Entrusting someone else with your loved one's care is difficult to do. Make sure you're looking out for your loved one and your legal rights when putting them in a long term care facility, such as a nursing or retirement home.

When checking a loved one into a nursing home, make sure that you aren’t signing away your rights.

 As reported in the Washington Post, an increasing number of nursing homes are requiring that family members or guardians sign arbitration agreements. These arbitration agreements forfeit the family’s right to bring a dispute with the nursing home to court, instead substituting the legal process, with a judge and jury for a private arbitration hearing and a professional arbitrator. This could mean many things, including that what goes on during the arbitration hearing, the evidence and materials used during the hearing, as well as the outcome will all be bound by confidentiality rules.  You’ll also have to pay at least part of the professional arbitrator’s fees, and may have limited choices in the selection of an arbitrator as well.

Basically, in signing an arbitration agreement you are giving up significant rights for your loved one if the nursing home corporation harms their resident through substandard medical care, neglect, or sometimes, even abuse

It’s a difficult, emotional and trying time for a family making the decision to move someone they love and respect to a nursing home.  And many people are overwhelmed and won’t read all of the documents the nursing home wants them to sign.  But you have to in order to make an informed decision for your loved one and your family.  And it could preserve your rights to take care of the harms your loved one suffered due to malpractice or substandard medical or nursing care.  If you do end up signing the agreement, many arbitration agreements allow you to “opt-out” within a 30-day period, so read everything again after you get home.

And most importantly, go visit your loved one in the nursing home – studies have shown that nursing home residents who get regular visitors do better than residents who don’t.  And it’s just common sense that a staff that knows you visit, watch and advocate for your loved one will be more responsive to their needs.

To read more from the Washington Post article, click here.