Three tips when reviewing a nursing home contract

These tips can help you review some of the provisions in a nursing home contract.

Nursing homes generally require the resident sign a contract prior to moving into the facility. These contracts are legally binding documents. As such, it is important to review the provisions of the documents carefully to reduce the risk of any surprises.

Although the details of these contracts may vary, there are a few general provisions that are often included in every nursing home contract. Three specific provisions to review include:

  • Statement of safeguards and services
  • Financial considerations
  • Arbitration clauses

The following elaborates on these points.

Statement of safeguards and services

Look over the contract for inclusion of a statement explaining how the residents are kept safe during their stay at the facility. This information should include a clear statement of the resident's rights and what procedures the resident or resident's loved ones should follow in the event of a grievance. Local law may play a role in the safeguards and rights that are available to residents. In Washington D.C., residents are required to be free from discrimination, treated with respect and dignity, to have personal possessions and to participate in social, familial and religious activities unless a medical condition does not allow such interaction.

Also review the list of services provided by the facility. This may include a list of services available at a basic rate as well as others that are offered for an extra charge. Do not hesitate to ask for clarification if something seems vague or if a service is needed that is not listed.

Financial considerations

Nursing home facilities are expensive. Check the costs noted in the list of services above. It is also wise to review the contract to ensure Medicare and/or Medicaid payments are accepted. Review the cost carefully. The facility should be able to break this cost into a per day or per month fee so that the resident can budget accordingly.

Arbitration provisions

Some contracts may include a mandatory arbitration provision. This provision requires that a resident take legal action in the event of an accident at the facility through the arbitration process, as opposed to traditional litigation. Arbitration is generally a confidential process. This means that the public is not made aware of the accident. Critics of this process argue that this secrecy will decrease the likelihood of public accountability. This in turn will decrease the likelihood that nursing homes will make changes to increase the quality of care provided to residents.

If an arbitration provision is present, it may be difficult to know whether or not the facility has had a past of accidents connected to abusive or neglectful practices. It could also make it difficult for a victim of abuse or neglect at the facility to hold the responsible party accountable for his or her actions.

A rule that was developed during President Barack Obama's term banned these provisions. The current administration is attempting to stop the progress of this rule. Those who support the rule have sent comments to Medicare and Medicaid Services voicing opposition against the attempt to stop and counteract the progress made by the rule. Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine is one of these individuals.

Regardless of the fate of this rule, victims of nursing home abuse or neglect have options. It is wise to seek legal counsel even if an arbitration provision is present. An experienced elder neglect attorney will review the agreement and provide counsel, working to better ensure the rights and remedies available to the victim are protected.