Many families have an individual they’ve placed in a nursing home at some point. This might be an elderly family member. They might be lucid, or they may have Alzheimer’s or some other ailment.
You’d like to think that your family member is safe there. You probably go to visit them frequently to make sure of that, or you call them periodically. However, you have to watch out for some potential nursing home dangers.
There are always things like elder abuse about which to think. This can take the form of violence against the residents, verbal abuse, depriving the residents of food or medication, etc.
Lately, though, Covid-19 is on the minds of many families with an individual in a nursing home. It’s challenging not to think about it when more than 200,000 US citizens have died from it.
Let’s take some time to talk about nursing homes, Covid-19 concerns, and the elderly.
Unhousing of Some Elderly Nursing Home Residents
One thing that’s happening is that some nursing homes are “unhousing” some of their residents. They are putting them out of their rooms in favor of those who already have Covid-19. What it amounts to is that residents were abandoned to create space for more profitable Covid-19 residents.
This is astonishing, but once you think about it, it makes sense. It’s happening because:
- The federal government pays nursing facilities to take in Covid-19 patients
- Some families are not in close contact with their family members in nursing homes
Is This Legal?
This is an opportunistic crime, with “crime” being the operative word. It is not legal to unhouse seniors from nursing homes without giving them a chance to appeal that discharge.
This is why some families and lawyers must now take nursing homes to court in the middle of a pandemic. It’s because the nursing homes decided they’d try to get away with this practice without ever informing the former resident’s family.
If this is something that happens to a family member, you need to immediately:
- Contact a lawyer
- Make sure your relative is okay
Some families have located their enfeebled relatives wandering around after being put out in the street. It’s shameful behavior, and it’s happening so nursing homes can pad their bottom line. It is profit over compassion.
How Can You Fight Back?
The first thing you can do is make sure that if you have a relative in a nearby nursing home, you check in on them regularly. Negligence is how most of these crimes occur.
If your family member is still safe in their nursing home, you can talk to the staff to make sure they’re not going to eject them. However, if they’re thinking about doing this, or they’ve already done it, you should know what rights you and your older relative have.
There is what lawmakers call the Federal Nursing Home Reform Law. It is there to protect lower-needs residents from ejection if the staff wants to bring in higher-needs residents (like those with Covid-19) to replace them.
What’s in the Federal Nursing Home Reform Law?
Several tenets make up the Federal Nursing Home Reform Law. The first is a dignified existence right. That means nursing home staff must treat residents respectfully and not neglect or abuse them.
Next up is a self-determination right. A resident can choose from among different healthcare and treatment options. They can also have someone speak and act on their behalf in these matters.
Another part is full information rights. This means if the nursing home plans on making any changes to a resident’s living situation, they must inform them. If that resident isn’t lucid, the staff must notify the family or their proxy instead so they can take action at that time.
The last part of it is transfer or discharge rights. If the staff plans to evict a resident, they must give the resident and their family thirty days to find other accommodations. The resident can also appeal the staff’s decision if they want to.
What to Do About Covid-19 Evictions
With nursing home Covid-19 evictions happening, residents might feel some fear and nervousness right now. They don’t want to be out on the street or end up in a homeless shelter.
Nursing home staff putting residents out with no warning generally violates multiple parts of the Federal Nursing Home Reform Law. Specifically, if they’re putting them out, that violates the full information rights clause and the transfer or discharge rights clause.
There are probably some greedy nursing homes that want to evict low-needs residents and bring in those with Covid-19. The government subsidy appeals to them, as it could mean thousands of additional revenue dollars every month.
However, if these facilities violated the Federal Nursing Home Reform Law, you can and should fight back. It’s not just about money. It’s about your older relative’s dignity.
They should be able to live well, with adequate housing, food, exercise, medication, etc. You expect all of those things when you trust your relative’s care to any nursing home or assisted living facility staff.
Taking the Nursing Home to Court
Again, what makes the most sense for you to do is check and make sure this isn’t happening to your relative or has not taken place already. If it has, you might have to take them into your home or find another option for them temporarily.
Then, you can get together with a lawyer and talk about how to move forward. You might go after the nursing home on your own, or you might join a class-action lawsuit with other victims if that’s a viable option.
You have to stand up for your older relative right now more than ever before. Just because there is a public health crisis, that does not mean they should end up homeless.
They deserve dignity and fair treatment, and if they’re not getting that, you must defend them. You’d definitely expect them to do the same for you.