Relatives of nursing home residents still challenging 2-year-old restraining order

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Two years ago, the Christian Community Home of Hudson (WI) requested a temporary restraining order against nursing home visitors, charging them with harassment after they criticized the care their relatives received at the facility.

The facility took legal action against Norm and Shirley Matzek, whose mothers reside at the only nursing home in their small town. The Matzeks had complained that an aide at the home allegedly forced Norm's mother, Gertrude, to get out of bed and walk with a broken hip, according to a report in the AARP Bulletin. The Matzeks then reported their complaints to the office of the state long-term care ombudsman, filed a complaint with state regulators and started a council of other families with relatives in the facility.

The administrator of the facility denies the allegations of poor care and told the AARP Bulletin that the Matzeks' behavior at the home intimidating and disruptive.

Noting that such legal action as that taken against the Matzeks is highly unusual, Janet Wells, policy director of the National Citizens' Coalition for Nursing Home Reform, said it is not unusual for family members who speak up about conditions in a home to have their visits restricted or monitored, or be banished altogether.

The restraining order against the Matzeks stipulates the couple must call ahead before visiting and they must enter through a specific door -- and refrain from talking to other residents, visitors or staff members, except with a nurse on duty, the AARP Bulletin stated.

The Matzeks who will return to court this month, have spent more than $30,000 in legal fees over the last two years trying to get the temporary restraining order lifted. While such disputes over care and visitation rights are most often settled before they reach court, there are nationwide reports of various kinds of reprisals for criticism of care, Wells said.

Federal law clearly states a nursing home resident's right to see family members should not be restricted, except in cases of abuse.