Although nursing home abuse is an ongoing problem, thanks to public education and government action, some things are starting to improve. In fact, several recent changes in law will help protect people living in full-time care facilities. However, there are also some potential new laws that seem to protect nursing homes more than they do residents.
Keep in mind that laws vary from state to state. The information provided is as an example of some of the changes happening specifically to nursing home abuse law in the state of Missouri. For example, a new law recently passed that makes it mandatory for employees of long-term care facilities to report sexual assaults to law enforcement.
H.B. 1635 supersedes a previous law under which workers only had to report such abuse to the state agencies involved with a particular nursing home. Now, local law enforcement officials can quickly search for evidence and make arrests. Other states have adopted the same type of reporting law or are looking into it.
To better understand why this law is such a big deal, consider that from 1995 to 2016, only 20 of the 128 known cases of elder sexual abuse in Missouri ended with a conviction. That means a lot of perpetrators remain free, possibly only losing their jobs without paying for the crimes committed. With mandated reporting to law enforcement, officials work to prevent such cases from going cold.
On the downside, it appears that under a President Trump rule, if someone does experience nursing home abuse or neglect, that resident may not have the right to file a lawsuit against the facility. In fact, if the rule replaces one under former President Obama, suing would become nearly impossible. The problem is that when people enter a nursing home, most not in good physical or mental health, a staff member asks them to sign a waiver that prevents them from taking legal action should something go wrong.
Current documents that residents sign state their willingness to go to arbitration if a dispute with the nursing home ever arises. Although Trump has not made any formal changes, he may support arbitration over a lawsuit. If the rule goes into effect, someone who becomes ill due to an infection or suffers an injury because of neglect would have to arbitrate the situation rather than sue. As imagined, this proposed rule has a lot of people outraged, especially Democrats, who continue to urge Trump not to sign it into law.
Although laws continue to change, the Nursing Home Reform Act first implemented by Congress in 1987 still is in effect. This act clearly outlines the laws concerning nursing homes in the U.S. The act includes detailed guidelines that long-term care facilities must abide by in order to receive Medicare and Medicaid funding. The guidelines cover everything from residents’ rights to staffing.
While some of the new laws are in favor of nursing home residents, designed to create more protection, others are not as supportive. Due to the complications of laws that govern nursing homes, as well as ever-changing rules, if you or someone you love who lives in a nursing home suffers from any form of abuse or neglect, it is critical to contact a reputable attorney who specializes in nursing home elder abuse.