New Jersey’s nursing home abuse laws protect seniors in nursing homes. Both federal and state laws that apply to nursing homes in New Jersey providing several layers of protection. Despite these very detailed laws, nursing home abuse continues to be a serious problem. If your loved one is in a nursing home or assisted living facility, understanding the rights and protections available are important in staying safe.
Federal Nursing Home Abuse Laws
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Congress passed the Nursing Home Reform Act in 1986 to offer protections to seniors in all States. It states the services nursing homes must provide as well as standards for the services. The Act calls for regular assessments of each resident, detailed and individual plans for each resident, and the types of staff required are specified. The Act also sets out the groundbreaking Residents’ Bill of Rights that includes rights to:
- Be free from abuse, mistreatment, and neglect
- Freedom from restraints
- Participate in resident and family councils
- Have medical, physical, psychological and social needs met
- Be treated with dignity
- Have self-determination
- Communicate freely
- Participate in the care plan
- Voice grievances without discrimination or reprisal
This federal law requires states to do unannounced surveys and resident interviews every 15 months to evaluate the quality of care, quality of life and provided services. Enforcement procedures include training of staff, plans for correction, monitoring by the state, civil monetary penalties, denial of Medicare or Medicaid payments, and management and oversight of the facility. All of this is enforced by the Department of Health of the State of New Jersey.
New Jersey Nursing Home Abuse Laws
New Jersey has its own nursing home resident rights act that every nursing home must abide by, in addition to the federal rules. They include:
- The right to a decent environment and considerate and respectful care that recognizes your dignity and individuality
- The right to manage your financial affairs unless you authorize the home to do it for you
- The right to choose your physician, obtain information about your medical diagnosis and participate in your care
- The right to wear your own clothing
- The right to keep your property in your living area
- The right to send and receive mail without it being opened and to get help reading it
- The right to use a phone
- The right to privacy
- The right to visitors
- The right to file complaints with the nursing home, state, and federal agencies.
- The right to refuse to perform services for the nursing home that are not part of your treatment plan
- The right to reasonable interaction with your spouse or partner and the right to share a room with a spouse if both are residents.
Oversight in the State of New Jersey
New Jersey has a system of oversight to enforce the rights of residents through the New Jersey Department of Health, which does on-site inspections every six to 15 months with specialized teams of multi-disciplinary professionals and responds to complaints. The Department is responsible for assessing all aspects of care and making sure the facility complies with both state and federal laws. They also investigate deaths and crimes reported at the facilities. Once a nursing home has been identified as having a problem, the State Department of Health is likely to inspect it more frequently.
The Department gives a facility ten business days to explain how they will correct a problem, but if there is a serious concern, they may direct immediate changes. The facility may be stopped from accepting new residents, managed by the Department, lose its license, or be closed. The state can also fine the facility up to $5000 per violation per day under state law and up to $10,000 per violation per day under federal law.
The New Jersey Office of the Ombudsman for Institutionalized Elderly also investigates complaints about abuse and works as an advocate for the residents. New Jersey Adult Protective Services provides protection for residents when a complaint is made. An in-person assessment happens within 72 hours of a complaint. Criminal charges can be filed based upon these investigations.
In addition to the responsibility nursing homes carry, workers are also responsible for their actions. Any nursing home employee who neglects the physical or mental health of a resident can be found guilty of neglect in the third degree. Outright abuse is also punishable with criminal charges.
Why You Need an Attorney
While you can file complaints with the state Department of Health by calling (800) 792-9770 or using their online form, the state’s response is often slow and not thorough. That state’s statistics shows at least 8% of residents are suffering from abuse or neglect in the form of pressure or bed sores, but the actual number is likely much higher. Nursing homes are corporations, represented by large law firms. Their entire goal is to make money, and they often do all they can to avoid responsibility. The fines imposed by the state are merely a cost of doing business to a nursing home corporation. To ensure that your loved one gets the type of care he or she is entitled, you need an attorney who can stand up for you and enforce all of your rights under Federal and New Jersey nursing home abuse laws and regulation.
Gartenberg Howard LLP has years of experience representing victims of nursing home abuse. Our attorneys are ready to listen to your situation with a sympathetic ear and then stridently guard and protect all of your rights. Call us today at 201-488-4633 in New Jersey or 212-248-2936 in New York.