March 2012 Archives

March 28, 2012

Proposed Bill would Improve Dental Care for Kentucky Nursing Home Residents

When comparing nursing homes as possible residences for a loved one, there are several things to consider. There are logistical details such as how far away the home is from friends and relatives. Financial constraints also play a major factor. But probably the most important thing to consider is the quality of care the person will receive while they reside there.

One aspect of care that is often overlooked by both the family of a nursing home resident and apparently the staff of some facilities is dental hygiene. Part of the daily ritual for the majority of children and adults across the country, oral care seems to be neglected or forgotten in some long-term care facilities. This neglect can lead not only to pain and discomfort for residents, but also to more serious problems. In one case, a Western Kentucky nursing home resident ended up with a gum infection that could have been fatal because the nursing staff didn't remove the person's dentures for six months. A proponent for oral care, Bernie Vonderheide reports "Recent studies have shown that as much as 44 percent of infections in nursing homes, such as deadly pneumonia, are caused by poor oral care."

In an attempt to improve these conditions for all Kentucky nursing home residents, a bill was introduced and has been passed by the House Health and Welfare Committee. Under House Bill 150, the Cabinet for Health and Human Services would work with the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky dental departments to create a program that would provide guidelines for dental health care in long-term care facilities. The program would be paid for by funds collected from nursing homes when they are fined for providing substandard care or putting residents at risk. A nursing assistant for each nursing home would receive training from one of the universities in dental care and would ultimately be responsible for the oral health care of all of the residents in the facility. A test of this system was done at a Lexington KY nursing home with a $25,000 grant from the Dental Trade Alliance Foundation. While the study results are unknown at this time, it appears that information that could be used in future training sessions was created and will be available to anyone interested in using it.

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March 21, 2012

Motorcyclist Killed in Truck Accident on I-65 in Louisville Kentucky

1016169_speed_of_motorcycle.jpgOn Tuesday, March 6, 2012, a motorcyclist was killed on I-65 in Louisville, Kentucky. It appears that the motorcyclist was travelling in the middle lane between a pickup truck and a tractor-trailer truck. According to Louisville police, the accident seems to have been caused when the driver of the pickup truck moved into the lane the motorcycle was in, causing the motorcycle to collide with the semi. Traffic on I-65 and the nearby ramps of the Watterson were closed for several hours and rush-hour traffic had to be diverted.

This horrific crash illustrates a few points of driver safety that bear repeating. First, riding a motorcycle can be fun and exhilarating, but it is inherently much more dangerous than driving a car. As a result, motorcyclists have to take extra precautions, especially when riding on a multi-lane highway. Motorcycles are smaller than cars or trucks and can be overlooked by other drivers on the road. Motorcycle riders have to be incredibly alert when riding to make up for other drivers possibly not seeing them. Proper gear should be worn at all times, including long pants, boots, a protective jacket and a helmet. The motorcyclist in this accident does not appear to have played any role in this accident, he was an innocent victim, and all of the above precautions still may not have saved his life.

Second, car and truck drivers need to always be alert when driving, paying attention to the road and those around them. It is even more important when travelling at higher speeds on a freeway or interstate. As noted above, motorcycles are smaller and may be harder to notice, especially in a rearview mirror. Any distraction may be enough to cause a driver to not see a motorcyclist, or another car driver, before it is too late. It is unknown whether the pickup truck driver in this wreck was distracted by the radio, a cellphone, or even a snack, or if distraction played no role in the accident.

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March 13, 2012

ATV Crash in Kentucky Claims Life of Young Woman

Spring is in the air in Kentucky, and with it comes the upswing of outdoor activities that have been on hold since fall. Children are swinging and sliding, people are once again tending to their lawns, and riders are gassing up their ATVs for the season. Unfortunately, with the thrill and freedom of ATV riding comes the risk of serious injury or death.

On February 26, 2012, a woman was killed in an ATV accident in Meade County Kentucky. She was riding on an ATV that was being driven by her fiancé. They were riding in circles when her fiancé lost control of the ATV and it flipped. They both fell to the ground and the 26-year-old woman was killed. The driver admitted to consuming alcohol before causing the ATV accident. He was allowed to attend the victim's funeral, but then was arrested by police. He has been charged with improper control and driving under the influence, and more charges may be added.

The ATV Safety Institute provides the following guidelines to help riders operate ATVs safely:

  1. Always wear a DOT-compliant helmet, goggles, long sleeves, long pants, over-the-ankle boots, and gloves.

  2. Never ride on paved roads except to cross when done safely and permitted by law - another vehicle could hit you. ATVs are designed to be operated off-highway.

  3. Never ride under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

  4. Never carry a passenger on a single-rider ATV, and no more than one passenger on an ATV specifically designed for two people.

  5. Ride an ATV that's right for your age.

  6. Supervise riders younger than 16; ATVs are not toys.

  7. Ride only on designated trails and at a safe speed.

  8. Take a hands-on ATV RiderCourseSM and the free online E-Course. Visit or call 800.887.2887.

In the case above, at least three of these guidelines were not followed. The driver had been drinking alcohol, neither rider was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, and they were riding on an unfinished part of a highway instead of a designated ATV trail. All of these factors likely contributed to the victim's death.

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March 9, 2012

Proposed Kentucky Legislation Regarding Lawsuits against Nursing Homes

On February 1, 2012, state Representative Melvin Henley introduced new legislation that would change the way nursing home abuse and neglect cases would be handled in Kentucky. The proposed legislation, House Bill 361, would require all complaints of abuse or neglect against any long-term care facility to be heard by a medical review panel before the case could proceed to trial.

The medical review panel would be comprised of one attorney and three doctors. The attorney would be agreed upon by the facility and the resident first; then the selected attorney would help them find the physicians. After hearing from both sides, the three physicians would each vote whether or not they thought the claim was valid. The parties could use this information to settle the claim, to drop the charges, or to move forward toward trial, with the medical review panel's opinion as potential evidence.

Proponents of the bill state that it does not prohibit nursing home residents from taking their cases to trial, nor does it limit the amount of damages that could be awarded. They also point to Indiana and Louisiana as states that have seen a drop in liability costs since they adopted the use of medical review panels. They view this as a result of frivolous lawsuits being stopped before they go to trial.

Those who oppose the bill, including AARP of Kentucky and the Kentucky Justice Association think the bill will be detrimental to those seeking justice. Residents or their families that have already been injured or suffered the loss of a loved one because of nursing home neglect or abuse would now have one more hoop to jump through before receiving any compensation they are owed. Those wanting to pursue legal action may have to pay a $100 fee for the medical review board, and adding this extra step will likely delay the final outcome of the case, causing additional emotional and financial stress. "The overall concept of increasing costs and delaying justice for people who are doing nothing wrong" is not appropriate, stated Maresa Fawns, the executive director of the Kentucky Justice Association. She also noted that some studies have shown that the medical review boards tend to vote in favor of the long-term care facilities over the victims.

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