Oklahoma City, OK- Elderly persons are among the most vulnerable citizens and often face abuse and neglect while living in a nursing home. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that approximately 22 percent of nursing home residents are subjected to abuse and 21 percent are neglected. But The Oklahoma Long Term Care Security Act, which took effect at the beginning of March, aims to protect the elderly from facing harm at the hands of the caregiver.
Under state and federal regulations, nursing homes are required to conduct background checks on the staff members they hire. The purpose is to weed out any staff members who have abused or financially exploited a patient in the past. But these background checks are often not comprehensive enough to determine if a potential new employee has a propensity towards abuse or violence.
The new law requires that nursing homes in Oklahoma to conduct finger-print based background checks before they hire a new employee that will have direct contact with a resident or patient. This applies to all institutions that provide healthcare,according to KOCO-TV.
The law took effect on March 1st and does not retroactively apply to previously hired employees.
A loophole in the law does not bar people with previous assault, battery and robbery to work in nursing homes seven years after their crime, which concerns elder advocates in the state.
Many positions in nursing homes are entry level positions that often only require minimal certifications. Lacking the proper training, some of these staff members are unable to understand or meet the needs of some patients. Because of their advanced age, neglect and abuse can put their health of an elderly nursing home resident in danger. In the more extreme cases, neglect or abuse can lead to a resident’s death.
On top of inexperience, staff members at many facilities across the country are overworked and don’t have the help they need to assure residents are shielded from abuse or neglect. The stress of caring for a person without the resources can become frustrating for staff of some nursing homes and they sometimes ignore or harm patients out of frustration.
Properly vetting employees through a thorough criminal background and credit check can help a facility determine if someone is incapable of handling the pressure caring for the elderly can impose on a caregiver. Background checks are not only in the best interest of residents, but could also protect a facility from nursing home abuse lawsuits.
Even with a background check, it is impossible to prevent elder abuse or neglect altogether, but it can put facilities in better position to reduce the overall incidents that occur.
Another way to reduce abuse and neglect is through civil litigation. Victims who retain nursing home abuse attorneys send a clear signal that mistreatment of their residents will not be tolerated and the consequences for not taking the proper steps to stop will be costly.