Arbitration Clauses Allow for Continued Nursing Home Abuse

new jersey philadelphia nursing home abuse attorneys mandatory arbitration agreementsCongress is considering the Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act of 2009, which would invalidate mandatory arbitration agreements in nursing homes. This is an important law that needs to be passed in order to advance in the fight against nursing home abuse.

Nursing homes make you sign a mandatory arbitration agreement when they accept your loved one for admission. Initially, nursing homes win you over with their promises of good, attentive, compassionate, and empathetic care. The last thing you are thinking about at that time is a nursing home abuse lawsuit. If, however, your family does find itself in the midst of injuries suffered by your loved due to nursing home abuse and neglect, you bet that nursing home will be quick to remind you of the mandatory arbitration agreement they made you sign. This agreement means you cannot sue the facility. Since the nursing home has eliminated the chance a jury could punish them for providing the bad care that injured your loved one, the nursing home had very little incentive to make sure they provided good care. When your family wants to know how your loved one was injured, the promises made during admission will be replaced with excuses. Excuses cannot return your loved one’s dignity, or the pain these injuries force your loved one to endure during their limited remaining days on this earth. The nursing home also has little incentive to make sure it does not happen to the next family in your position, because they will be forced to sign a mandatory arbitration agreement too.

How does this happen?

You can’t provide the care and support your loved one needs, and you arrive at the realization you must place them in a nursing home. The reason may be for long term care, although hopefully it is for rehabilitation with the goal of sending them back home. You choose a nursing home to place your loved one. When signing the package of numerous documents presented to you during the admission process (picture all of the documents you signed when you bought your first house being presented to you one after the other), you will eventually be presented with a mandatory arbitration agreement. Unfortunately, few people understand what they are signing, or why they are signing it.

Many nursing home admissions are directly from a hospital, and occur after a medical emergency such as a stroke or broken hip. Families often have no choice but to accept the first available nursing home with an available bed. When families unknowingly sign away their right to sue the nursing home, they believe they will get the good care they are promised. The last thing on their mind is that the nursing homes will injure their loved one by allowing pressure sores that lead to infections and amputation of limbs; suffocation on bedrails and other restraining devices; serious fractures from preventable falls; physical and sexual assault; renal failure from dehydration; malnutrition; medication errors; and death from fires in unsafe buildings.

Mandatory Arbitration Agreements are Unfair

Now that you know what a mandatory arbitration agreement is, and what it means to the family of an abused nursing home resident, ask yourself if that is fair. What does it say to you about an industry that promises good care and at the same time asks you to sign a mandatory arbitration agreement that protects them from being held accountable for bad care? Nursing homes know that if a court upholds a mandatory arbitration agreement, a jury with the power to punish the nursing home for often deplorable conduct will never have a chance to hurt their nursing home in the only place that matters to them – the pocketbook.
The Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act would end the practice of making families agree to give up the right to a jury trial in order to get their loved one accepted by a nursing home. Congress should send a message to the industry that injuring residents is not simply a cost of doing business. Compassion should be enough of a reason for a nursing home to provide the good care they promise. Since the industry has proven time and a gain that they will not do this voluntarily, Congress must keep open the only avenue that does hold them accountable – a jury who can listens to the evidence and judge their conduct.

NJ and PA Nursing Home Abuse and Wrongful Death Attorneys

If you or a loved one have suffered the effects of nursing negligence or abuse, call an experienced New Jersey or Pennsylvania Nursing Home Abuse attorney at the Mininno Law Office. We will work hard to get you to compensation you deserve!
Contact the Mininno Law Office for a free case evaluation or call for a free consultation at (856) 833-0600 in New Jersey, or (215) 567-2380 in Philadelphia.

Nursing Home Abuse Prevention: Good Communication is Key

new jersey philadelphia nursing home abuse attorneys good communication negligence injuryI have spoken with hundreds of families to discuss whether they can sue for nursing home abuse. Bad, negligent, and abusive care at a nursing home can lead to a number of injuries, including – preventable falls and fractures, bedsores, medication errors, unfulfilled doctor’s orders, and sexual and physical assaults by staff and other residents.
The biggest complaint I hear from these families is that the nursing home does not properly communicate with them or their loved one’s physician. This is troubling for many reasons:

  1. Families expect good communication, and often operate under the assumption that no communication from the staff means no issues for their loved one.
  2. A nursing home resident’s primary care physician is usually limited to one visit to the nursing home per month. Your loved one’s doctor counts on the trained, professional staff at a nursing homes to be their eyes and ears, promptly identifying and communicating potential issues before they get worse.
  3. Nursing homes complain about the cost of many different preventative measures – but good communication does not cost them any extra money.
  4. Nursing homes are required to communicate with family members and physicians by state law.
  5. Good communication between the resident’s good care circle – the nursing home staff / the resident’s family / and the resident’s physician – is the simplest way to prevent the worst nursing home injuries abuse.

New Jersey State law REQUIRES:
(c) The facility shall notify any family promptly of an emergency affecting the health or safety of a resident.
(d) The facility shall notify the attending physician or advanced practice nurse promptly of significant changes in the resident’s medical condition.
[N.J.A.C. 8:39-13.1.]

Why don’t nursing homes always follow this law?

That is a question for which I never seem to get a straight answer whenever I depose a nursing home employee in a nursing home abuse case. I think the answer can be as simple as: they forget, they are lazy, or they are overworked. It could also be as complicated as: they are trying to hide the problem and fix it before anyone knows.
A good nursing home will demand timely communications between their staff and the resident’s families and physicians, and will recognize that communication is a cornerstone of providing good care and preventing nursing home abuse. A bad nursing home will not be vigilant about communication, and will often shock families and physicians when they tell them for the first time about dangerous problems that have clearly been going on for some time.

How do we know / how do we prevent this?

A resident’s primary care physician often responds to news of the resident’s medical problems with something like, “Why didn’t the staff at the nursing home tell me about my patient’s problems sooner?” A resident or their family member often learns about a bedsore by asking the staff, “What is that foul smell?” You will never hear these questions being asked to a nursing home that takes their duty of communication seriously.

Here are some tips to help prevent nursing home abuse injuries to your loved one when they are the resident of a nursing home:

  • Ask the staff a lot of questions about what could go wrong and how they prevent it.
  • Ask to be present for all care plan meetings with the Administrator.
  • Inspect your loved one’s skin for blemishes, bruising, broken skin, puss, and oozing.
  • Ask the staff to remove bandages so you can see what they are “covering up” (literally and figuratively).
  • Do not visit your loved one at the nursing home at the same time everyday.
  • Quickly go up the chain of command to nursing supervisors, the Director of Nursing, and the Nursing Home Administrator if your concerns are not being adequately addressed.
  • Put your concerns in writing to the Administrator.
  • Take photographs of anything that looks suspicious, especially problems with your loved one’s skin.

Despite the promises made by the nursing home when your loved one is admitted, you cannot think of a nursing home as a safe haven where your loved one is safe and protected. The better course of action is to think of the nursing home as a babysitter. You can leave your loved one alone at the nursing home – you just need to visit often, ask questions, and inspect your loved one and their surroundings.

NJ and PA Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys at the Mininno Law Office

If you or a loved one are the victim of nursing home abuse and injury, contact a nursing home abuse attorney at the Mininno Law Office. Let our hardworking NJ and PA nursing home abuse attorneys fight to get you the compensation you deserve.
Contact the Mininno Law Office for a free case evaluation, or call for a free consultation at (856) 833-0600 in New Jersey, or (215) 567-2380 in Philadelphia.