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Articles Posted in Nursing Home Issues

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hands-people-friends-communication-45842-300x240The COVID-19 Pandemic has drastically changed many aspects of society and has had a major impact on Texas residents’ lives. One group has been hit particularly hard: Texas nursing home residents. Nursing homes’ communal living spaces, as well as their clustered groups of elderly, ill, and otherwise vulnerable patients, have made them especially susceptible to the virus. According to a recent news report, nearly half of the reported COVID-19 deaths in Texas have occurred at nursing homes or assisted living centers. Almost 200 nursing homes in the state have reported cases of COVID-19, but public health advocates believe that there may be more unreported cases

Responding to this crisis, Governor Greg Abbott announced earlier this month that the state will begin testing all nursing home residents and staff for COVID-19. Up until now, the state has mainly tested residents and staff at facilities where cases have been confirmed, or those who show symptoms. However, the virus is known to be asymptomatic in some people and can easily spread even before symptoms begin. As a result, this new mandate for testing all residents and staff members was welcomed by public health advocates across the state.

The testing will be done in partnership with nursing homes and state health agencies. Although the current pandemic is unprecedented, nursing homes are still expected to act with due diligence to take care of their patients. This includes implementing social distancing measures, having staff and caretakers practice proper hygiene, and working with state and local agencies to implement testing quickly and without delay.

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hands-people-friends-communication-45842-scaledTexas individuals who admit their loved ones into nursing homes do so with the expectation that the nursing facility will provide their family members with appropriate medical care and treat them with respect and compassion. However, the sad reality is that many people suffer abuse and serious injuries because of reckless, negligent, or careless Texas nursing home personnel. In these cases, families should take steps to pursue a Texas nursing home abuse lawsuit against the at-fault individual or entity.

Many families who try to pursue claims against Texas nursing homes face roadblocks because of arbitration agreements they agreed to upon admittance. For over twenty years, nursing home and long-term care facilities offered arbitration agreements as a way to solve disputes. Arbitration provides the parties to present their case to a neutral party who will decide on the matter. In some cases, arbitration can save both parties the time and expense of a long and drawn-out trial process. However, arbitration agreements are often one-sided and favor the party who offered the option, such as a nursing home.

These agreements are not only one-sided, but they were often a requirement for those wishing to enter nursing home care. Additionally, there was overwhelming evidence that nursing home arbitration agreements were detrimental to the safety of long-term care facility residents. To address the inherent unfairness in the rule, in 2016, lawmakers changed the rules. They explained that any facility that requires residents to sign arbitration agreements to enter the facility would not be eligible for federal funding. Even with the favorable public reaction to the ban, in 2019, a new rule took effect. The current law allows nursing homes to include arbitration agreements in their admission packets. However, it is important to note that nursing homes cannot require residents to sign the agreement as a pre-requisite to admission. Additionally, nursing homes must provide residents with at least 30-days to rescind their agreement.

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America’s population is aging, and individuals are living longer as life expectancy continues to increase. As a result, nursing homes are becoming a part of more Texan’s lives, and families are often tasked with choosing an institution for their loved ones. Choosing a Texas nursing home is an incredibly important decision, because residents – who are often weak and vulnerable  – will likely be there for the rest of their lives. Families, of course, want to ensure that their loved ones are safe and well taken care of. Unfortunately, however, far too many families end up placing their loved ones in subpar institutions, either due to financial concerns or lack of thorough research. Unfortunately, nursing home abuse and neglect is a chronic and persistent problem in Texas, victimizing hundreds of elderly residents every year.

For example, according to a recent report, out of 62 nursing homes in San Antonio, five were recently flagged by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for severe instances abuse and neglect of their residents. These instances include neglecting and ignoring residents’ medical needs, physical assault, verbal attacks, and even sexual abuse. While these instances would be concerning in any situation, they are of particular concern in nursing homes, where the victims are often incredibly vulnerable, reliant on their nursing home for all aspects of their care, and may lack the funds needed to transfer institutions.

The best way to avoid nursing home abuse of your loved ones is to do careful research of nursing homes in your area. One useful tool is Medicare.com, which allows families to search every Medicaid and Medicare certified nursing home in Texas. In addition to providing information on staffing and health inspections, the website will report recent incidents of nursing home abuse in each facility, so families can be aware of which institutions to avoid. Doing this research may take a little extra time, but the knowledge about the potential problems can spare a family, and a victim, immense pain and suffering down the line.

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