Can a nursing home discharge a resident against their will?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Under the law, nursing home residents can normally not be transferred or discharged from a nursing home without good cause. Conditions where the involuntary transfer or discharge of a patient is allowed include:

  • to meet the resident’s welfare;
  • if the resident’s health has improved enough to make a nursing home stay inappropriate;
  • if the resident presents a risk to the safety or health of others;
  • if the resident fails to pay;
  • if the facility ceases to operate.

Unless a resident falls into one of the categories set forth above, his or her nursing home can likely not transfer them against their will. If a resident does qualify for an involuntary transfer, they must be given 30-day advance notice of a transfer or discharge, and has the right to appeal the decision by filing a complaint with either the state’s department of public health or by filing a private lawsuit. The nursing home facility must have the proper documentation for an allowable transfer, otherwise they will likely fail in their attempt.

Check with an attorney to find out how federal and state regulations require that you handle a challenge to an involuntary transfer in your state. Normally, the responsible state agency will act quickly to investigate a claim that an involuntary transfer is not permissible; likewise the court system will be able to issue an injunction or other order prohibiting the transfer if it is convinced that the transfer is improper. However, as soon as you receive notification of a nursing home’s intent to involuntarily transfer someone, do contact a nursing home attorney right away to make sure that no time is lost in getting the situation analyzed and resolved.

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