Safety and Insurance for Retirement Residences
by: Michel Beauregard – Senior Living Insurance Specialist
Rhodes & Williams Insurance Brokers
Operating a retirement residence places a great deal of responsibility on the shoulders of those we trust to look after our elderly. You do everything in your power to protect those who are under your care, but are also responsible to ensure you have the right professionals protecting your business interests. You protect them – but you have to make sure someone is protecting you!
Risks that your business may be exposed to can involve property, for example a fire or spoilage of medication resulting from off premises power failure; or they can be of a totally different nature not involving physical property. One such risk is lawsuits that can have consequences up to and including bankruptcy. Retirement home owners and operators are held to the highest of standards and are in a position of trust. People expect the elderly to receive proper care while being treated with dignity. All of this, combined with the fact that our society is becoming more litigious, contributes to increase your organization’s exposure to losses.
The public, your residents, and their children are much more aware and eager to pursue abuse charges involving elderly residents. Nursing home abuse can take the form of physical, sexual or mental abuse. Thousands of cases are reported every year. It is my sincere hope that you never experience this situation, resulting in a lawsuit affecting your organization, however, if you do, your insurance policy needs to offer the appropriate protection. Certain insurance policies offer coverage under the Commercial General Liability section for “Abuse”. Depending on the circumstances, this coverage would provide, up to the limit of insurance you purchased, Compensatory Damages and Civil Defence costs with extensions of coverage to include Criminal Defence Costs, Rehabilitation and Counselling (keep in mind coverage may vary from insurer to insurer). Not sure if you have this coverage? Make sure you discuss with your trusted insurance broker. Not all policies have it included, even though legal costs and resulting negative publicity could have dire consequences for your business.
A combination of proper insurance coverage and the implementation of loss prevention measures will save you money and help you to ensure the safety of those under your care. Written procedures for employees, and auditing by management, are one way to prevent abuse claims. Should claims happen despite your best effort, these procedures are helpful in successfully defending against such allegations. Background checks and following up on information obtained during the interview process, are all recommended. Supervisors and staff need to be aware of your loss prevention program and be adequately trained on these procedures.
Your insurance broker is an invaluable service provider and your primary point of contact regarding your policy. If they have particular expertise in your industry, they should have templates, tools and/or advice to help you in your loss prevention program, resulting in lower costs and better care for your residents.
Regular contact with your insurance broker will help you avoid the sometimes-tragic consequences of under-insurance. As your business evolves, so do your insurance needs. For this reason, it is critical that your insurance professionals be a partner in your business, and up to date on the evolution of the care you provide.