Nursing homes are tossing onto the street those patients who cut too much into their bottom line

Have you ever heard of the term “facility-initiated discharges”?

I had not until I read this article in The Bulwark by Bill Lueders, writing about his mother:

Last fall, my then-97-year-old mother, Elaine Benz, was evicted from the senior living facility known as the Regency, in New Berlin, Wisconsin, where she had lived for ten years. My sister, Diane, was told on Thursday, October 28, that our mom would not be allowed to return the following morning, as planned, from a physical rehabilitation center to which she had been sent following a fall. The Regency had decided her needs had gotten too great.

It was a staffer at the rehab center and not someone from the Regency—officially ProHealth Regency Care Communities New Berlin—who broke this news to Diane. As she recalls, the staffer told her that the Regency would turn Elaine “away at the doors” if the center tried sending her back. We needed to find her a new place to live.

That’s it! That’s all it took. The facility looked for any excuse to get his mother out the door. Once out the door, they just refused to let her back in.

A 97-year-old woman!

Lueders has had to become an expert regarding this common practice as he fights to protect his mother:

But in general, I learned, there is nothing unusual about it. What happened to my mother happens to elderly people in America all the time. A facility will conclude that a patient has become too much work or is no longer a good deal financially and find a way to get rid of her. Often, as with Elaine, nursing homes and other senior care facilities evict residents while they are temporarily moved to another facility.

Nicole Shannon, a frontline attorney for the Michigan Elder Justice Initiative, told me how this sometimes works: “The nursing home will say, ‘Well, it sure seems like you need a psychiatric consult, we’re gonna send you to the hospital.’ The hospital turns around and says, ‘You know, this person does not require psychiatric care. You can go back to your nursing home now,’ and the nursing home says ‘Nope, no thanks, you’re no longer welcome here.’”

Shannon’s group has seen cases in which nursing home residents have had discharges approved for transfers to a homeless shelter, to the home of an unwilling relative, to a house that no longer existed because it had burned down, and to an apartment the person no longer rented.

On November 18, the day after we found a new place for Elaine to live, the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a forty-page report on problems regarding “facility-initiated discharges.” It noted that “discharge/eviction” was from 2013 to 2019 the single most frequent complaint recorded by the federal Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, which operates in all fifty states and the District of Columbia.

The report says that several of the ombudsmen surveyed “volunteered that nursing homes have said that they would rather accept a deficiency or enforcement penalty than keep the resident.” Other ombudsmen “opined that stronger enforcement actions could help to reduce these discharges.”

I cannot imagine being 97 years old and essentially being told that, while you were at some bogus pretext appointment somewhere, we’ve locked you out of your home and, good luck, whatever the state can do to us is nothing compared to what it costs us to keep you in your home.

You might also want to see this article from last April detailing how Wall Street private equity has been gobbling up the nursing home industry.

We are all going to end up living in a Wall Street-owned dystopian society because, while the rest of us are wasting our time fighting about the southern border and drag queen story hours, America is being sold to the highest billionaire bidder.

Bill Lueders’ mother, Elaine Benz.

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