McKnight’s had an article about The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services accepting grant applications from states to establish systems for background checks for potential long-term care employees.   The program helps states create background check systems to screen applicants who apply to work with seniors and the disabled in long-term care facilities. Supporters say the expansion could help prevent convicted criminals from working closely with some of the most vulnerable segments of the population. Background checks are needed and required in most states but the nursing home wants tax payers to pay for it.

The grants are part of the Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act, a bill that was supported by Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) of the Senate Special Committee on Aging and was part of the healthcare reform law that passed this March. The provision expands upon a recently conducted seven-state pilot program that was effective in preventing the hiring of more than 7,000 persons with a violent or abusive past.

Grant recipients will receive funding over three years to create comprehensive, coordinated systems that will prevent those with criminal records and a history of abuse from gaining employment in long-term care facilities. Besides establishing these systems at the state level, the law requires potential hires to be checked against the FBI’s national database of criminal history records.  The program provides states with federal funds to create systems accessing abuse and neglect registries, state police records and the FBI’s national database of criminal records. Caregivers in Wisconsin are already required to undergo background checks when seeking employment.

 "We have a great deal of hard evidence that this policy works and protects lives," said Sen. Herb Kohl, who authored both the measure that created the pilot program and the new law that expanded it. "Background checks have been routine for years for those who work with young children, and we have an obligation to protect vulnerable seniors and Americans with disabilities in the same way."


The Medical News had a great article about the recent findings in the Journal of Clinical Nursing regarding the benefits of using video conferencing to keep residents in touch with their families.  34 residents from ten nursing homes took part in the videoconferencing study – the 18 women and 16 men had an average age of 75.  All of them said the experience enriched their lives, just under two-thirds said it was the second-best option to family visiting and a third said it gave them a true picture of family life. Nursing home residents who used videoconferencing to keep in touch with family members felt it enriched their lives.  The benefits were considerable and could easily be replicated in a wide range of residential care settings.  I hope the availability of video conferencing which is inexpensive and easy to set up becomes part of the standard of care at every nursing home.

"A trained research assistant helped the residents speak to their spouse, child or grandchild using SKYPE or MSN" explains co-author Professor Yun-Fang Tsai, Chair of the School of Nursing at Chang Gung University in Taiwan. "At the end of the three-month study period, all the participants took part in in-depth interviews."

The average videoconferencing session lasted just under 12 minutes. Twelve per cent took place daily, 47 per cent weekly, 23 per cent monthly and 18 per cent occasionally. The residents were very positive about the experience. They said it gave them a chance to be part of family life, see relatives who had moved abroad and allay anxieties if relatives were unable to visit. Comments included:

· "It is a fun and helpful activity. Although it took me a little time to interact with my family I feel fabulous every time after talking with my son. Sometimes he plays a song I like on the violin, which he would never bring here. He also shared some photos with me, the pets in the house and so on."

· "My daughter-in-law owns a pet store. She always shows me what’s new in her store, such as a new pet. It’s really interesting."

· "If my family could come to visit me in person, that would be the best way since I can see them more clearly…But they are very busy and have no time to visit every day. This may sometimes replace their in-person visits."

· "My son lives in America and has his own business. He only has time to visit me once or twice a year. Via videoconference, I have the chance to see my son, grandson and so on."

· "I feel less anxiety. If my son does not visit some week I would not be anxious, worrying about the status of his family and clamoring to go home. This is better than the telephone for I can see the real thing. I wouldn’t think my son is lying to me that everyone in the family is OK. I can see their rosy faces, which are very believable and real."

· "Since my son emigrated to America my grandson seldom comes back to Taiwan due to his school life. Via the videoconference program I can see how tall he has become."

Some of the residents felt slightly anxious or self-conscious about using the equipment as they were unfamiliar with computers and found it strange to see their family on a screen rather than in person. Comments included:

· "When I first used the setup, it felt very strange to talk with a computer even though my son was on the other side."

· "Sometimes I have no idea what to say, but it is fine since I can see my children. That part is good."

· "I hope I can deal with my teeth. It would help me to say more. Otherwise my dental problems would interfere with my family understanding what I am saying."

"We were very pleased with the positive reactions this initiative received" says Professor Tsai. "In fact, the researchers often arrived to find the residents had been waiting for them for half an hour, keen to ensure they didn’t miss their slot!

"It proved a simple way to enrich the lives of people in nursing homes and enable them to be part of family life. We would also be keen to see this expanded so that families could also become part of their relative’s nursing home life.

"Residents needed some time to get used to the program, and had to have help to use the equipment, but the benefits were considerable and could easily be replicated in a wide range of residential care settings."