Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas died yesterday at the age of 103. As a kid I loved the 1954 movie 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea even though it was considered an “oldie” even then. That movie was my first introduction to Kirk Douglas who would go on to star in over 90 movies during his career. Most of us knew him as an actor, but he was much more than that. Even before it was considered popular, Kirk Douglas advocated for elderly residents in nursing homes who suffered terrible abuse and neglect at the hands of the nursing home industry.
Public Officials Should Conduct Commando Raids Of Nursing Homes
In 1985 Kirk Douglas starred in a movie called “Amos” which is about a man who is placed into a nursing home after losing his wife and home in an accident. A nurse by the name of Daisy Daws ruled the nursing home with an iron fist causing Douglas’ character to seek ways to escape the horrors of the nursing home. After finalizing the movie, Mr. Douglas testified at a Congressional hearing to raise awareness of the “nightmare”of elder abuse stating, “I learned that for me the abuse was make-believe, a role I could walk away from, but for one million elders in this country, it is a hideous, inescapable reality.” He concluded that public officials should conduct “Commando Raids” of nursing homes to protect elderly residents from abuse and neglect inflicted upon them by the nursing home industry.
Not Much Has Changed
Mr. Douglas was before his time in advocating for elderly victims of abuse and neglect by the nursing home industry. While there are more advocates for the elderly now, nursing home abuse and neglect is still prevalent throughout Missouri’s nursing homes. Residents regularly suffer from bed sores, falls, medication errors, and sexual abuse just to name a few of the horrors many defenseless residents experience. But sadly, there is much more resistance by many government officials to protect nursing home residents. So called “tort reform” laws are regularly implemented by legislatures all over the country that caps the damages victims of nursing home abuse and neglect can receive when they file lawsuits against nursing homes. From their legislative ivory tower, legislators have decided the maximum value of legal cases without hearing any evidence on any particular case. Ironically, many of these same legislators who embrace the jury system in criminal cases when a jury hears evidence of a horrible crime and imposes the death penalty decide that same jury can’t be trusted in a civil case where a nursing home is being sued for causing the horrific death of a nursing home resident.
Worse yet, nursing homes with the assistance of compliant politicians are embracing the implication of an arbitration system to determine the result of injuries and deaths of nursing home residents. When family members (who are likely sad and distraught) are signing their loved one into a nursing home, they are presented with a stack of papers that they are required to sign, often with very little explanation or direction from the nursing home. In many nursing homes, one of those papers is an “Arbitration Agreement” that, if signed by the family member, prevents them from bringing a lawsuit should the resident be a victim of serious injuries or death due to negligence by the nursing home. Instead of being able to sue the nursing home in a lawsuit that will be heard by a jury of their peers, the arbitration agreement forces it into a secret setting where the decision makers are often lawyers who represent nursing homes, hospitals or other medical providers. Sounds really fair, doesn’t it? (The answer to that is NO!). By the way….you are not required to sign the arbitration agreement and nursing homes are not permitted to deny admission if you don’t sign it.
Punish Those Responsible
At the end of his testimony at the 1985 Congressional hearing, Mr. Douglas concluded, “I am an actor. I create illusions. But I know this reality: elder abuse will end only when we have the courage to strip the facade off this hidden horror and punish those responsible.” The Terry Law Firm seeks to expose and punish those responsible for the horror of nursing home abuse and neglect in Missouri. While I never met Kirk Douglas, I applaud him not only for a successful movie career, but also for his courage in standing up for the rights of elderly nursing home residents and shedding light on the abuse and neglect that takes place every day in the nursing home industry.