Report shows more abuse and neglect in Kentucky's care centers

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comJune 29, 2012 

In fiscal 2011, state adult protection workers determined that abuse and neglect probably had occurred in about 28 percent of cases they investigated involving residents of Kentucky's long-term care centers.

That is up from fiscal 2010, when workers substantiated probable abuse in 18 percent of investigations involving long-term care residents, according to a report from the state.

"These are very disturbing statistics, and they reinforce the fact that we've got to get serious about elder abuse in nursing homes in Kentucky," Bernie Vonderheide, founder of Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform said.

The data comes from an annual report compiled in part by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, titled Elder Abuse in Kentucky. The report says social workers conducted 2,090 investigations of adult abuse and neglect in nursing homes, assisted-living homes and other long-term care centers last year. Abuse and neglect probably occurred in 583 investigations, according to the report. Multiple investigations can involve a single resident.

In fiscal year 2010, adult protection workers conducted 2,048 investigations of adult abuse in long-term care centers. The report released last year said abuse and neglect probably occurred in 368 investigations. The state fiscal year begins each July 1 and ends June 30.

The number of cases investigated went up 2.1 percent from 2010 to 2011, but the number of substantiated cases went up 58.4 percent, according to a Herald-Leader analysis of Cabinet data.

Cabinet spokeswoman Anya Weber said Friday that an increase in adult abuse reports is probably related to the aging population "as well as the increase of statewide education efforts about how to recognize abuse or neglect and the state's mandatory reporting law.''

"An increase in substantiations can be expected, but it can also be attributed to greater attention to these cases because of specialized adult protective services training and APS-focused investigation teams in the Department for Community Based Services regions," she said.

Weber said APS training curricula were implemented several years ago, but a renewed effort has been made to increase staff participation since Gov. Steve Beshear's recommendations for nursing home reform were released in September 2010. The Adult Protective Services investigation teams that began in 2007 are evolving, she said.

Beshear's recommendations came after he asked then-Cabinet Secretary Janie Miller to conduct a review of state policies on abuse and neglect in nursing homes. The review followed a series of articles in the Herald-Leader in 2010 that showed gaps in the system Kentucky officials use to investigate elder abuse at nursing homes.

This is the second year that the report has included statistics on state investigations of alleged abuse in long-term care centers.

The report is a joint venture of the Cabinet and the Kentucky Elder Abuse Committee. A discussion of the 2011 report is on the agenda of the Elder Abuse Committee's September meeting in Frankfort. The committee includes representatives of state agencies, industry groups and advocates.

The elder abuse committee, which is required to meet by law, had languished in recent years.

It was revitalized as one of 20 recommendations Beshear issued.

Herald-Leader reporter Linda J. Johnson contributed to this article. Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears.

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