One woman fighting to change Oklahoma nursing home laws

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Reported by: Clay Loney
Updated: 2/07 1:54 pm Published: 2/07 9:26 am

TULSA, Okla. - What does it take to lead an army?

One Oklahoma woman believes she has the answer. She may not have the physical strength, but she has a voice empowered by surviving something she wasn't sure she would.

Fern Horton describes it as a "walk through hell." Seven days after major shoulder surgery, she was taken to a skilled nursing facility for rehab.

"And the aide dropped me onto this shoulder and stood there and laughed,” she told FOX23’s Clay Loney.

“Laughed at you?” asked Loney.

“Laughed,” confirmed Horton.

The 86-year-old woman said the cruelty she endured in two Oklahoma nursing homes nearly took her life.

“And I got the worst care you wouldn't put an animal through," she said.

Horton's experience is far from the only one like it, despite Oklahoma’s program called "Focus On Excellence,” which has been in effect since 2007.

The goal was to give long-term care facilities statewide incentives to improve their quality of care. But State Rep. Richard Morrissette said Oklahoma still ranks near the bottom for quality of nursing home care.

“When we did the Focus On Excellence, we proved that the program is not what they said it was. Has it changed? No. And I directly attribute that to the nursing home industry pushing back against change. I mean no one wants real change because at some point you're challenging the status quo, somebody, you know, follow the money,” said Morrisette.

Follow the money and you'll find a nursing home industry according to the company, First Research, with $200 billion in revenue and growing right along with our aging population.

Horton is as resilient as she is talented, and she's very talented creating tapestries, paintings, even her own furniture.

But now, she's ready to be a part of creating something completely different: an army to battle for change in Oklahoma.

“I am livid! I could lead an army right now, because that's what it's going to take to turn this around,” she said.

She said she's seen with her own eye nursing home employees who care deeply about others, but also those who couldn't care less, with incidents of mistreatment never reported.

“If they're not psychopaths, they're sociopaths, they certainly have no compassion. And why does this go on for generation after generation after generation?" Horton asked.

And just because she may not look like an army commander, don't count her out.

Horton's ancestors have fought in every war this country has had, from the American Revolution on.

“And by god, those ancestors gave me guts and I will fight this with my last breath,” said Horton.

But, she will not be fighting alone.

Morrissette has filed House Bill 2901. Among other things, it calls for putting more of what's happening in nursing homes into public view.

He also wants to increase staffing numbers and improve the ability of nursing homes to handle medical emergencies.

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of KOKI FOX23 - Tulsa

abunde - 2/7/2014 5:22 PM
1 Vote
I have worked in a nursing home and I have seen what goes on behind closed doors and nothing is ever done.I quite because of it.everything is covered up and I think it is so wrong.

watergirl - 2/7/2014 3:32 PM
1 Vote
I too agree that video camera's in every room would be a huge deterent.

Mayor Maynot - 2/7/2014 2:21 PM
1 Vote
Place video cameras in these facilities and that will end this kind of disrespectful treatment to persons who are truly unable to stand for themselves.
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