A nursing home transfer means that a resident is being moved from one facility to another. A nursing home discharge, which may be voluntary or involuntary, means that a patient is leaving or being evicted from the nursing home. Regardless of the circumstances under which a transfer or discharge occurs, all nursing home residents have certain rights which must be respected. If your parent or grandparent was in any way harmed or injured during their transfer or discharge, or was forced into an involuntary transfer or discharge in violation of their legal rights, Philadelphia nursing home abuse lawyer Brent Wieand may be able to help your family recover compensation.
Elder Law in PA: Transfers and Discharges
Nursing homes are governed by two sets of laws: laws that exist on the federal level, such as the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act, and laws that exist on the state level. Pennsylvania nursing home residents’ rights are protected by 028 Pa. Code § 201.29, while N.J.S.A. § 30:13-5 – commonly referred to as the Nursing Home Residents’ Bill of Rights – establishes similar legal protections for seniors in New Jersey.
This portion of the article deals with transfer and discharge laws in Pennsylvania. For more information specific to New Jersey, scroll ahead to the next section of this article.
028 Pa. Code § 201.29(f) provides three and only three reasons a resident can be lawfully discharged or transferred to another facility:
- Different medical care is needed. In most cases, this involves a resident who must be moved because their current home is unequipped to handle a deterioration in the resident’s health. The original home might not have the right machine or type of specialist necessary to examine and treat the resident when a condition gets worse or a new condition develops.
- It is for the resident’s own welfare/safety, or that of another resident. Sometimes, conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia can cause sudden outbursts of violent behavior. In their state of mental disorientation, a person with severe dementia or Alzheimer’s might hallucinate or interpret a normal action as a threatening gesture. Certain medications can also cloud thinking and cause uncharacteristic aggression, particularly when they are administered in doses which are too large.
- Under section (h), the same law says that transfers based on medical reasons are not necessary if the attending physician thinks the transfer will cause mental or physical harm. This phenomenon is called “transfer trauma.”
- The resident has failed to pay the nursing home. The nursing home must have “demonstrated reasonable effort to collect the debt,” which means a resident cannot suddenly be evicted because they happen to be a few days late on a payment.
Regardless of why the transfer or discharge is happening, the resident has a right to 30 days’ advance written notice “unless appropriate plans which are acceptable to the resident can be implemented sooner.” If the resident is being sent to the hospital or another type of care facility, that facility must be given a list of the resident’s medications and other needs.
Section (g) makes the transferring facility responsible for “assur[ing] that appropriate arrangements are made for a safe and orderly transfer,” adding that the transfer must be “to an appropriate place that is capable of meeting the resident’s needs.”
Before the transfer happens, the facility is responsible for telling the resident (or resident’s representative) whether the new facility is Medicare-certified. (Many but not all nursing homes accept Medicare or Medicaid.)
The NJ Nursing Home Residents’ Bill of Rights
As we mentioned a little earlier, N.J.S.A. § 30:13-5 is also called the Nursing Home Residents’ Bill of Rights. So what rights do New Jersey nursing home residents have?
In a nursing home transfer or discharge, residents have the right:
- To receive 30 days’ advance written notice informing the resident of the upcoming transfer (unless the facility is shutting down, in which case notice might be shorter). This notice should also include information about appealing (challenging) the transfer.
- To have their normal bed reserved, if the transfer is only temporary. (This also applies in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania statute refers to it as “inform[ing] the resident of its bed-hold policy.”)
- To be physically assisted during the transfer.
N.J.A.C. § 10:63-1.10 provides the same three reasons for a discharge or transfer as the laws in Pennsylvania: medical necessity, preserving the resident’s own safety or the safety of other residents, and nonpayment. It also provides a fourth reason, which is that the New Jersey State Department of Health is requiring a transfer. This might occur if there are issues with the status of the facility’s license, or if the facility is changing or terminating its Medicare policy.
In both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, transfers and discharges must be documented by signed and written agreements. Residents must be treated with dignity and respect, and must not be physically harmed, neglected, or deliberately overmedicated at any point in time – not only during a discharge or transfer, but throughout the entirety of his or her residence at the nursing home. In short, personnel must take care to avoid taking any actions that could foreseeably injure or kill a resident, or exploit the resident sexually or financially.
If you suspect your parent or grandparent is being abused at his or her nursing home, you should address your concerns with the senior manager. If management proves unwilling or unable to rectify the situation, it may be time to involve an attorney. To talk about your family’s legal options in a free and private legal consultation, call Philadelphia personal injury lawyer Brent Wieand right away at (800) 481-5206.
***Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes. It is not legal advice and should not be used as legal advice.***