It’s natural for community association board members and managers to be concerned for residents who start displaying signs of failing health, confusion, hoarding, and other erratic behaviors.

There are many older adults living independently with little help from family or caregivers. Conversely, residents experiencing reduced mental capacity may cause potential safety issues for the entire community. Balancing the well-being of the community and that of an individual resident can be very challenging, especially given the lack of tools available to most communities.

Since liability is always a concern, board members and managers must avoid taking on duties for which they are not qualified or insured. Forming a volunteer committee to check on neighbors is far different than adopting specific care directives more common in an assisted living setting. That’s why communities like 2101 Cooperative in Philadelphia and Saint Andrews Country Club in Boca Raton, Fla., contract with licensed and insured third parties to provide those services.

Contacting government services for assistance is another option. The challenge here is determining when to make such calls. For this reason, some communities provide their management staff with training designed to identify when to ask for help.

Sue Duberstein is 2101 Cooperative’s representative from Jewish Family & Children Services, the nonprofit organization that provides social services in the community. She says community associations can start by contacting local county offices on aging or mental health services. Board members or the manager can request an assessment, ideally with the resident’s consent. If the client is deemed eligible, a home health aide, cleaning services, and meals may be provided.

If there is a safety concern, the community can make an anonymous referral to an adult protective services unit within an office on aging. Adult protective services can step in if a resident is endangering others or showing poor judgment. Communities can watch for things such as hoarding, leaving on gas burners, extreme self-care deficits, or harassing board members, staff members, or other residents.

Adult protective services often have attorneys who can file a petition with the court to have a guardian appointed. There are different levels of guardianship. The courts will assign the least restrictive guardianship necessary to preserve the resident’s self-determination. Sometimes, the guardian will simply manage the resident’s finances to ensure bills are paid.

From a risk management perspective, obvious mental and physical health issues that threaten residents cannot be ignored. While board members and management do not necessarily need to solve the problem, they should inform the resident’s family members and, if necessary, government services.

Start having discussions today about how you can better prepare for aging residents in your community. The sooner you have compassionate and effective policies and programs in place for older adults, the better off your community and its residents will be.

Contributed by Denise Adamic, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, and Matthew C. Collins, Esq. Denise Adamic is the community association liaison at Horn Williamson in Philadelphia where Matthew Collins is the community association group chair.

>>Read more about how communities can help residents age in place in “The Golden Years” from the November/December issue of CAI’s Common Ground magazine.

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