Massachusetts has been slow on the uptake, as have 20 other states, in ensuring that the elderly and homebound receive high-standard care from services that perform household chores, personal care, and companionship to them.

A 13-member commission made up of state officials, representatives from elder affairs organizations and consumers issued a report garnered from testimony they heard over the past year. The testimony came from people like them – health care agency representatives and consumers, along with other experts. Their recommendations will now be forwarded to the Legislature.

The commission’s conclusion was that these businesses need to be integrated into the regulatory system, with a process developed to license and oversee their operations, according to a story by Statehouse reporter Christian Wade.

As the report moves on to the Legislature, many details still need to be worked out. But the Bay State has good models, such as California where the State Department of Social Services oversees the process.

Their website offers information for both health care aides and organizations, and for consumers. These address the application process and cost, laws and policies, and resources for providers. Additionally there is consumer information on how to file a complaint, along with a complaint hotline, and resources for senior citizens and families.

The Massachusetts commission’s report notes that while some home care businesses are subject to state oversight through contractual agreements with regional elderly service boards, there are “gaps.” The panel concluded a licensing system is needed to “protect consumers, home care agencies and professionals.”

With systems like this in place in two-and-a-half dozen states, it’s perplexing why Massachusetts hasn’t joined them sooner. Now is the time.

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