The AARP Foundation has filed a lawsuit on behalf of an elderly couple married 30 years after the wife, 83, was evicted and separated from her husband, 93. The foundation reports the wife, who has Alzheimer’s disease, was evicted without warning in March.
Although the nursing home has declined to comment on the pending case, court documents indicate the nursing home’s defense is likely to include allegations of aggression by the elderly woman toward staff. She reportedly threw some plastic tableware. The nursing home called for an ambulance, underwent a psychological evaluation – and the hospital found nothing wrong with her. However, the nursing home would not allow her to return, saying they are not able to care for her needs. Her son requested a hearing with the California Department of Health – a hearing that he won. But then the nursing home responded that the health department has no authority to enforce the ruling. That prompted the AARP Foundation’s legal arm to get involved. The foundation is now suing the nursing home on her behalf.
Although it’s reportedly the first time the foundation has taken up a case regarding nursing home eviction, it’s certainly not an isolated incident. In fact, NPR reports these “involuntary discharges” result in 9,000 complaints annually across the country. It’s the No. 1 complaint made about nursing homes, and several states’ attorneys general have gotten involved. For instance, Maryland’s attorney general is suing one chain nursing home for Medicaid fraud, alleging the firm charged for state services it never delivered – specifically, discharge planning.
Nursing homes are required to make sure patients who are involuntarily discharged have somewhere safe they can go. However, in some cases, we are seeing that nursing home residents – some with complex medical needs – are ending up in homeless shelters or else in facilities that are essentially unlicensed board-and-care centers. In one case out of Maryland, the target of the attorney general’s action reportedly dropped off an elderly woman with severe dementia in front of her son’s home. They didn’t make sure he was even home. He found her wandering around several hours later when he returned from work.
But why would nursing homes do this? After all, they make more money the more patients they have, right? Turns out it’s not so simple. Nursing homes are paid more for certain patients, usually based on how long they have stayed. For example, Medicare pays much more for nursing home care than does Medicaid. So the type of coverage one has is important. Secondly, Medicare will only cover long-term care for 100 days – and that can only be used for skilled nursing care. So in some cases, nursing homes are evicting residents who are transitioning from the higher-paying Medicare to the less profitable Medicaid. The Maryland attorney general alleges there are hundreds of instances of this.
Just in California in 2016, there were reportedly 1,500 nursing home complaints of involuntary discharges, which is an increase of 73 percent in a span of just five years. Nursing home chains are by-and-large the biggest perpetrators, according to the NPR report.
Unfortunately, nursing homes have historically evaded accountability for these actions. NPR records found that only 7 percent of nursing homes found to have violated California law regarding involuntary discharges ever paid a fine, and even those who did pay a fine paid – at most – $2,000.
Our nursing home injury attorneys in West Palm Beach know there are significant challenges in pursuing claims against nursing homes for unlawful involuntary discharges, but if the individual suffered damages as a result of the action, they need to be held accountable.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
AARP Foundation Sues Nursing Home To Stop Illegal Evictions, Nov. 13, 2017, By Ina Jaffe, NPR
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Lawmakers Research Florida Nursing Home Camera Bill, Nov. 15, 2017, West Palm Beach Nursing Home Injury Attorney Blog