Letter to the Editor: Nursing Homes Not Over-regulated

On Sept. 16, 2015 representatives from the nursing home industry appeared before a legislative committee proclaiming their belief that the industry was being “overregulated”. They argued the oversight body for nursing homes was overzealous in citing homes for abuse and neglect of Kentucky’s most vulnerable citizens.

As the Kentucky State Long Term Care Ombudsman, I strongly disagree.  While many residents experience good care during their stay in a nursing home, poor care, neglect and abuse does occur and, unfortunately, many residents who experience harm and poor care are so isolated that the general public rarely hears their stories.  Some refer to these victims as the forgotten Kentuckians.

Kentuckians cannot forget that these victims are our families and friends.  We must not forget the human suffering that compounds when a sick frail person experiences abuse and neglect because facilities fail to provide minimum care.  Regulations and penalties are in place to provide an incentive to put resident care above the bottom line.

Kentuckians who care about our future must take the most obvious steps toward addressing poor care. Including issuing fines and penalties for facilities providing poor care, clear and unencumbered access to justice for residents, and minimum staffing levels in all facilities.  We cannot continue to allow nursing homes in Kentucky to purposefully understaff facilities at the cost of our parents’ health and safety. Thirty-five states have minimum staffing requirements.  Our state needs to be proactive in protecting our loved ones.

Not only should more workers be available at the bedside to feed, turn, clean, and care for our loved ones, those workers also should be properly supported, supervised and have training in how to provide care. The Long Term Care Ombudsman Program is a resource for anyone who needs information about long-term care. Ombudsmen are continually making unannounced visits to facilities and work to resolve thousands of complaints as we advocate to improve care.  We are always looking for volunteers.  Please contact us at (800) 372-2991 if you need help or would like to volunteer.

Sherry Culp

Nursing Home Ombudsman Agency

Lexington, Ky.   40517