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Nursing home abuse and neglect is going unreported, audit says

Kentucky residents residing in nursing homes are among our vulnerable population. They are often unable to care for their daily needs, the may be mentally incapacitated and they may suffer from physical ailments. We count on nursing homes to provide quality care for their residents, but unfortunately instances of nursing home abuse and neglect occur all too frequently. In what is disturbing news, according to a government audit over 25 percent of possible incidents of physical and sexual abuse in nursing homes are not reported to police. This is despite a federal law that mandates police be immediately notified of such incidents.

According to office of the inspector general of Health and Human Services, Medicare needs to take steps to remedy this situation. Auditors uncovered over 130 instances from 2015 to 2016 in which a nursing home resident was sent to the emergency room due to a possible instance of abuse or neglect. Of those, 28 percent of the cases went unreported to the police. Of those unreported cases, the inspector general found that 31 were due to possible sexual abuse. Also, even of those cases that were reported, it is unsure as to whether this were done immediately as mandated per law.

This goes against federal law that mandates the reporting of abuse of nursing home residents. Per the law, if nursing home staff suspect something illegal happened and a resident was seriously harmed, the nursing home must report it within two hours. Otherwise, the nursing home has 24 hours to report a suspected incident of abuse or neglect. If a nursing home doesn't follow this law, it could be fined $300,000.

However, the audit found that Medicare was not doing its part in enforcing the law. The inspector general called Medicare's procedures in identifying and reporting incidents of nursing home abuse or neglect "inadequate." The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services replied that it prioritizes the safety of nursing home residents, and that a formal response will be issued pending the completion of the audit. The inspector general wants Medicare to review billing records for instances of abuse.

This report is disturbing on many levels. People in Kentucky who have loved ones in nursing homes may want to contact an attorney if they suspect their loved one was the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, so that the appropriate legal actions can be taken.

Source: Lexington Herald Leader, "APNewsBreak: Abuse in nursing homes unreported despite law," Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Aug. 28, 2017

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