In response to a shocking incident involving the beating death of an 82-year-old female nursing home resident committed by a fellow resident, an Erie County, NY executive is pushing for a new law.

In honor of victim, Ruth Murray, “Ruthie’s Law” would require nursing home staff to report directly to family members within an hour of any injury suffered that requires hospital treatment.

In addition to the required one-hour timeframe for reporting, the law would also give Erie County’s commissioner of senior services the right to subpoena nursing home reports in order to review them and ensure compliance with regards to reporting protocols to family members.

Ruthie’s Law is important in understanding the overall bigger picture of the problem of nursing home abuse incidents. Because the law requires nursing homes to report on incidents, the resultant data can help the senior services commissioner understand the frequency and extent of future patient-on-patient or staff-on-patient acts of abuse. Ultimately, this data can help shape future policy and continue to deter nursing homes from deceiving families, like Ruth’s when it comes to serious incidents residents are involved in.

Ruth Murray was the victim of a violent attack committed by an 84-year-old man who beat her to death after she mistakenly wandered into his room in the dementia ward. Ruth’s family was initially told that she had only suffered “minor cuts, lacerations and bruises”. An inspection eventually found that the nursing home “failed to provide adequate supervision to prevent accidents and ensure resident safety”.

Now Erie County is taking a stand to demonstrate that deceiving families about incidents that involve their senior loved ones is unacceptable. Officials are asking that the nursing homes be required to pay higher fines when they are found to be negligent in following proper procedures that ultimate end up jeopardizing a resident’s health.

As part of the crackdown coming from Ruthie’s Law is the creation of a public website that will publish nursing home rankings in Erie County. By having access to this information online, families can make more informed decisions about which facilities they choose to place their trust in. The website can be accessed at erie.gov/saferseniorhomes.

Erie County is further committed to deterring and preventing these incidents from happening. They are publishing a “Know Your Rights” guide to distribute to local families. This will further help families understand the actions they can take in protecting their senior loved ones from violent incidents like the one that tragically killed Ruth Murray.

Thankfully, Ruthie’s Law has been implemented to help protect innocent seniors and prevent any future injuries or fatalities of this horrific nature. Read more on the announcement of Ruthie’s Law.

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Christine Traxler, MD is a retired family practice physician, graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Medicine in 1986, and freelance writer, having worked with patients in rural Minnesota for two decades. She has written several books on medical topics and currently resides in Minneapolis, MN, where she works as a freelance writer on medical topics.

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