Bring on advanced caregiver background checks

You know the drill: It’s ratings week for your local television news stations and that means the most sensational stories will be featured—local politicians frequenting strip clubs, tainted food at the local burger joint and, to no one’s great surprise—sadly—another report of elder abuse at a nursing facility.

I’m not being flip about the nursing home story as a typical example of ratings week fodder because we all know it is all too common. I was watching TV last night and saw a report from “The Investigator,” our local station’s feared muckraker. The story exposed criminal activity in an area nursing home, based on video secretly shot by a man who suspected his mother was being abused. It is searing in its intensity and painful to watch.

As someone who covers the long-term care industry for those who work in it, I obviously prefer to report positive stories of caregivers dedicated to advancing resident dignity and respect. But I can’t turn a blind eye to accounts of those who hurt the most vulnerable among us. In fact, I wrote an article about how LTC facilities can recognize and respond to abuse, neglect and exploitation in the June issue of Long-Term Living. Nor should you turn a blind eye—especially when the Office of Inspector General (OIG) reported earlier this year that more than 90% of nursing homes have hired (a) criminal(s).

To that end, the state of Kentucky last week announced a plan to implement more stringent criminal background checks for long-term caregivers in its facilities. A $3-million grant will establish a comprehensive statewide system for thorough background checks.

Currently, Kentucky state law requires LTC facilities to conduct only name-based background checks for prospective employees. The grant, however, will help the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) purchase equipment to conduct digital fingerprint background checks. The grant enables the state to purchase live scan equipment to secure digital fingerprints that will be used for both in-state and FBI criminal background checks.

We should welcome these advancements in caregiver checks and advocate similar policy in other states as well.

Topics: Facility management , Staffing