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AARP AARP States South Carolina Caregiving

Advocating for Improved Quality at South Carolina Assisted Living Facilities

Home care nurse with senior patient having lunch

Deborah Crawford-Butler, 68, of Conway, isn’t sure how much longer she can continue to care for her 91-year-old mother at home. Her mother has Alzheimer’s disease but can still eat and walk on her own.

Crawford-Butler, a retired nurse, says she feels nursing home care isn’t appropriate because her mother is still mobile. But many assisted living facilities are too expensive, and the less pricey ones she has visited have been short on staff, with grimy common areas.

“I don’t know what to do anymore,” Crawford-Butler says.

AARP South Carolina is working to help individuals like Crawford-Butler who struggle to find safe, well-maintained assisted living facilities for their loved ones. AARP is educating families about what to consider when choosing one and how to report suspected abuse or neglect. Pushing for legislative reforms to improve the safety and oversight of assisted living locations is also a top AARP priority.

Older adults and people with disabilities need safe, affordable and quality options for their care and well-being as they age, says Charmaine S. Fuller Cooper, AARP South Carolina state director. But at some facilities, quality has deteriorated due to the lack of skilled staff, inadequate funding and other issues.

In December, South Carolina state officials suspended the licenses of four assisted living facilities after finding infestations of bedbugs and roaches; buildings without working heat and indoor temperatures between 50 and 60 degrees; and unsanitary kitchens with a lack of food.

South Carolina has 470 assisted living facilities. The state has revoked or denied renewal of licenses at 12 facilities since 2020.

“What we need is legislative support for a comprehensive long-term care plan that addresses quality, oversight and state funding,” Fuller Cooper says.

Advocating for change

When the state legislature reconvenes in January, AARP will urge lawmakers to explore ways to increase funding for care and improve conditions at assisted living and other long-term care sites,  says Nikki Hutchison, who is the advocacy director for AARP South Carolina.

More financial help is also needed for South Carolinians who can’t afford assisted living, says A. Dale Watson, the state long-term care ombudsman. Few people have the resources to pay $5,000 a month or more for assisted living, Watson says.

“The normal working-class person ... they don’t have that kind of money,” she says.

In July, AARP will host a telephone town hall — in conjunction with the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, which regulates assisted living facilities, and the state Department on Aging — to share information about how to access long-term care services. Find details at aarp.org/sc.

Get tips on what to consider when choosing an assisted living facility through the AARP Caregiver Resource Center.

To report inadequate care or other problems at a facility, contact South Carolina’s long-term care ombudsman program at 800-868-9095 or through the state's website.

Joanne Cleaver is a writer living in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

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