Many cultures consider it a grievous sin and even a crime to disrespect an elder. However, elder abuse is a growing trend that seems to be even more on the rise with recent news reports. Recently, allegations have been made that beloved comic actor Mickey Rooney, a famous celebrity, was not immune to the horrors of this act and was abused by his family prior to his death in 2014 (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/). But institutional abuse of a senior citizen is even more shocking and problematic. However, help is on the way. Suggested guidelines being proposed by the Federal government would remove legal roadblocks to individuals suing a nursing home for abuse.
…an arrangement to keep the neglect and abuse of nursing home residents secret…
At the center of the new regulations that would safeguard residents are controls on how nursing homes present arbitration agreements to their residents at admission. These agreements basically stipulate that, as a condition of residence in the nursing home, the resident must agree to arbitration should a legal issue (such as abuse) arise. In this way, the resident is signing away his or her right to sue if abuse occurs. Former California congressman Henry Waxman has referred to this type of arrangement as a way to “keep the neglect and abuse of nursing home residents secret.” Since the cases are not publicly tried, the abuse is never revealed to authorities or the general public, and the nursing home may be free to continue allowing the abuse afterwards.
95% of residents report that they have been neglected by staff..
Some Scary Data About Nursing Home Abuse
According to a 2008 survey conducted by the National Center on Elder Abuse, 7% of all complaints made against nursing homes involved some form of “abuse, neglect, or exploitation.” Additionally, 44% of the sample of interviewed nursing home residents reported that they had been abused while an astonishing 95% said that they had been neglected by staff or had seen another resident be neglected. The U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO) reports that 15% of state surveys of nursing homes miss “actual harm and immediate jeopardy of a nursing home resident.”
New Regulation Proposals
A movement is under way to change all of this. Over fifty different organizations spanning medical, labor, and legal groups have all called for the government to ban pre-dispute arbitration agreements completely. There are currently thirty-four U.S. senators and fifteen state attorneys general who agree with this proposal. The current proposed federal regulations state that the nursing homes would have to explain the agreements to the residents and their family before they are signed. It would also state that a patient would not have to sign the agreement in order to be admitted to the nursing home. The American Health Care Association is lobbying against these regulations on behalf of many nursing homes.
If you feel that someone you care for is being abused by his or her nursing home, then you should know that you have rights and options. Elder abuse is a repugnant act and should not be tolerated and the nursing homes that allow these acts to happen are as culpable as the abusers themselves. If you need more information on this, contact us at the Law Offices of Wolf & Pravato so that you can learn what your options are.