I have been in the long-term care industry for almost 25 years. I have been a volunteer, a public policy advocate, an elder law legal services attorney, and a trial attorney with a practice focused for the last 10 years on litigation against nursing homes and long-term care facilities for abuse and neglect throughout New Jersey. With that background, I have been asked by many for my thoughts on the crippled status of the long-term care industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, I say this: my heart is heavy. It is heavy every day and night for residents, for families, for the lack of transparency, for the lack of aid and assistance, and for the lack of consumer knowledge about resident’s rights and what families can do for residents who are scared, alone, and quarantined as the news continues to build against facilities and outlook is frustratingly grim.
Rather than attack the industry for what I, my friends and my colleagues have known for years, or share more dismal news articles of a strained industry and corporate choices, I share my access to information and resources to help with residents and families with knowledge and tips to help through this time of crisis and need.
Top 5 Resources for Nursing Home Residents and Families
1. Resident’s Rights. Nursing homes are regulated by states and the federal government. Under Federal and State law, nursing home residents are entitled to enumerated resident rights.
- Federal Resident Rights: 42 CFR § 483.10. https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/42/483.10;
- New Jersey Resident Rights: https://law.justia.com/codes/new-jersey/2013/title-30/section-30-13-5/;
- New York Resident Rights: https://www.health.ny.gov/facilities/nursing/rights/;
- Pennsylvania Resident Rights: http://www.pacodeandbulletin.gov/Display/pacode?file=/secure/pacode/data/028/chapter201/s201.29.html;
2. Changes in Regulations due to COVID. While the federal regulations on nursing homes were instituted in 1987 through the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, there have been many changes to these regulations within the last five years. However, there have been a number of changes and relaxation to the regulations since restricting access to facilities began in early March, 2020.
For all continuing updates to the regulations governing nursing homes, including transfers and discharges, facility access, emergency inspections, and regulatory waivers, visit https://theconsumervoice.org/issues/other-issues-and-resources/covid-19.
3. How to Contact and Help Residents in Facilities. One of the greatest issues families and residents are experiencing at this time is the lack of communication with their loved ones to keep everyone informed of their status. Review the Consumer Voice’s Fact Sheet for suggestions and steps you can take: https://theconsumervoice.org/uploads/files/general/covid-19-consumer-fact-sheet.pdf
4. Contact the Long-Term Care Ombusdmen and/or the State Department of Health Long-Term Care Ombudsmen: The long-term care ombudsmen are resident advocates through the states’ Area Agencies on Aging who work to protect the rights and preserve the health, safety and welfare of long-term care residents in facilities.
- New Jersey: https://www.nj.gov/ooie/
- New York: https://aging.ny.gov/long-term-care-ombudsman-program
- Pennsylvania: https://www.aging.pa.gov/organization/advocacy-and-protection/Pages/Ombudsman.aspx
State Department of Health: To file a complaint against a facility contact your state’s Department of Health, requesting an investigation into violations of any state and/or federal regulation. Many permit online filing.
- New Jersey: https://www.state.nj.us/health/healthfacilities/
- New York: https://www.health.ny.gov/facilities/nursing/complaints.htm
- Pennsylvania: https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/facilities/nursing%20homes/Pages/Nursing%20Homes.aspx
5. Advocate: Work with local organizations and reach out to legislators to help breakthrough on transparency, to assist with getting more testing for nursing home and assisted living facilities, and to get more protective equipment sent for facility staff.
To those who are suffering in facilities and to the families struggling to find a way to help, please know you are not alone and there are resources to assist you and your loved ones with information and approaches to handling this extraordinarily difficult time.
Our team of experienced Nursing Home attorneys at Locks Law Firm stands with you to provide you or your family assistance. Please contact our offices at 1-866-LOCKSLAW. While our physical offices are closed, we are all still working to be the voice for injured victims.