IL) program seeks to empower and enable individuals with disabilities, particularly individuals with significant disabilities, to exercise full choice and control over their lives and to live independently in their communities. For over 40 years, these aims have been advanced through two federal programs: Independent Living Services (ILS) and Centers for Independent Living (referred to as CILs or Centers). The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) transferred these Independent Living programs to the Administration for Community Living (ACL) and created a new Independent Living Administration within the agency, adding section 701A of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 796-1.
According to the ACL news release, the new regs:
Clarifies requirements surrounding WIOA’s addition of new core services to:
- Facilitate the transition of individuals with significant disabilities from nursing homes and other institutions to home and community-based settings
- Provide assistance to individuals with significant disabilities who self-identify as being at risk of entering institutions so that the individuals may remain in the community
- Facilitate the transition of youth with significant disabilities who are no longer in school and no longer receiving services under section 614(d) of IDEA.
Clarifies several key definitions. For example:
- “Consumer control” adds specificity to definition in the context of individuals to mean that the person with a disability has control over his or her personal life choices, independent living plan and has the right to make informed choices about content, goals and implementation. Prior to the final rule, “consumer” was sometimes interpreted to include the parents or caregivers of the person with a disability
- “Personal assistance services” is now defined to explicitly include assistance with activities outside of employment, such as social activities and parenting.
Addresses the roles and responsibilities of the State Independent Living Council, as defined by WIOA. For example, the final rule:
Includes additional details of what must be a part of the SILC Resource Plan to carry out the functions of the SILC
Addresses the SILC’s authority to conduct resource development activities to support the provision of services by Centers for Independent Living
Clarifies the expanded role of the SILC in the development of the State Plan for Independent Living.
Monday, October 24, 2016
Kaiser Health News ran a story, Staying Out Of The Closet In Old Age. The article explores the issues faced by elders who are out and become frail and need caregivers or supportive housing. How significant are the issues faced by these elders? According to one expert quoted in the article, very.
“It is a very serious challenge for many LGBT older people,” said Michael Adams, chief executive officer of SAGE, or Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders. “[They] really fought to create a world where people could be out and proud. … Now our LGBT pioneers are sharing residences with those who harbor the most bias against them.”
Efforts are underway to move long term care providers to a point of understanding. Such efforts include
Nationwide, advocacy groups are pushing to improve conditions and expand options for gay and lesbian seniors. Facilities for LGBT seniors have opened in Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco and elsewhere.
SAGE staff are also training providers at nursing homes and elsewhere to provide a more supportive environment for elderly gays and lesbians. That may mean asking different questions at intake, such as whether they have a partner rather than if they are married (even though they can get married, not all older couples have). Or it could be a matter of educating other residents and offering activities specific to the LGBT community like gay-friendly movies or lectures.
The article mentions a report this summer from Justice in Aging (formerly the National Senior Citizens Law Center), How Can Legal Services Better Meet the Needs of Low-Income LGBT Seniors? in which it was reported that 1/5 of those elder LGBTQI individuals in LTC facilities felt ok with being open about being an LGBTQI elder.
The article discusses the difficulty in finding housing and reports on some options that have developed, such as "the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Elder Housing organization opened Triangle Square Apartments in 2007. In the building, the first of its kind, residents can get health and social services through the Los Angeles LGBT Center. The wait for apartments with the biggest subsidies is about five years."
Friday, October 21, 2016
LeadingAge, the trade association that represents nonprofit providers of senior services, begins its annual meeting at the end of October. This year's theme is "Be the Difference," a call for changing the conversation about aging. I won't be able to attend this year and I'm sorry that is true, as I am always impressed with the line-up of topics and the window the conference provides for academics into industry perspectives on common concerns. For example, this year's line up of workshops and topics includes:
- General sessions featuring Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Charles Duhigg on the "The Science of Productivity," 2013 MacArthur Fellow and psychologist Angela Duckworth on the the importance of grit and perservance for successful leadership, and famed neurosurgeon and speaker Sanjay Gupta on "Medicine and the Media."
