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Reviewing Virginia Nursing Home Residents' Rights in Tough Times

May 11, 2009

Richmond - In tight times like these, nursing home residents and their families often don't know they're protected by federal laws. Advocates say it's particularly important for the elderly and their families to know that the law protects people from being unjustly discharged from nursing homes because of financial stress.

Elder care lawyer Kathy Pryor says that the laws protecting nursing home residents are quite strong, but often families don't know their rights. Families need to receive a written discharge notice before someone can be moved, and she says that notice should be reviewed by a lawyer.

"Once somebody gets a notice, they have the right to appeal, and the facility is required to keep the person in the facility while that appeal is pending."

Pryor says unscrupulous nursing homes may illegally discharge a patient by saying that the resident requires special care they unable to provide. Pryor remembers a case in which the nursing home said it was being asked to provide specialized care.

"The family was asking only that the resident be bathed regularly, be toileted on a regular schedule, and be carefully transferred because they were getting bruised."

Nursing homes cannot evict a resident without clear and just cause, according to federal law. Pryor says there are state and federal financial programs to assist nursing home residents.

According to the most recent federal data available (2007) there are nearly 27,000 Virginia residents in certified nursing facilities.

Aries Keck, Public News Service - VA