Here is a typical scenario:
An elderly woman falls at home and fractures her hip for which she has an entire hip replacement. The family is surprised when the day after the surgery, mom begins her rehab and there is a visit from the social worker asking about where mom will go for either rehab or to permanently reside in a nursing home. The family – who has no experience picking a nursing home – is handed a list of nearby places, visits a few of them, and picks the best they can in the span of a few days.
Usually, there is a long contract the family is presented – sometimes over 20 pages – in addition to numerous other documents. Somewhere, buried in the middle of all this, in complex legal terms, is the arbitration clause. A paragraph that effectively waives a person’s rights to have their case judged by a jury if something terrible happens.
In New Jersey, these clauses used to be illegal, presumably because a person putting a loved one in a nursing home will probably sign just about anything put in front of them to get a person the care they need. Unfortunately, these clauses are now legal in some cases and may hamper the ability to hold a bad nursing home accountable when terrible things happen.
Be careful what you sign. Nursing home admittance cannot be conditional on agreeing to these arbitration clauses. If you find one, you are certainly entitled to ask about it and find out exactly what it means before you sign anything. No one who has sat in my office ever imagined the poor care and horrific outcomes their moms and dads would suffer when they were put in the nursing home. You always hope for the best but prepare for the worst. You have an absolute right to understand exactly what you are giving away before you sign an agreement.
If you, or someone you know, has questions regarding your rights when selecting a nursing home for a loved one, please contact me. I would be happy to meet with you, free of charge, here in my firm’s Lawrenceville, New Jersey office to discuss your matter in more detail.