Involuntary Transfers/Discharges from Nursing Homes: Patient Rights

Involuntary Transfers/Discharges from Nursing Homes: Patient Rights

There’s a famous expression that says, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” and most of us like to imagine that we fall into that category. That when situations become difficult, we react with strength and work harder to meet the challenge. The thing is, there are many instances when things get tough in which we choose instead to pass them on so they become someone else’s dilemma – and this practice is on the rise in nursing homes. Facilities are increasingly evicting “problem patients,” making space for those without diseases that demand a lot of care (like dementia) or those who bring in more money (such as a private-pay patient or a short-term rehab patient).

Analysis of federal data from the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program concluded that complaints about discharges and evictions are up about 57 percent since 2000. It has been the top-reported grievance since 2010, cited over 11,300 times in 2014. The actual number is likely higher, because many patients and their families aren’t sure what rights they have, if any. Residents earmarked for involuntary transfer or discharge often are those who need a greater level of care, exhibit signs of aggression as an effect of dementia, or have a family that has complained repeatedly about treatment. Many times, facilities hide behind hospitalizations as a justification for rolling up the welcome mat – in spite of a federal law that requires nursing homes to hold the beds of Medicaid recipients during hospital stays of up to one week.

Under the Nursing Home Reform Act, there are only six legal reasons for a resident to be transferred or discharged against their will:

  1. The resident’s health has improved to the degree that she or he no longer needs the services provided by the facility.
  2. The safety of others is endangered.
  3. The health of others is endangered.
  4. The patient has failed to pay, despite reasonable notice.
  5. The facility ceases operations.
  6. Transfer is necessary for the resident’s welfare.

That last point is often misused by nursing homes that inappropriately try to argue that they are no longer able to meet the resident’s needs. Improper justifications include arguments that the resident is disruptive, non-compliant, refuses treatment, or exposes the facility to potential legal liability for causing injuries.

Nursing homes who wish to pursue eviction proceedings are required by the Act to follow a specific process. For example, the resident must receive written notice of the transfer or discharge in a language they can understand. If the resident has an immediate family member or legal representative, that person must also be notified. The notice should be given generally 30 days in advance of the proposed date and must contain the reason, the location of where the resident is to go, an explanation of the right to appeal, and contact information for the local ombudsman.

If you or someone you love is facing eviction from a nursing home, or if you have any questions about this topic, you can find out more by discussing it with one of the Georgia nursing home discharge attorneys at The Mann Law Firm. We have over 50 years of experience helping people, and we can help you. Based in Macon, we know that evictions can be devastating to nursing home patients who don’t deserve the upheaval of being kicked out of the place they consider to be home. Contact us to discuss your unique situation by calling (478) 742-3381 or by filling out our online form.