Kentucky Attorneys Support Bill That Would Require Pre-Employment Screening of Nursing Home Workers

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Performing a background check on every nursing-home job applicant could protect thousands of vulnerable residents from elder abuse, say Bowling Green elder abuse and neglect attorneys J. Marshall Hughes and Lee Coleman.

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Kentucky nursing home abuse and neglect attorney J. Marshall Hughes

Expanding the statute can provide more protection for an elderly population who may not be able to speak up for themselves when they are abused.

All nursing home employees may be subject to background checks if a prefiled bill in the Kentucky legislature passes in the 2012 session, according to a recent news article in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Existing laws only require background checks on employees who provide direct elder care in nursing homes. The new bill broadens the scope to include anyone who works in facilities, regardless of how closely they interact with residents.

“Expanding the statute can provide more protection for an elderly population who may not be able to speak up for themselves when they are abused,” says Bowling Green personal injury attorney J. Marshall Hughes, whose law firm has extensive experience handling cases involving nursing home abuse and elder neglect in Bowling Green, Louisville and parts of Tennessee.

“Any employee – not just those who provide direct care for nursing-home residents – still has many opportunities to exploit them just because they are in such close proximity,” he added.

The new bill comes on the heels of another move by Kentucky to address cases of nursing home abuse. In June, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services awarded the state a $3 million grant to upgrade its background-check system from one that searches only by name to one that screens potential employees by digital fingerprinting.

“It could be an excellent preventative measure,” says attorney Lee Coleman, who also handles personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits that arise from elder abuse.

“And because the digital fingerprints will be sent to both state police and the FBI for criminal background checks, the screening process will be more comprehensive and will hopefully lessen instances of elder abuse,” the Bowling Green personal injury lawyer says.

But friends and family members should still keep a watchful eye for signs of nursing home abuse, both Kentucky attorneys caution.

“Background checks can only go so far in the prevention of cases of nursing home abuse,” says Coleman. “For example, what about the offenders who have a clean record, but start abusing elders after they are hired? Watching for indications of abuse or neglect is everybody’s responsibility.”

Possible signs of elder abuse may include:

  •     Bruises, pressure sores, broken bones, abrasions or burns
  •     Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities
  •     Depression
  •     Sudden decline in alertness
  •     Signs of sexual abuse
  •     Poor hygiene
  •     Weight loss
  •     Tense relationships between caregiver and the older person.

“Keep in mind that you know your loved one best,” advises Coleman. “You may not necessarily see the typical symptoms, but other behaviors or physical changes that are inconsistent with his or her condition. If you harbor any suspicions, the best thing to do is investigate further or contact an experienced elder abuse attorney to make sure you get the answers you deserve.”

In fiscal year 2010, the Kentucky Department of Community Based Services received 13,491 reports of suspected abuse of individuals over age 60, the largest number of complaints it has received since it began reporting data in 2006, according to the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ annual report.

“With strict enforcement and strong advocacy, this new legislation can bring that number down further,” says Hughes. “The elder population in Kentucky nursing homes deserves nothing less than the best quality-of-life in their golden years.”

About Hughes & Coleman Injury Lawyers

Hughes & Coleman Injury Lawyers, with Kentucky offices in Bowling Green, Elizabethtown and Louisville, is dedicated to protecting the rights and interests of nursing home abuse and neglect victims, as well as the families who care deeply about their elderly loved ones.

Partners J. Marshall Hughes and Lee Coleman are accomplished injury attorneys and advocates for people who have suffered from nursing home neglect and abuse, as well as auto accidents, brain injury, drug injury, defective products, environmental dangers, fire and burn injury, insurance disputes, motorcycle accidents, premises liability, Social Security disability, stock fraud, truck accident injury, workers’ compensation and wrongful death.

For more information contact Hughes & Coleman Injury Lawyers at (800) 489-6000 or use the firm's online contact form.

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