When you leave an elderly loved one’s care in the hands of a nursing home facility, you assume that the home will care for them as well as you would. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Many state-run nursing care facilities are not only understaffed, but they are also overcrowded. When Peggy Marzolla’s family decided to place her in the Brandywine Living nursing home in Brick, New Jersey, they thought that having someone looking out for her would be an advantage.
When Marzolla died at 93, an investigation was initiated to determine whether her death was related to injuries that she sustained in the facility shortly before her death in 2010. The injuries were extensive: broken cheekbones, a broken wrist, and a broken eye socket, along with many other things.
Although her death was recorded as an “accidental fall,” Marzolla’s family questioned whether it was accidental at all. The explanation of how it happened just didn’t add up. Not getting the answers she wanted, and without gaining any help from the state’s investigative team, Maureen Persi began to lobby for increased protection for those seniors who live in institutions.
Peggy’s Law, initiated by Persi, is a bill that would require any state worker at a state-regulated nursing facility to immediately report any incident that leads to injury if they suspect that the injury might be more than just an accident. State workers would be mandated to report if they suspect that any seniors under their care show signs of abuse, criminal harm, or exploitation. It’s a long-overdue measure, and the hope is that it will help millions of seniors in institutions across the state of New Jersey.
The proposed bill would change the current requirement that staff members report to the state’s Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly, and report directly to the police instead. Governor Chris Christie signed the bill into law last month.
Other requirements put in motion by Peggy’s Law are that police be notified within 24 hours of an incident, or within two hours if there are injuries sustained. It also mandates that the ombudsman’s office offer a 24-hour hotline to address any incidents in state-regulated nursing facilities. Currently, the office is only available during business hours.
Persi believes that involving the police ensures that things aren’t overlooked, and that the correct investigation can be made promptly and while the events are still fresh in the minds of everyone involved. An immediate investigation will also ensure that pictures and other evidence are still visible. Since placing an elderly parent in a home instead of being able to care for them in your own home is a very difficult decision for many families to make, hopefully Peggy’s Law will increase the confidence that people have that their loved ones will be cared for and not involved in any kind of assisted living facilities abuse.
It’s only being implemented in New Jersey, but the bill might be a good plan for all state-regulated facilities across the US. Elderly individuals are very vulnerable, and when something happens, families should have the answers they need, and the police should be allowed to investigate effectively.
In New Jersey alone there are over 380 nursing homes and over 500 assisted-care living arrangements. With so many facilities to monitor, the good news is that most of them are safe and well-maintained. Unfortunately, it only takes one accident for someone to get hurt, and in this instance, it led to the death of someone who was loved very dearly. If the police had been involved from the beginning, the Marzolla family would have had the answers they needed to find the closure they deserved. Hopefully, the new measure will ensure that nursing home residents in New Jersey are cared for and safe.