New Jersey Elder Abuse Laws and the Office of the Ombudsman
New Jersey has many laws and regulations in place to prevent or remedy nursing home elder abuse and neglect, such as the standards for licensure of long-term care facilities found in N.J.A.C. 8:39 and the resident’s bill of rights found in Title 20, Chapter 13 of New Jersey statutes. Another important aspect of the law is the Office of the Ombudsman, created to investigate and resolve complaints of nursing home abuse in New Jersey.
Ombudsman Investigates and Resolves Complaints of New Jersey Nursing Home Abuse
The New Jersey legislature recognizes that elderly individuals in institutionalized settings possess the same civil and human rights as others, yet they may have a much more difficult time maintaining these rights because of physical and mental disabilities, being isolated from family and friends, and because of public policy which forces the elderly to exist on minimum economic resources in order to have costly nursing home care paid for through Medicaid.
To protect the rights of the institutionalized elderly, the New Jersey legislature enacted a series of laws beginning at 52:27G-1. These statutes establish the Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly, which is authorized to receive, investigate and resolve complaints from patients/residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, as well as from their relatives or guardians and interested citizens, public officials or interested government agencies.
The duty of the ombudsman is to investigate such complaints. Where the ombudsman finds abuse or neglect, the ombudsman refers the matter to the appropriate agency for action, which may include reporting criminal violations to the county prosecutor or notifying a professional licensing board about a staff member’s improper conduct.
Abuse is defined under this law to include the willful infliction of pain, injury or mental anguish; unreasonable confinement; and willful deprivation of necessary services.
This law also requires a worker in a nursing home to report suspected abuse or exploitation. A worker is granted immunity for reporting misconduct at the nursing home, and there is a $5,000 fine for failing to report. There is also a potential $5,000 penalty for willfully hindering or refusing to comply with an ombudsman’s investigation.
Help is Available to Prevent or Stop Nursing Home Abuse in New Jersey
The law makes it clear that it does not allow for any reprisals against a patient, staff member or volunteer for participating in an investigation. If you are a patient or family member with a complaint against the nursing home concerning the manner in which a resident is being treated, consider contacting the office of the ombudsman for help in resolving the matter. However, if actual physical or emotional abuse is present or ongoing, you may want to contact an attorney who can move swiftly to stop the abuse, protect the rights of the resident, and seek compensation for any damages done. In New Jersey, contact Lance Brown & Associates for immediate assistance.