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Nursing home residents lose government protections

Many New Mexico residents agonize over the decision to employ a nursing home to care for an elderly or disabled relative. However, it is likely that their houses or apartments are equipped with the resources to provide for people who need serious care, especially if memory or other cognitive issues are involved.

As a result, people rely on nursing homes to provide reliable, trustworthy care. Unfortunately, nursing home residents may be particularly vulnerable to abuse and neglect. People may have difficulty expressing themselves or presenting a coherent story about what is happening to them in a supposedly professional care facility.

In 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a rule that protected the rights of nursing home residents to go to the courts to challenge abuse and mistreatment. It banned the use of clauses requiring residents or their guardians to go to arbitration instead.

However, in July 2019, CMS replaced this rule, instead allowing nursing homes to add new clauses to its contracts that could require newly-admitted residents to resort only to arbitration to address abuse, mistreatment and other issues. Human rights organizations have raised an alarm about the change, noting that nursing home residents are too often victimized.

Nursing home residents have been placed on unnecessary dosages of antipsychotic drugs as chemical restraints, while others have suffered physical, mental or sexual abuse at the hands of facility staff or other patients. Without access to the courts, they argue that residents are placed in an even more vulnerable position in relation to the facilities and that conditions could worsen for all.

When people are abused by caregivers in a nursing home, this is a breach of trust that can lead to severe injuries or even death. Family members of victims of nursing home neglect can consult with an attorney about their options.

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