The Ombudsmen, a group tasked with helping seniors and their volunteers, wanted to remind residents and caretakers in long-term care facilities or nursing homes about regulations regarding transfers or discharge from a nursing home.

Kim Rhodes, Ombudsman supervisor, said there are many reasons a resident might be asked to leave.

“Too often, a facility may respond to residents’ difficulties, including an increasing need for care or repeated questions or complaints from family members, by transferring or discharging the resident,” she said. “This may also happen when a facility changes owners or closes.”

But there are protections in place like the The Nursing Home Reform Law of 1987.

“The law requires that one of the permissible reasons for transfer/discharge must exist and a 30-day written notice must be given to the resident and their families and/or representatives,” Rhodes said. “This notice must include the resident’s right to appeal and contact information for the State Health Department and the State Long-term Care Ombudsman.”

The reasons for transfer/discharge include the following:

• the nursing home can no longer provide adequate care for the resident.

• the resident’s health has improved to the point that they no longer require nursing home care.

• safety of individuals in the facility is endangered.

• the health of others in the facility would otherwise be endangered.

• the resident has failed, after reasonable and appropriate notice, to pay for care or the facility closes.

“The facility cannot evict a resident who is waiting for Medicaid eligibility and should work with other state agencies to obtain payment if a family member or other individual is holding the resident’s money,” Rhodes said. “If safety is an issue and the resident is endangering others, no notice is required, provided sufficient documentation has been made as to efforts to resolve the problem.”

She said nursing homes assess the care needs of every prospective resident. Once a resident has been accepted by the nursing home, the nursing home should find ways to provide safe and effective care.

Sometimes relocations happen due to a closing facility.

“If a facility closes voluntarily, Federal law requires a written notice of 90 days be provided to the residents and their families and/or representatives,” Rhodes said. “The closing facility must provide sufficient preparation and orientation to residents to ensure the safety of the residents’ personal belongings as well.”

Making sure transfers are safe after a closing are particularly important said Rhodes.

“The shock of being thrust into totally foreign, clinical surroundings is also defined as transfer trauma and has been responsible for resident deaths,” she said. “The elderly have slower reaction times and are much less likely to accept and tolerate abrupt change. The nursing facility has become the resident’s home, and it is traumatic to lose a home, especially when cared for by staff the residents know and trust. The facility can and should be cited for neglect if they fail to make safe transfer arrangements.”

To learn about how you can help the elderly in your community, join the next volunteer training session.

Volunteer training is 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 10 and 11 at Great Plains Technology Center, 4500 SW Lee Blvd Lawton. The Ombudsman Program continues to recruit members from the community to spend at least two hours a week visiting and advocating for quality of care and life.

For more information on how to become a volunteer contact Dacia Nix, nix_da@ascog.org, or Rhodes, rhod_ki@ascog.org, or Ombudsman supervisors, 580-736-7975 or 580-736-7974.