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House redefines 'emotional abuse' in nursing homes

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 25 2012 3:21 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah House of Representatives on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill to refine the definition of emotional abuse in nursing homes and assisted living centers so administrators are not required to report minor events.

State regulators say the current definition is overly broad and mandatory reporting of minor incidents unnecessarily taps resources of operators and state regulators.

For instance, if a resident of a nursing home ridicules, swears at or yells at another resident, the operator is required to submit a report to state human services authorities. The agency then culls through the reports to determine whether further action is required. With few exceptions, the issues are readily handled by the nursing home or assisted living center staff, regulators say.

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Salt Lake, sponsor of HB47, said many people who have been the subject of this reporting are vulnerable adults with dementia or Alzheimer's and do not knowingly inflict emotional abuse.

Requiring regulators to file report of minor incidents only "adds to the stigma" of people suffering with these conditions, she said.

There is no need to file reports "when the staff is trained to deal with it," Spackman Moss said.

The bill has been sent to the Senate for its consideration.

Marjorie Cortez

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