A 93-year-old woman was rushed to Ocean Medical Center with bruises and welts across her back, a broken jaw, a broken cheekbone, and a broken eye socket as well as a broken wrist. When her daughter arrived at the hospital, nursing home staff explained that the woman had fallen, but the daughter was not convinced. Now, after years of advocating, calling lawmakers, and a lawsuit, this woman has changed the landscape of New Jersey law, and you need to know about it.
What’s Peggy’s Law and How Does It Fight Nursing Home Abuse?
In 2010, Peggy Marzolla—the 93-year-old mentioned above—passed away some 65 days after being taken to the hospital. Dissatisfied with the lame explanations from the nursing home, her daughter—Maureen Persi—filed a lawsuit against the Brick nursing home that had been caring for her mother. The parties settled out of court, but Maureen wasn’t done. She took her concerns over senior safety to state senators and they got to work on a bill dubbed “Peggy’s Law.”
It took over six years to write, but New Jersey state senators were able to work across the aisle to draft this bill. It requires nursing home staff to notify police of suspected abuse within 24 hours of the incident, or if injuries are involved, the nursing homes must contact law enforcement within two hours.
The bill also requires that the Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly have a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week hotline instead of the current call line that takes messages outside of business hours. All New Jersey nursing home facilities are already required to contact the ombudsman’s office for any cases of elder abuse, but this change allows for a swifter response from investigators.
Peggy’s Law was signed into law on August 14th by Governor Chris Christie, and it went into effect in October. Nursing homes must educate their staff about the new law once a year and the ombudsman’s office has to send out new outreach material including the new hotline. Hopefully these new efforts will shield New Jersey’s elderly from those who would take advantage of them, but there is still a lot we can do to protect our senior citizens.
Brought to you by the nursing home abuse lawyers at Keefe Law Firm—committed attorneys fighting for your loved one’s rights.