Nursing Homes Seizing Patients’ Custody/Guardianship to Collect Debts

This very past week I discovered through my array of Net crawling Google “searchbots,” ar article from Jan. 25th in the NY Times by Nina Bernstein. You may read the article in its entirety here.

I had not been at aware of this phenomenon but apparently with the confluence of many factors, the ever rising  numbers of the elderly needing long term nursing home care and inadequate funds to pay for the also ever growing medical bills as we all age and accumulate new chronic medical problems, bills to patients now increasingly outpace the resources that even those who have planned, and saved and have long term care insurance. This article features an elderly former couple of professional education and occupations. The wife needed nursing home placement for the ‘gateway,’ reasons, difficulty performing daily functions and hygiene ad gait impairment and then went on the develop probable Alzheimer’s dementia. [As an aside women develop Alzheimer’s dementia more than do men, partly because they survive and live much longer and the odds of developing Alzheimer’s greatly increase as you hit the magic threshold of 80 years of age].

In any case as the account detailed, the bills mounted and well meaning husband who was diligently paying the nursing home suffered the indignity of finding an envelope one day on his wife’s bed which was a guardianship petition by the nursing home in order to have total control not only over her medical care decisions, but also control over her finances, so they could be assured of being paid [sic more].

Now if that is not a conflict of interest I do not know what is.

The article further shocked me by going on to detail that a study by the well respected Hunter College of NYC into this issue found that this had been going on for some years. and that at least TWELVE per cent of nursing of guardianship petitions in the area (NYC or NY state?, I am not sure).

Another case in which this happened to a 94 year old nursing home resident was quoted and the judge’s decision in a lawsuit was brought by the family to contest this action. A Justice Hunter (I guess no relation to Hunter College…) wrote: “It would would be an understatement to declare that this court is outraged by the behavior exhibited by the interested parties–parties who were supposed to protect the person, but who have all unabashedly demonstrated through their actions in connection with the person that they are only interested in getting paid.”

As they say, “Nuff said.”


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