March 07, 2017
The KY State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program joined the Kentucky Association of Gerontology and the Alzheimer’s Association for Senior Services Advocacy Day in Frankfort, Kentucky on February 23.
Consumers and advocates had an opportunity to listen to a panel of legislators and ask questions. Rep Addia Wuchner, Rep Joni L. Jenkins, Sen Julie Raque Adams and Sen Ralph Alvarado served on the panel.
Among those asking the panel members questions was State Ombudsman Sherry Culp. Culp asked, “Sexual assault of nursing home residents with Alzheimer’s/memory disorders are reportedly on the rise. Research indicates this is in part due to short/insufficient staffing in nursing homes. What can you as a legislator do to help protect residents from isolation and abuse?” In response a panel member mentioned abuse registries and agreed to further look into issues impacting consumers of long-term care. Culp had recently been interviewed about sexual abuse of nursing home residents in a CNN investigative report Sick, dying and raped in America's nursing homes.
Kentucky has 15 District Long-Term Care Ombudsmen. Many were in attendance and had made appointments to meet with their legislators about protecting the rights of nursing home residents through legislation. One of the bills that ombudsmen didn’t think would improve care was Senate Bill 4 (SB4). This bill would institute Medical Review Panels creating a barrier for vulnerable, elderly, and poor residents to directly accessing the court system to hold providers accountable. Since this bill would do nothing to improve care, ombudsmen promoted instituting a staffing ratio of 4.1 hours per resident day. This minimal staffing level has been supported by many national and international studies including those from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
The daily work of Ombudsmen is in nursing homes, personal care homes and family care homes advocating for residents’ rights one resident at a time. However, on Senior Services Advocacy Day, Ombudsmen were able to come together to inform legislators about the Long-Term Care Ombudsmen Program and engage in vital systems advocacy.
Natalie Brown-Radtke, District Ombudsman in the Louisville area met with State Senator Gerald Neal about Senate Bill 4 and her concerns regarding insufficient staffing in nursing homes and it’s negative effect on care residents receive.
System advocacy can happen by appointment in an office or on the move in a hallway. Pennyrile District Ombudsman Cindy Tabor spoke with Senator Stan Humphries about how Senate Bill 4 Medical Review Panels would do nothing to improve care.
District Long-Term Care Ombudsmen Sheila Howard of Owensboro, Celia Gutfreund of Mayfield, Cindy Tabor, and program Ombudsman Belinda Babb of Hopkinsville were proud to serve as the voice of residents who could not travel to Frankfort to meet with legislators.