Boxed in by mandatory nursing home documents

Our Blog | September 5, 2017

Nursing home residents who suffer abuse or negligence are objecting to a new rule that they believe limit their options. Nursing home residents and their families are up in arms over the new requirement.

The current administration, according to an NPR report, has proposed rolling back protections established in recent years. When these changes are implemented, nursing home residents and family members will find their right to sue nursing homes curtailed.

A tall stack of papers to sign

When a new resident enters a nursing home, they are asked to sign a stack of papers, one of which reduces the nursing home’s exposure to lawsuits.

Opponents of the rule point out that people are often in no condition to go over this stack of papers with a fine-tooth comb. Many new entrants are emotionally demoralized, feeling trauma or deep grief. Some are demented. Others are on drugs and medicines that keep them from managing these documents.

But signing the documents remains mandatory if they are to be admitted. They may be only vaguely aware of the contents of the documents to which they must affix their signatures or be denied admission to the facilities.

This document constitutes an effective waiver of liability for the nursing home, forcing them into arbitration rather than filing a lawsuit. Arbitration has a history of working to the advantage of well-heeled defendants. Lawsuits have much greater leverage to obtain meaningful compensation.

The administration’s version of transparency

The Trump administration, urged on by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, seeks to change the rules on signing this stack of papers. The rule calls for the waivers to be written in plain English, so anyone can understand them. That sounds fair, except that signing remains mandatory. If you refuse to sign, they deny you entry into the facility.

The question is: How does “plain English” help you if are still under duress to agree to signing?

Read the full story at the NPR site. And if you or a loved one find yourself caught between “plain English” and a mandatory waiver, write your congress person – and talk to a knowledgeable lawyer.