Welcome to Part 3 of my series on long-term care (LTC) residents’ rights. Part 1 focused on a resident’s right to make choices that are important to her. In Part 2, I discussed the topic of LTC admission procedures, specifically, a Waiver of Liability document that is oftentimes included in the admission packet. Today’s topic speaks of the practice of illegal discharge from a LTC residential setting.
Adios, Mr. Reilly
“What do you mean I have a week to move my father? For what reason?”
Raymond Ortiz, the Easy Breezy Group Home owner, situated himself in the plush chair in which he was sitting, opened up the manila folder that was on the desk in front of him, put on his reading glasses, scanned the piece of paper inside, and then closed the folder. “I know this seems to be coming out of the blue, but the staff and I have decided that your father just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the residents. They, and us, would be happier if Harold wasn’t living here.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing; dad had lived at this group home for three months without a complaint from anyone, and now this? “What specifically has he done – or not done – that renders him an unsuitable resident? What do those notes in my dad’s file specify as the reason?”
“You see, it’s not as simple as that. Your father hasn’t complied with the way the other residents live, and let’s not forget, they were here before him.”
I was having a hard time controlling my temper. Through gritted teeth I said, “Specifics, please.”
“For one, he wakes up earlier than the other five residents – sometimes as early as 6 am – and in the evening, he insists on staying up well past 10 pm. His early morning schedule disturbs those who are sleeping, as does his late night schedule. I’m sure you can understand that sleep is a very important aspect of our residents’ healthcare and when that is jeopardized because of just one of our residents, we have to take measures to accommodate the majority.”
“Wait a minute, you mean to tell me that the other residents’ schedules are more important than my father’s? That’s utterly ridiculous. Tell me, is my father doing jumping jacks in the middle of the living room with the stereo blaring while everyone is asleep?”
“Now you’re being silly.”
“No, Mr. Ortiz, now I’m getting angry. If dad isn’t making a ruckus, why the concern? My father has always been an early riser – moving in here shouldn’t require that he change that feature of his life; same goes for staying up later than the others. His end-of-day routine has always involved sitting down with a good book and reading – sometimes for hours on end. What’s so disruptive about that?”
“Two things, really. He flushes the toilet, which of course makes noise, and the resident on the other side of the bathroom hears the flush and his sleep is disturbed. Also, the evening caregiver has evening chores to do and afterwards, lays down on the couch to be rested up for the next day’s activities. He can’t sleep while your father is still awake.”
I closed my eyes and tried to compose myself. “Look, when my dad moved in, you made a point of telling us that Easy Breezy is his home, just as if he owned the place, just as if he’d lived here all his life. Kind of like, ‘Mi casa es su casa’ and I took you at your word. Nothing you’ve said today jives with that sentiment, and I’m quite sure that nothing you’ve mentioned is grounds for throwing him to the curb. First of all, I know you have to give written notice and it has to be given with more notice than you’ve given me, and I’m damn certain your flimsy reasons won’t stand up to legal scrutiny once I’ve looked into this.”
“Now Ms. Reilly, no need to get all huffy about this. That’s just the way it is; majority rules.”
I stood up, slung my purse over my shoulder and said, “We’ll see about that Mr. Ortiz. I’ll be back.”
As Ms. Reilly surmised, any notice of discharge must be made in writing and must be provided at least 30-days from the date of discharge from the facility (said requirements stated at length in 42 CFR 483.12.) Federal and State governments make it very difficult for administrators/owners to move a resident out of their property. As stated in the CFR below, there must be a very valid reason, e.g., health and safety of individuals are in jeopardy, and certainly that is not the case in the scenario above.
42 CFR 483.12 Admission, transfer and discharge rights.
(2) Transfer and discharge requirements. The facility must permit each resident to remain in the facility, and not transfer or discharge the resident from the facility unless –
(i) The transfer or discharge is necessary for the resident’s welfare and the resident’s needs cannot be met in the facility;
(ii) The transfer or discharge is appropriate because the resident’s health has improved sufficiently so the resident no longer needs the services provided by the facility;
(iii) The safety of individuals in the facility is endangered;
(iv) The health of individuals in the facility would otherwise be endangered; See also Washington State law 70.129.110
If you or a loved one need assistance regarding LTC residents’ rights, contact your local LTC Ombudsman office which can be located at the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center.
Part 4 of this series will deal with abuse and neglect of residents in LTC facilities. Part 4 will be posted on Wednesday morning, November 19.