By JW Law
A new state law will soon make it mandatory for nursing home employees to report cases of abuse or suspected abuse of institutionalized elderly to the local law enforcement officials.
Last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a bipartisan bill into law that will provide additional protection to seniors residing in more than 900 state-regulated facilities. The new law that will go into effect this fall will ensure that law enforcement is looped into possible abuse cases right from the start.
The new law, also known as Peggy’s Law, is named after 93-year-old Peggy Marzolla, a Brick nursing home resident who died in 2010 just months after being injured – injuries that included a broken eye socket, jaw, and wrist, among other damages.
According to Saul Gruber, chair of the JW Nursing Home Group, “This law finally brings New Jersey in line with many other states mandating reporting of elder abuse.”
Specifically, the law requires that any caretaker, physician, social worker, nurse or other staff members of the facility to report to local law enforcement agencies if they have “reasonable cause to suspect or believe that an institutionalized elderly person is being or has been abused, harmed or exploited.” Failure to report within 24 hours of the incident, or two hours if an injury is involved, would result in penalties for both the worker and the facility.
Currently, both the state and federal laws dictate that a crime must be verified before it becomes mandatory for an employee to report elder abuse to local law enforcement- a decision that could be made by select staff members of the same facility where the alleged abuse took place.
According to the ombudsman’s annual 2016 report, the office received more than 2,700 cases of alleged physical and sexual abuse (by staff and other residents), gross neglect, financial exploitation, among other complaints.
Frank Rodriguez of the JW Nursing home and Medical Malpractice group applauds this action, “It is essential that we mandate all caregivers and their employers to be held accountable for all avoidable actions that are taken. It is beyond comprehensible that anyone would ever disagree with mandatory reporting of these actions.”
The new law permits but does not require, any other person who suspects that a senior resident is being or has been abused or exploited to report such information to the local enforcement agency and the ombudsman. In addition to mandating police notification, it also requires the ombudsman’s office to offer a 24-hour hotline for complaints. At present, the hotline responds to calls in person only during business hours.
“Moving a loved one to a nursing home or assisted living is an emotionally challenging process. But when nursing homes abuse or financially exploit senior residents, it is devastating both for the residents and their families,” Gruber added.
If you know of anyone who is abused or have reasonable cause to suspect, contact Javerbaum Wurgaft’s nursing home Lawyers. Our experienced attorneys quickly get to work assessing the situation, gathering evidence, finding and interviewing witnesses and making sure your loved one gets the care that he or she deserves. We collaborate with a team of experts who can determine if any negligence, physical or sexual abuse or financial exploitation has occurred.
Contact us as soon as possible at our New Jersey, New York, and Georgia offices by calling toll-free number 800-784-5140