- Hundreds of sessions, organized by "interest groups":
October 21, 2016 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Discrimination, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, International, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Medicaid, Medicare, Programs/CLEs, Property Management, Retirement, Science, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (2)
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
We've blogged on several occasions about aging in place. So a recent article in the New York Times caught my eye. The Future of Retirement Communities: Walkable and Urban starts out noting our dependence on cars to get where we want to go, but perhaps that is about to change. "Few people in America walk to work. Most of us drive to the supermarket. But more older people these days are looking for a community where they can enjoy a full life without a car." Focusing on one couple's search for the perfect community, the couple explained, "'[w]e realized ‘aging in place’ means a lot more than just a comfortable house ... [s]o we began thinking more about ‘aging in community.’ That means an urban neighborhood where you can walk or take transit to just about everything you need.'”
This concept, walkable living, isn't a new one, but is one that has somewhat fallen to the wayside with our dependence on cars and cities designed for vehicles rather than people. "Developments for independent retirees typically come in two flavors: isolated, gated subdivisions or large homes on golf courses, often in the same bland package of multiple cul-de-sacs. Both require driving everywhere, which is a problem for those who either don’t want to drive or can’t."
With new urbanism, an emphasis on walkable communities is gaining traction. Of course, walkability leads to more activity, which we know has benefits to those walking. There are challenges to building communities for aging. The article mentions the hurdles. "Age-friendly communities within cities may require extensive infrastructure improvements, including wider sidewalks, bike lanes, more public transportation options and longer pedestrian signal walk times. Local officials may not want to rezone or invest in the improvements or even permit them." Then factor in costs, because some currently walkable cities are also costly for residents. There are tradeoffs, however, so don't rule those out.
Have you students read this article, and have them judge your community for "aging in community."
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
The GAO has issued a new report of interest to all of us who read this blog or teach elder law. Elder Housing: HUD Should Do More to Oversee Efforts to LInk Residents to Services was released on October 3, 2016. The 66 page report is available here as a pdf and the highlights are available here.
Here are the findings:
While limitations in the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) data make an accurate assessment difficult, GAO estimates that roughly half of the 7,229 Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly (Section 202) properties have HUD-funded service coordinators—staff who link residents to supportive services such as transportation assistance or meals. HUD's data indicate that 38 percent of Section 202 properties have a HUD-funded service coordinator, but these data likely underestimate the true number. GAO surveyed a generalizable sample of Section 202 properties not identifiable in HUD's data as having a service coordinator and, on this basis, estimates that an additional 12 percent of Section 202 properties actually had one—bringing the actual total of Section 202 properties with service coordinators to about 50 percent. Federal internal control standards note that it is important for management to obtain relevant data from reliable sources. Properties with service coordinators are subject to additional monitoring, but without accurate information, HUD risks not taking steps to monitor Section 202 properties with service coordinators to help ensure they are connecting residents to supportive services.
Properties without service coordinators connect residents to services in a variety of ways—for example, property managers may serve this function themselves, or they may utilize other local organizations. Several stakeholders told GAO that property managers are well-positioned to know their residents, and have some insight into their needs. Others noted that property managers generally lack the time and expertise to effectively manage this responsibility, and that the manager's role can conflict with that of the service coordinator. Through GAO's survey and site visits, managers of Section 202 properties without service coordinators cited a variety of reasons for not employing them, including lack of funding and having too few units to justify hiring someone to focus on supportive services for the elderly residents.
HUD requires its staff to monitor Section 202 properties' adherence to program requirements. However, HUD lacks written policies and procedures that describe how its staff should monitor the requirement for Section 202 property managers to coordinate the provision of supportive services. Available guidance describes general monitoring procedures for multifamily properties but does not address Section 202 specifically. HUD officials told GAO they plan to develop guidance on monitoring Section 202 properties with service coordinator grants by December 2016. Federal internal control standards note the importance of documenting responsibilities through policies. Without written policies and procedures, HUD cannot be assured that elderly residents are receiving assistance obtaining services. In addition, HUD collects performance data, such as the number of services provided, from Section 202 properties that have service coordinators but does not have policies or procedures in place to verify the accuracy of the data or for analyzing the data collected. Federal internal control standards also note the importance of evaluating data for reliability and processing data into quality information to evaluate performance. Until HUD takes steps to assess service coordinator performance data for reliability and analyze the data reported, its ability to use that information to monitor whether service coordinators are performing effectively and helping to fulfill the goals of the Section 202 program will likely be limited.
Make note that HUD plans to have Section 202 monitoring guidance with grants for service coordinators by December. Stay tuned!