Many nursing home residents are unaware of their rights. So when these individuals face the threat of eviction, legal advocates say, many of them do not even realize they have the right to challenge their discharge.
Below is a list of several of those rights under federal law along with tips from lawyers and advocates who work on behalf of nursing home residents:
— Before a nursing home discharges or transfers a patient who wants to stay in the home, it must send a written discharge notice to the resident, the resident's designated representative and the state's long-term-care ombudsman.
Notices are supposed to be issued 30 days before the planned discharge (and should provide contact information for the local ombudsman, or advocate, who can provide assistance).
— A person facing eviction from a nursing home can appeal the discharge and demand a hearing, and the home cannot discharge or transfer the person while the appeal is pending.
— The nursing home cannot make residents leave if they are waiting to get Medicaid.
— If a nursing home contends that it cannot meet a patient's needs, it must document the specific needs that cannot be met and explain how it tried to meet them. This requirement is meant to prevent nursing homes from arbitrarily discharging residents they should be able to care for.
— If a nursing home discharges a resident to a hospital, the home must generally hold the bed for a week or two, as required by state law, in case the resident wants to return. If the resident stays in the hospital for a longer time, the nursing home must accept a resident paying with Medicaid to the next available bed (for Medicaid patients).
— Nursing homes are required to post the names and contact information for state agencies, advocacy groups, adult protective services as well as the long-term-care ombudsman program and other groups that could be helpful.
— Nursing homes must also post a statement that residents have the right to file complaints.
— Even if residents choose not to appeal the discharge, if they feel it was inappropriate, they should file a complaint with the state survey agency to conduct an investigation, said Lindsay Heckler, a lawyer with Center for Elder Law and Justice.
Tony Chicotel, staff attorney at California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, had two words of advice for residents facing an eviction: Don't go.
"If you feel like the proposed discharge is not appropriate at this time or unsafe, don't go," he said. "Stay and make them do a better job of doing a better discharge. Get yourself more time, better deliberation and better planning. Make them do their jobs."