Nursing homes and arbitration clauses

The decision to put a loved one into a nursing home represents an emotionally charged time. Once you select a facility, the management will provide you with contracts filled with verbiage that is, at best, difficult hard to understand. Knowing what you are signing is paramount to ensure that your family member’s rights and well-being are protected.

Common in nursing home contracts is arbitration clauses. While signing them seems to be a natural next step, putting pen to paper would be akin to sacrifice your rights to any disputes, including the right to waive the ability to sue when their rights have been violated.

California law actually prohibits nursing home facilities from mandating these contracts as a condition of their loved one being admitted or receiving medical treatment. Arbitration agreements should be a separate document.

Taking a thorough yet cautious approach

Loved ones of prospective nursing home residents should exercise caution when reviewing and possibly signing admission agreements, particularly when multiple, larger facilities are owned and operated by one corporation. They wield significant influence and place pre-dispute arbitration agreements into multi-page contracts with complicated jargon, hoping that the signer will not notice them.

As with any contract, terms can be negotiated. Even voiding these agreements is possible, provided that you take the proper steps.

  • Inform the facility that you will not sign an arbitration agreement mandated before admission, and you will resume your search
  • Cross out the arbitration provisions in the contract before putting your signature on it
  • Designate a loved one sign the paperwork since relatives without power of attorney technically lack the authority to sign pre-dispute arbitration agreements

After going through the entire process and ensuring that your family member is protected, you can still change your mind and remove your loved one from a nursing home. State law clearly spells out a 30-day window to give written notice that you are rescinding your signature.

Placing a close family member in the care of nursing home staff and management represents a bond of trust. When that trust is violated due to contract clause violations or more severe allegations of neglect, legal help is paramount.