Nursing homes have come a long way in the last 50 years. A wider range of facilities are available. Geriatric medicine and technology have advanced. Methods of treatment have evolved, and philosophies of caring for the elderly have undergone several rounds of evolution. These days, nursing homes go by many names, “elder care homes”, “assisted living facilities”, and “senior living communities” among them, but one aspect has remained the same: Not many people want to live in one if they can avoid it. That is why the decision to place an older relative in a nursing home — whatever it might be called — is one of the more traumatic experiences a family might have to endure. The nursing home industry is well aware of that. Unfortunately, at the same time they work to make the intake process easier for the elderly and their families, they also are taking advantage of the stress and confusion to avoid legal responsibility for our loved ones. Lurking in the fine print of many, if not most, admissions contracts for elder care facilities is language that prevents either the patient or their family from using our legal system to seek compensation in the event that the nursing home neglects its duties of care. Yes, you read that correctly: Most nursing homes make you sign away your right to sue them when they admit your spouse or parent to the facility. Instead, a typical nursing home contract forces the new resident and their family to accept a form of binding arbitration. “Arbitration” is a word that suggests a degree of fairness and impartiality, but the reality is anything but fair. The firms that handle arbitration in the event of a dispute between a nursing home and a patient’s family are almost always selected (and paid for) by the nursing home company. Once the arbitrator rules, there are no appeals. It’s not an arrangement that’s conducive to either impartiality or justice for a patient who has been sickened or killed by the failures of a nursing home’s staff or facilities. Fortunately, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency that administers the programs, is considering withdrawing public funding for nursing homes that use forced arbitration clauses in their contracts. How many nursing homes is that? Well, it’s almost all of them. Scartelli Olszewski has handled many cases of nursing home negligence over the years. We want nursing homes to be more interested in ensuring that their residents enjoy the final years of their lives in dignity and relative comfort, focusing on their care rather than on covering their own behinds. If you feel the same way, consider signing this petition at Change.org, which urges the CMS to defund nursing homes that strip patients of their rights to access the legal system. In the meantime, if your loved one has died or been sickened or injured while in the care of a nursing home facility, please call the Scranton and Wilkes-Barre attorneys at Scartelli Olszewski to discuss your options.