Elder abuse bill pushed

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Colorado State Sen. Evie Hudak
Colorado State Sen. Evie Hudak
COLORADO — Lawmakers in Colorado are trying to change the fact that their state is one of only four that do not have mandatory reporting laws governing elder abuse.

State Sen. Evie Hudak (D) introduced legislation that would form a task force to study mandatory reporting. It would offer recommendations by Dec. 1, the Denver Post reported. Hudak originally wanted to draft a bill requiring certain professionals to report cases of suspected abuse — whether in an elder's own home or in a nursing facility — but similar previous legislation has failed to gain traction.

When similar mandatory reporting bills have been debated, they have failed because county departments tasked with enforcing such a policy said they lacked the funding to properly train personnel that handle complaints.

“They can't do it without additional funding,” Hudak told fellow legislators, according to the Colorado newspaper.

NORTHEAST

No. 2 in c. diff death rates
MAINE — State officials hope newly passed legislation will result in improved Clostridium difficile mortality rates. Maine recently passed a bill that requires the reporting of c. diff infections following hospital admissions.

The state has the second highest c. diff mortality rate in the United States, runner-up only to Rhode Island.

Maine's c. diff mortality rate is 5.5 deaths per 100,000 people, compared to Rhode Island's 8.2 per 100,000 people, according to Extending the Cure, an antibiotic resistance project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

While the report was released in 2007, epidemiologists in the state stress that the infection, which can be deadly in nursing homes, remains a big concern. Experts say Maine saw a big jump in c. diff mortality rates after an outbreak of a particularly virulent strain of the bacteria in Canada, the Bangor Daily News reported.

LTC ethics panels focus
NEW JERSEY — New Jersey's Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly currently is working to strengthen an initiative that deploys roving ethics committees to nursing homes that need assistance mediating end-of-life disputes.

The program, called the New Jersey Stein Ethics Education & Development project, aims to provide New Jersey's nursing homes with access to long-term care professionals trained in ethical decision-making, Amy Brown, a staff attorney for the program, told McKnight's.

Since the beginning of January, the office has trained over 400 healthcare workers.

The four-to-five person committees can include clergy, nurses, physicians, lawyers and ethicists who work together to get a resident's family members on the same page. The teams help to make decisions that can include determining whether or not to administer life-saving antibiotics, pulling feeding tubes, turning off ventilators or even hospitalizing a resident.

PLAINS/MOUNTAINS

Staffing requirements
KANSAS — Consumer advocates in Kansas are pushing legislators to increase minimum staffing levels in the state's nursing homes.

Currently, direct care staff must provide at least 1.85 hours of combined staff time per resident, per day, and average at least two hours per day throughout the week, Kaiser Health News reported. The minimum staffing level is one qualified employee per 30 residents, which translates to 2.06 hours per resident per day when properly observed.

However, in testimony before a state Senate committee hearing, LTC advocates testified that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recommends at least 4.85 hours of combined staff time per resident per day.

Officials from AARP Kansas urged legislators to increase the state minimum to at least that level.

MIDWEST

Veterans' fees raised
Illinois — For the first time since 1979, the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs has informed military veterans living in the state's nursing homes that it's increasing their monthly rates. Starting July 1, rates will go up from roughly $930 to $1,430, The Pantagraph reported.

New residents will be hit with the increase right away. Current residents will see a $150 increase starting in July, with additional $100 increases in each of the next four years.                   

Meth lab facility closed
OHIO — The Ashtabula, OH, nursing home that gained national attention in March for having a methamphetamine lab that ignited and killed a person has closed.

Shortly after the March 4 meth-based fire, some of Park Haven Nursing Home's residents were moved to another location. The rest of the 33 residents were moved to other area nursing homes, the Star Beacon reported.

Ohio was in the process of revoking the home's license, and the state was considering ending its Medicaid agreement, the newspaper said.

Helpfully, the nursing home had attracted the notice of many officials, with inspectors charting 11 fire safety violations in 2010 and 2011. Among deficiencies inspectors most recently discovered were a lack of call buttons to nurses' stations; written plans for emergencies; privacy curtains; proper resident beds; and smoke barriers.

LTC insurance costs surge
MINNESOTA — Long-term care insurance premiums are surging — by as much as 20% and 90% — for Minnesotans who own LTC insurance policies. This has caused a flurry of calls to the state's insurance industry regulators and aging service advocates, according to the Star Tribune.

Insurance companies say the premium increases are needed because people are living longer and fewer people are dropping their policies than in previous decades. Approximately 200,000 Minnesotans carry long-term care insurance.

State officials are concerned that the recent growth in premium costs — which state regulators claim is justified — will damage Minnesota's Own Your Own Future program, a state-led effort to encourage consumers to be more proactive about saving for long-term care. While 7% of Minnesota nursing home residents have LTC insurance, Medicaid covers two-thirds of nursing home residents. The state spends around $3.5 billion annually on long-term care.

SOUTHWEST

Tornado damage blunted
TEXAS — The lack of deaths or major injuries at a Texas nursing home during a deadly tornado in early April reflects well on the hours spent preparing for such an event, officials said.

Green Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Arlington, TX, had 10-minutes' warning that a tornado was headed straight for it. Mark McKenzie, president of the facility's operator, Senior Care Centers, told McKnight's that once staff learned a tornado was imminent, staff members were able to get nearly all of the facility's 131 residents out of their rooms and into the building's hallway. The entire 30-bed rehab wing crumbled but only two residents were sent to the hospital.

The storm happened to strike during a shift change, so more employees than usual were in the building, he added.
“People get frustrated by having multiple fire and tornado drills, but you have to practice your reactions to these events,” McKenzie said.

For example, in one part of the building where residents and staff were huddled in the hallways, the pressure of the storm blew the heads off of the overhead sprinklers, getting everyone wet and flooding the hallways.

“As mundane as training and constantly talking about how we respond is, it's what we're supposed to do,” he concluded.