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New rule gives nursing home residents the right to sue

As parents and grandparent s age, their children often take on the tasks of caring for their needs and supporting them. When this burden becomes too great or medically impossible, it sometimes becomes necessary to place the elder in a nursing home with experienced caretakers and nurses. While this can provide some relief, there is also often a new burden of wondering whether or not the family member is safe and properly cared for.

Types of abuse

According to the National Council on Aging, there are several different ways that nursing facilities can fail to properly provide for patients and sometimes cross the line of abuse. Patients not only suffer mentally, emotionally and physically as a result but are reported to have a risk of death that is 300 percent higher than non-abused residents. These are some of the most common types of abuse:

  • Financial
  • Emotional
  • Verbal
  • Physical
  • Neglect

The signs of each of these types vary greatly and can include more obvious signs such as burns, broken bones, bedsores and bruises, and less visible symptoms such as withdrawal, depression or weight loss.

Risk of occurrence

The rates of abuse can be much higher than many people realize. One study estimated that as many as 10 percent of U.S. citizens over the age of 60 have experienced some form of elder abuse, but most cases are not reported. One of the biggest groups of victims is patients with Alzheimer's or dementia; one study found almost 50 percent of this group had suffered abuse.

Contract changes

Prior to November, 2016, new residents entering a nursing home may have been required to sign arbitration contracts before receiving treatment. These agreements were designed to protect the care facility from any legal actions over cases of neglect, fraud or abuse, but it was recently decided that these limitations were unfair to impose prior to disputes.

The change is part of an overhaul of the protection given to residents when they enter facilities for long-term care. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid proposed limiting the power of the nursing home to impose these contracts, and the Department of Health and Human Services agreed. While some properties have never enforced these rules, many people may have signed contracts containing these stipulations without realizing what they were agreeing to in the fine print. Residents who have already signed these contracts will still be required by law to uphold the arbitration agreement.

As you search for a care facility for your loved one, be sure to read any paperwork carefully. If you ever notice any signs of abuse, seek the help of an experienced elder law attorney to fight for your protection and seek compensation for any damages.

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