This has the potential to protect nursing home residents — if facilities use it
In an important step forward for Alabama's seniors, Gov. Kay Ivey recently signed Shirley's Law, which creates the nation's first elder abuse registry.
The new law creates a registry of people who have been convicted of elder abuse or had protection orders listed for elder abuse. Nursing homes, assisted living facilities, home health care agencies, and other organizations that work with elderly people will be able to check the registry before hiring staff.
Prior to this law, there was no centralized registry, which meant people with a dangerous history could slip through the cracks during background checks.
The namesake of the law, Shirley Holcombe, was a victim of elder abuse by a caretaker. Her daughter, Jo Holcombe, has fiercely advocated for the creation of a registry in Alabama and says she now intends to take it to Washington, D.C., and fight for a federal law.
“Think about the damage one person could do with multiple people,” Jo Holcombe said. “It needs to be a national law."
Nursing homes are responsible for hiring and supervising staff
When nursing homes and assisted living facilities hire staff, they need to conduct background checks and ensure that the people they hire don't have a history of abuse or neglect. A nursing home that fails to do so can be held liable for acts of abuse on the grounds of negligent hiring.
Of course, just because someone hasn't committed an act of abuse in the past doesn't guarantee they won't in the future. That's why nursing homes need to train and supervise their staff to ensure that they are providing high-quality care and treating residents with respect. A facility that becomes aware of the risk of abuse and keeps the dangerous staff member employed anyway can be held accountable for negligent retention.
The new registry will provide a powerful additional tool for facilities to conduct thorough background checks on new employees. However, it's still the facilities' responsibility to actually use this new tool. They're also responsible for hiring sufficient staff and holding their employees accountable to high standards of care. This new law is an important step forward, but it's still only one step.
When nursing homes cut corners in hiring, they need to be held accountable
Ultimately, the only way to ensure nursing homes and other senior living facilities will keep our elders safe is to hold them accountable when they fail to do so. Taking legal action against a negligent nursing home through the civil justice system not only provides families with the financial compensation they need to move forward, but such action also sends a strong message to other facilities that we will not tolerate nursing home abuse and neglect here in Alabama.
If your loved one has been abused or neglected in a nursing home, we would be honored to listen to your story and explain your legal options. Schedule your free consultation with an experienced nursing home abuse attorney at Shuttlesworth Law Firm LLC today.