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Schaer & Lagana Legislation Will Help Protect Elderly from Neglect & Abuse in Nursing Homes & Institutional Facilities

Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer and Joseph Lagana have proposed legislation to make sure the elderly are aware that they have a state advocate to represent their needs and concerns in nursing homes and other institutional facilities.

Specifically, the bill (A-4635) would require the Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly to prepare, and distribute to each nursing home or other facility for the institutionalized elderly, large informational posters that provide a clear and concise description of the office’s phone-based complaint procedure.

“Seniors who might be experiencing neglect or abuse at their residential facility should be aware that they have an ally to stand up for them,” said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Regardless of what the matter may be, it’s important that they know they have an avenue of recourse to make sure the issue is addressed.”

“Seniors, especially those who don’t have family close by, can often feel overwhelmed or intimidated by circumstances that seem beyond their control,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “We want them to take comfort in knowing that the Office of the Ombudsman is there to advocate on their behalf.”

The bill would also require the administrator of each facility to ensure that at least one of these informational posters is displayed in the facility, in a conspicuous and public place that is easily accessible to the facility’s patients, residents, and clients.

Specifically, the bill would require the informational posters to:

1) identify, in large, bold-faced type, the toll-free telephone number that can be used to file complaints with the office and the hours of day during which the toll-free telephone line will remain in operation; and
2) include the following statements, which must be written in a clear and concise manner, and in a type face and font size that is designed to enhance readability for elderly persons with impaired vision:

a) a statement indicating the function of the office;
b) a statement indicating that a patient, resident, or client, or a guardian, family member, or friend thereof, may submit a complaint of elder abuse or a complaint regarding the quality of care received by the patient, resident, or client by calling the toll-free phone number indicated on the poster;
c) a statement indicating that complaints filed with the office will be treated confidentially; and
d) a statement indicating that a person should call 911 if the person believes that a patient, resident, or client is in any immediate danger.

The legislation has been referred to the Assembly Human Services Committee.