Laws that govern and protect the rights of senior citizens fall under the category of elder law. Many seniors require assistance when it comes to situations involving medical issues and estate planning. This part of the population is especially vulnerable to abuse and neglect by those they trust to care for them. Elder law is an important resource when it comes to the rights of our nation’s senior citizens.
Power of Attorney
When planning for their future, an elderly loved one may appoint a trusted third party as their power of attorney. This legal document allows the appointed person to make major healthcare decisions in the event of mental incapacity. Should a loved one not have an appointed power of attorney and become mentally incapacitated, the court will appoint a conservator or guardian to oversee their financial and medical matters. The court may appoint whomever they please and this person may or may not be a family member or friend. A legal document noting a power of attorney has lasting significance and is important for the following reasons:
- It means that an elderly loved one chooses someone they trust to handle their affairs.
- It allows for important decisions, especially medical ones, to be made sooner rather than waiting on a court date.
A court appointment is an involuntary judicial proceeding that occurs if your loved one failed to name a power of attorney. If the person appointed by the courts to act on the senior’s behalf is unknown to the person they represent, the resulting outcomes may differ from the patient’s original wishes. This is why appointing a power of attorney is an important step for the elderly when it comes to planning for their future needs. Appointing someone they know and trust creates peace of mind and legal protection should they become mentally incapacitated.
Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA)
The Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA) sets the requirements for the licensing of nursing homes. The act also includes a list of rights for residents. These rights include:
- the right to freedom from abuse, mistreatment, and neglect
- the right to freedom from physical restraints
- the right to privacy
- the right to be treated with dignity
- the right to accommodation of medical, physical, psychological, and social needs
- the right to participate in resident and family groups
- the right to exercise self-determination
- the right to communicate freely
- the right to voice grievances without discrimination or reprisal
- the right to participate in the review of one’s care plan, and to be fully informed in advance about any changes in care, treatment, or change of status of the facility
An attorney experienced in elder law is a valuable resource when one or more of these rights are violated. While the purpose of the NHRA is to ensure residents receive quality care, enforcement and inadequate implementation hinder the act’s success. As part of a nursing home’s certification process, the act requires states to conduct unannounced surveys and to interview residents. The amount of effort, budget, and staffing invested varies by state, with some states developing additional policies regarding nursing home regulation and certifications.
If you suspect a nursing home of violating the rights of your loved one, it is important to seek the help of an elder law attorney. Navigating the state and federal regulations, along with knowing when and where elder law applies to a case, requires skill and experience. Elder laws are in place to protect our nation’s elderly from poor quality care, for which there is no excuse. Contacting an attorney knowledgeable in elder law is an important first step in taking action on behalf of your loved one.
A living will is a document that gives living individuals advance control over their final medical situation. In the event of life support due to a brain injury, terminal illness, or permanent unconsciousness, this type of document allows an end to life-sustaining efforts.
A living will is a good idea at any age, however, it is an important consideration for the elderly. As their health declines, they are more at risk for a situation requiring life support. This incredibly difficult moment can be made somewhat less stressful by having the proper documentation in place and preventing any possible involvement from the courts.
Elder Law Attorney
The elderly are vulnerable to many situations that involve their physical, emotional, and financial health. When their need for assistance with daily tasks increases their dependence upon others, it becomes essential to know who to trust. Elder laws are in place for this very reason. However, elder laws can often be complex and involve a careful review of documents and processes regarding a patient’s care and treatment.
Regardless of whether a state pursues criminal charges, you have the right to pursue civil charges. A civil case is based upon a preponderance of evidence, unlike a criminal case in which the verdict depends upon reasonable doubt. You may be entitled to compensation for expenses, such as relocating your loved one to a different facility, depending upon the circumstances of your case.
Time is of the essence when it comes to cases involving elder law. Not only is there is a statute of limitations, but there is also the immediate need to improve the situation for your loved one. To learn more about elder law and how an attorney can help, call 1-800-516-4783 today for a free attorney consultation.
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