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Don’t Sign Away Your Rights: Take Adequate Time Before Signing a Nursing Home Admission Agreement

Imagine that you are sitting in the office of a nursing home's admission coordinator. You are staring down at piles of paperwork. You know that you should read all the information carefully, but it is hard to focus on the admission agreement documents because your mind keeps drifting to your elderly loved one's failing health. You prefer to have more time to review the documents when you weren't so emotionally stressed, but your ailing grandmother needs care now. You are tempted to robotically sign on the dotted lines just to get this emotionally trying experience done.

Should you do that? Can you really trust the facility to be trustworthy and up-front with all the admission paperwork? Are they really looking out for your best interests?

Probably not. Keep in mind that the vast majority of nursing home and residential care facilities around the country - those that provide full-time medical and personal assistance to those unable to care for themselves (not to be confused with assisted living facilities where independent elderly adults who just need a bit of extra help reside) - are for-profit businesses, meaning that their focus will always be divided between offering care and making money. The average annual cost of round-the-clock nursing home care is upwards of $75,000 so this is big business for nursing home companies.

Please remember that the facilities are going to take steps to limit their exposure to legal liability and protect their bottom line. Unless it is an absolute emergency, nursing home admission should always be undertaken when you are not emotionally vulnerable. Ideally, an experienced elder law attorney in your area would have a chance to review the documents, looking for any impropriety or inconsistency that might limit the types of action brought against them if any nursing home abuse or neglect should surface in the future. However, even taking the documents home and reading them in a comfortable surrounding instead of in the office of a nursing home administrator.

Oftentimes, these types of admission agreements contain clauses that will prevent future legal actions from being heard by a judge or jury, instead ordering that the parties submit to binding arbitration. Arbitration is a process by which the case is heard by an impartial third party (or panel of third parties) instead of a judge or jury. While arbitration is sometimes quicker than traditional litigation, the costs can be prohibitive for some people, and since the evidentiary rules are more lax than those in the civil court system, it can be difficult to obtain evidence like patient charts and facility safety violation records that can be crucial to proving that a resident was abused, neglected or otherwise mistreated.

If your elderly or vulnerable loved one has been injured - or they have tragically passed away from insufficient care - due to the malpractice or negligence of a nursing home or residential care facility, speak with an experienced personal injury attorney in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options. Even if an arbitration agreement was signed as part of the facility's admissions paperwork, it may be possible to hold nursing homes and residential care facilities legally accountable for the harms they have caused.