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Nursing Home Secrets Easier To Keep Under Bush Rule

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, February 25, 2009 4:32 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Elderly, Elder Abuse, Nursing Home, Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia

A Bush administration rule change is making it harder for people to find out what happened to their loved ones inside a nursing facility.  

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IMAGE SOURCE:  Clare and Mavis Knutson. Albert Lea Tribune Web site

 

Without public notice or public input, the Bush administration last fall enacted changes to the reporting of information about abuse and neglect in long-term care facilities.

The result has been that dark secrets about nursing-home abuse are staying secret.

The $144 billion nursing home industry benefitted when state inspectors and Medicare and Medicaid contractors were designated to be federal employees. That means they are shielded from providing evidence in litigation.

It’s made it harder for Jean Hanson to get information about her parents’ care at a Minnesota nursing home.  Clare and Mavis Knutson, lived in the Good Samaritan Society nursing home north of Albert Lea.

Their daughter learned in December that they were two of the 15 elderly residents named who were allegedly subjected to harassing, and sexually abusive assaults, collected by a Minnesota Department of Health investigation.

Six teenage girls, all nursing assistants are facing charges. Two face adult criminal charges and the other four face juvenile charges.

Hanson’s mother told her before she died that she didn’t like the place. 

Plaintiffs now must seek a court order, get inspection reports, or gather depositions to find out what has happened to their loved one. 

"This change hurts nursing-home residents and their families by allowing bad practices to be kept in secret by nursing homes and inspectors," Eric M. Carlson, an attorney with the National Senior Citizens Law Center in Los Angeles tells the Washington Post.

The Bush administration justified the rule by saying the employees time could best be used in their federal enforcement responsibilities. The end result is that cases involving the elderly have slowed in the nation’s courtrooms. 

On the flip side, the industry finds that it is being hurt by stopping the free flow of information.  Priscilla Shoemaker, legal counsel for the American Health Care Association in Washington, said nursing homes "are in the same boat" because they also have difficulty getting information on how state inspectors determine penalties, citations and orders to shut down homes.

About 10,000 nursing homes, assisted living and developmentally-disabled care facilities treat more than 1.5 million Americans every day.  #


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