A new law will soon take effect requiring nursing home employees to notify police within hours of suspected abuse – or to call 911 if the situation is an emergency. “Peggy’s Law” will provide additional protections to nursing home residents by ensuring that law enforcement is promptly notified of possible criminal abuse cases.
Peggy’s Law was named for 93-year-old Peggy Marzolla, who died following injuries suffered while in the care of a nursing home in 2010. When Peggy Marzolla was taken to the hospital, it was found that she had sustained a broken eye socket, cheekbone, jaw, and wrist, as well as a badly bruised elbow, a gash on her leg, and welts on her back.
Staff members at the nursing home stated that she had slipped on some powder in a bathroom and fallen. Her daughter did not believe the explanation and spent the next several years lobbying lawmakers to better protect institutionalized seniors.
Governor Chris Christie signed Peggy’s Law on August 7, 2017 and it will go into effect 60 days later.
The current administration has set its sights on another federal rule, seeking to eliminate the ban on pre-dispute arbitration agreements for nursing home residents. Pre-dispute arbitration agreements require elderly adults and individuals with disabilities, as well as their families, to waive their right to file a lawsuit in the courts – before admission to a nursing home. As a condition to entering the nursing home, the prospective resident and his or her representative would be required to submit any dispute, including claims of egregious abuse or neglect, to mandatory arbitration proceedings.
The Current Rule
As the rule currently stands, a nursing home resident cannot be required to waive his or her right to access to the court system. This rule preserves the right of vulnerable nursing home residents to sue for injuries caused by nursing home negligence, abuse, and neglect, including pressure sore infections, suffocation caused by restraints, choking, dehydration-related conditions, gangrene, and even sexual assault. Continue Reading
Mandatory Arbitration in Nursing Home Admission Contracts
A proposed rule change introduced by the Trump administration would authorize mandatory, pre-dispute arbitration in long-term care admissions contracts. The proposed rule is in response to an Obama administration rule that prohibited federal funding for long-term care facilities that required residents to resolve disputes through arbitration.
ABA Writes Letter Opposing Rule Change
In a recent letter, the American Bar Association (ABA) advocates for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to retain its current rule prohibiting long-term care facilities from entering into binding arbitration agreements with residents until after a dispute arises. In the letter sent to CMS administrator Seema Verma, the ABA writes that implementing the proposed rule would harm residents’ rights and interests.
The latest tort reform measure, H.R. 1215, the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017, would place caps on medical malpractice damages, limit attorney fees, and modify statutes of limitations. Among other changes to current law, non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits would be limited to $250,000 – and juries would not be informed of this cap on damages. H.R. 1215 would apply to health care lawsuits where coverage for the care was provided or subsidized by the federal government, including through subsidies or tax benefits.
H.R. 1215 would preempt state laws governing health care litigation in several areas, including statutes of limitation, joint and several liability, product liability, and attorney contingency fees.
Proponents of the bill claim that the bill would lower medical liability insurance premiums, and by extension, reduce the incidence of so-called “defensive” medical treatments and lower costs associated with federal health care programs such as Medicaid.
The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently inspected the 139 nursing homes that it insures. HUD gave a Philadelphia nursing home its lowest possible rating. On a scale of 100, Bala Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Wynnefield Heights scored a 2.
Federal inspectors found 58 “safety and health” violations at Bala Nursing, including 37 that put residents in jeopardy. The violations including missing or broken handrails, blocked or locked fire exits, exposed wiring and missing protective plates, m broken “call-for-aid” devices, and rodent infestation.
If you are a member of the so-called “sandwich generation” – those people who are simultaneously caring for children as well as their elderly parents – you may be familiar with U.S. News & World Report’s college rankings. But did you know that U.S. News & World Report also has nursing home ratings? In fact, U.S. News recently evaluated more than 15,000 nursing homes across the country, ultimately including approximately 2000 of those facilities (366 in New Jersey) in its list of Best Nursing Homes.
U.S. News began publishing online ratings of nursing homes in 2009. Until its latest release, the tool used a “snapshot” of the star ratings posted on Nursing Home Compare, a consumer website of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS assigns an overall rating of one to five stars to nursing homes according to their performance in three areas – state-conducted health inspections, nurse staffing and medical quality measures.
A caregiver may face the overwhelming decision to place a loved one in a nursing home after a sudden event such as a fall or a stroke. Sometimes, there is more time to prepare, as in cases where the loved one suffers from a chronic or debilitating disease, including diseases where the patient is expected to deteriorate over time.
Once a loved one is safely tucked into a nursing home bed, a caregiver may feel a sense of relief. However, nursing home staff members are notoriously overburdened with the everyday tasks involved in caring for their elderly patients. Nonetheless, it is the responsibility of nursing home staff and management to ensure that each resident receives the care he or she needs.
When a loved one moves into a nursing home, staff members have a duty to continually provide the resident with the appropriate level of nursing care, medical care and personal attention.
Nursing home staff members are responsible for the residents’ well-being and are required to report all signs of abuse or neglect, including those arising from resident-to-resident interactions.
One form of abuse or neglect that may be overlooked by staff members is senior bullying. Continue Reading
To increase protection of its elderly and disabled citizens from abuse and neglect, the state of New Jersey is expanding its Safe Care Cam program to nursing homes, residences for the developmentally disabled, and other institutional care facilities. The Safe Care Cam program loans free surveillance cameras to New Jersey residents to monitor the treatment provided by caregivers. The cameras are provided for free 30-day loans to families who suspect or question whether a care provider is abusing or neglecting their loved one.
Without a hearing, our new congress wasted no time in trying to severely limit damages in nursing home abuse claims. A newly proposed law called the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017 H.R. 1215, seeks to limit non-economic damages in all medical cases to $250K for everyone in the country.