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May God richly bless our friend Bernie Vonderheide, founder of Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform, for his hard work on behalf of creating positive changes in nursing homes within the Commonwealth of Kentucky! His commitment is truly inspiring and his organization is one that I urge all of my fellow Kentuckians to support.

Bernie shares the following words of encouragement as we start this blog…

Congratulations on starting an important educational blog.

One of the biggest problems in nursing home reform is that most people do not understand the problems unless that have been there and actually seen it.  That is why education is such an important part of our mission.

We encourage everyone to share their experiences with the public through this new blog.

Looking forward to being a daily reader, and congratulations once again.

Thanks Bernie for those thoughtful words!

Allow me to remind you that while Bernie and others of us are very much public figures in the area of nursing home industry reform, we will respect your request for anonymity should you chose to share your story for publication. We will also keep your e-mail address completely confidential.

Kudos to the (Louisville, Kentucky) Courier-Journal newspaper for the following editorial published on Friday, January 25, 2008, that encourages passage of HB 109. The legislation would mandate minimum staffing levels in all nursing homes within the Commonwealth.

Caring for Boomers

The debate in Frankfort over House Bill 109 is just a hint of things to come.

The legislation would attempt to improve the care given by nursing homes, by imposing what really are modest staffing requirements:

One nurse’s aide for every nine residents during the day shift; one aide per 13 residents during the evening shift; one aide for every 19 residents overnight. Also, one nurse for every 21 residents during the day; one per 29 residents during the evening shift; one for every 42 residents overnight.

This would not put Kentucky in the forefront of the effort to make sure nursing homes are properly staffed. Thirty-seven other states already have such rules. HB 109 is overdue.

As activists point out, the state already regulates day-care centers, to make sure enough personnel are on hand to monitor and assist the children who are placed there. There is certainly no less justification for careful oversight of facilities that take care of the elderly.

This is just the leading edge of a movement that can be expected to broaden and gain momentum in coming years. Some baby boomers already have loved ones in nursing homes. Their 1946-1964 cohort has demonstrated, at every stop on its journey through life, an impatience with things as they are, and an inclination to insist that things can be made better. It will insist on good nursing home care for its parents.

After that, many of the baby boomers themselves will take their turn in nursing homes, and the operators of such facilities may be nervous at the thought of ’60s types organizing and demonstrating for better quality, less expensive care.

The better part of valor might be to improve things before Baby Boom agitators show up at the front door with their own luggage.

The usual special interest approach — in this instance, attempting to buy access and influence with more than $110,000 in contributions to lawmakers’ campaigns since 1998 — isn’t likely to work for the industry. Too many Kentuckians have too much at stake, personally, for bad care to go overlooked.

Current state rules have some big holes in them. For instance, they say a “sufficient” number of staff must be on hand, but what’s “sufficient” isn’t defined.

The Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities (KAHCF), which represents about 250 nursing home and personal care homes, opposes HB 109, and the General Assembly should look carefully into any serious argument that group makes. However, there is no need to take seriously the absurd rhetorical question asked by KAHCF president Ruby Jo Lubarsky: “Why should we allow someone outside the business to dictate to us what numbers are appropriate?”

Nor should any attention be paid to KAHCF vice president Jay Trumbo’s claim that “more bodies walking the hallway doesn’t equate to better care.” It’s true that more staffing will not ensure good outcomes, but hiring too few nurses and nurse aides will ensure the opposite.

Consideration of HB 109 is just a first move in determining how the state can help make certain quality care is provided to coming generations of the elderly. The General Assembly should step off in the right direction.

I’m also pleased to share with you a request from Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform regarding making the best use of this editorial…

HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW….Make a copy of this editorial and mail it with a note from yourself to your state legislators and Gov. Steve Beshear.  Tell them about your bad experiences in nursing homes.  Tell them you want action now.

In addition to publishing your story of nursing home neglect and abuse, this blog also exists to share links to websites of interest to those of us who support reform of the nursing home industry. We will also reprint editorials and other material related to the topic of making positive changes in long-term care facilities. Links can be found under the BlogRoll section on the right side of this page.

Please submit links of interest to flamboyantbohemian@gmail.com and type Link Suggestion in the subject line of your message.

Nursing Home News Watch

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