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When Nursing Homes Tell You to Leave: Know Your Rights

elderly woman covers her face in despair

When a family makes the decision to admit a loved one into a nursing home, it’s usually because there simply is no better option. But what happens when that last option is taken away? Let’s face it: Most families have chosen the nursing home route because they do not have the ability or financial means to provide adequate care for an ailing and elderly loved one. With fear and hope, they turn to the nursing home as a last resort. Can you imagine going through that painful process, only to find out later that the nursing home is evicting your loved one? It can and does happen.

When a loved one is kicked out of their nursing home, there are three main questions that these families have:

  1. Can they really do this?
  2. Why would they do this?
  3. Can I fight this?

Is the nursing home legally allowed to evict my loved one from the nursing home?

There are legal and legitimate reasons that a loved one can be transferred or discharged from a nursing home. When we think of nursing homes, we typically think of elderly residents who expect to live out the remainder of their lives in the long-term care facility you have chosen, but there are reasons they can be discharged. It can be a financial matter (i.e., lack of payment) or it can be a health and safety issue.

According to AgingCare.com, here are the legitimate reasons that a person can be transferred or discharged from a nursing home:

  • The transfer or discharge is necessary to meet the resident’s welfare and the resident’s welfare cannot be met in the facility.
  • The transfer or discharge is appropriate because the resident’s health has improved sufficiently, making the facility’s services unnecessary.
  • The safety of other individuals in the facility is endangered by a resident’s presence.
  • The health of other individuals in the facility would otherwise be endangered by a resident’s presence.
  • The resident has failed, after reasonable and appropriate notice, to pay (or to apply for Medicaid or Medicare coverage) for a stay at the facility.
  • The facility ceases to operate.

(source: AgingCare.com)

The nursing home service costs a fortune. Why would they want to evict my loved one?

As listed above, there are legit reasons that a nursing home would make the decision to evict a resident. Sometimes it is for their unique health needs or safety, or they need to be moved for the health and safety of other residents. If a family is no longer able to afford nursing home care, Medicaid will typically subsidize the nursing home, but not all nursing homes accept Medicaid, so the resident would have to pay out of pocket or transfer to a home that qualifies.

It’s also important to remember that some of the people in a nursing home are patients who have been transferred from a hospital to complete their rehab or recovery. These nursing home patients are expected to be discharged when they are able (a discharge determination that can also be questionable). Nursing homes get a substantial portion of their income through the programs Medicaid and Medicare. These shorter-term rehab stints are often more lucrative to nursing homes than the long-term care residents.

There is a financial motivation for unscrupulous nursing homes to illegally evict residents. It is a sad trend, called “resident dumping,” in which infirm long-term residents are illegally discharged to make room for these more profitable shorter-term rehab patients. Some of the elderly residents are too infirm to realize they are signing paperwork to discharge themselves “voluntarily.” There have even been incidents where residents were simply dumped at hospitals or homeless shelters.

Can I Fight the Decision?

If you believe your loved one was dismissed from a long-term care facility without a good reason, you have some options. You should immediately reach out to an outstanding a free program: the long-term care ombudsman. You do have rights. The Consumer Voice for Quality and Long-Term Care is a residents’ advocacy group, and they have articulated these rights:

  1. The reason for discharge must be valid.
  2. Written notice is required.
  3. You can appeal the discharge and remain in the facility, pending the outcome.
  4. A detailed discharge plan is required.
  5. If you are away, you can return.

(source: The Consumer Voice for Quality care)

Nursing Home Resident Dumping Is Abuse

Illegal nursing home discharge can be a form of nursing home abuse or neglect. If you or a loved one was discharged from a nursing home without proper cause and suffered physical or mental injury, you can and should investigate your legal options. Brown & Barron is a law firm that specializes in cases of nursing home abuse and neglect in Maryland & D.C. Contact us online or call 410-346-0206 for a free, no-obligation review of your family’s situation.

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