It’s no secret that senior care facilities like nursing homes and assisted living facilities make more money when they keep their facilities fully occupied. As the overwhelming majority of costs to operate these facilities are relatively fixed, the more patients that the facilities can bring into the facility (and keep them there), the more lucrative the operation becomes. While there’s really nothing wrong with a facilities desire to make a buck or two, the implicit understanding between families and facilities is that by bringing new patients into the facility, each patients needs will be met. In a similar vein, while a patient may enter a facility with one condition or medical need, the facility can adapt to the provide the care that the patient requires– or they may suggest that the patient requires care elsewhere. The bottom line is that there is an expectation by accepting the person as a patient, the facility can– and will– provide sufficient care for the patient during the entire course of their admission.
What to do when needs change?
Obviously, people age and care-related needs change with time as well. The decision of when a patient may no longer be well-suited for a particular facility is at least as important of a decision as a facilities initial acceptance of a patient initially– and perhaps an even more significant decision as the care-related needs generally increase with age. Given the financial reverberations felt when a nursing facility requests that one of their patients seek care elsewhere an inherent conflict may arise when the time arises when a nursing home is no longer a good fit.
How long is too long to keep a deteriorating patient?
The never-ending balance between truly meeting a patient’s medical needs compared with facilities profitability recently took center stage at an elder abuse trial in California that was initiated by the family of a woman who died following a short admission to an Emeritus Assisted Living Facility (Emeritus at Emerald Hills). According to claims made in the lawsuit, the patient deteriorated significantly during a three-month admission to the facility which contributed to a spiral of complications (including advanced pressure sores that developed at the assisted living facility) that eventually resulted in her death. Rather than send the woman out of the facility for medical care, the staff overseeing this patients care allegedly chose to conceal her condition with the goal of maximizing the census at the facility. Not surprisingly, Emeritus lawyers’ have attempted to paint a decidedly different picture of the care that the woman received during her stay claiming that her condition (Alzheimer’s) was the root cause of her death.
Families need to re-evaluate their loved ones needs
As an attorney who is generally contacted when things don’t go as planned during an admission to a nursing home or assisted living facility, I can usually look over the course of care and determine when a patient’s condition deteriorated and they are no longer in a correct place. However, it’s foolish for me to claim that there’s an instantaneous time when a patient is no longer a good fit at the facility in every single situation. Consequently, families need to be mindful of their loved ones changing condition and medical needs and seek assurances from the facility that then can indeed care for them. Get a luke-warm response? Perhaps it’s time to seek the option of a physician or specialist? But in the case of a facility that continues to cash admission checks, families deserve to assume that their loved ones needs are met.