Bill Would Require Plan for Notification of Next-of-Kin
(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats L. Grace Spencer, Gabriela Mosquera, Carmelo G. Garcia, Benjie Wimberly and Eliana Pintor Marin to clearly delineate the responsibility for notifying the next-of-kin when a resident of a senior housing facility passes away was approved Monday by a Senate committee.
The bill was inspired by the May 2014 death of a woman who lived in an Orange senior citizens facility whose family was not notified for nearly a week after her passing. According to news reports, legal responsibility for notifying the next-of-kin is unclear, which led to a breakdown in communication between the housing facility, local police and the medical examiner.
Ultimately, the woman’s family found out the shocking truth on their own after their mother’s body lay in a morgue for six days.
“Something like this should never happen, not in this day and age with all the methods of communication that are available,” said Spencer (D-Essex). “My heart breaks for this family now knowing their mother’s body lay alone and unclaimed for almost a week. There’s a simple fix to this problem to make sure other families don’t have to endure the same thing and that is clearly delineating the responsibility for notifying the next-of-kin under the law. This bill will achieve just that.”
Specifically, the bill (A-3630) would require the management of any type of senior citizen housing or senior citizen facility to adopt guidelines for the notification of next-of-kin upon a resident’s death.
“For anyone with a relative who is away from home, finding out that the family member died is a realization of the greatest fear possible. Perhaps the only thing worse is finding out that he or she died a week ago,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “The bill is about establishing a clear protocol for notification to ensure that what happened in Orange never happens again in New Jersey.”
“When a family comes together and concludes that one of their loved ones would receive the best care in a senior home, there’s an expectation that they will be well-taken care of. No one could ever imagine a tragic breakdown in communication like this,” said Garcia (D-Hudson). “New Jersey families deserve better protection and clarity in protocol so there is no confusion when being informed of their lost family member.”
“What this family experienced is the absolute worst nightmare for everyone with a loved one who is out of their everyday care, and it’s upon us to ensure that no other family goes through this,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This legislation will put a plan in place and eliminate the chance of miscommunication or the lack of communication altogether.”
“When all it takes is picking up the telephone and making a call, there simply is no excuse for a family not being notified immediately after a loved one’s death,” said Pintor Marin (D-Essex). “This bill will help prevent unnecessary additional suffering for families in New Jersey.”
Under the provisions of the bill, any entity that is responsible for the management of any type of housing or facility that is restricted to senior citizens is required to adopt these guidelines.
Under the bill, “senior citizen” is defined as a person 55 years of age or older.
The bill would go into effect on the first day of the seventh month after enactment.
The bill was released by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens. It was approved by the Assembly in January.