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Can a Person Leave a Nursing Home? Everything You Need to Know

 A doctor aids a white-haired senior individual walking on crutches in a park outside, with a wheelchair parked a few steps behind them.Moving nursing homes can be a difficult challenge for anyone, whether you’re a dependent or independent senior, or you’re attempting to help a friend or family member move facilities. Despite the fact that a nursing home could mean improved facilities, closer distances to family, and enhanced levels of onsite care, the move itself can certainly take a toll.

Understandably, relocation stress syndrome — recognized by professional diagnosis as the appearance of anxiety, confusion, loneliness, and other symptoms during a move — is especially prevalent in older adults transitioning from one nursing home to another. The syndrome, also known as Transfer Trauma, can cause unwelcome reactions.

There are several ways that family members can help their loved ones appropriately manage thoughts and feelings before, during and after a move from a nursing home.

Reasons for Leaving a Nursing Home

In some cases, nursing home residents look to move of their own volition. In other circumstances, that decision is advised or made on their behalf by family members, loved ones, guardians, or legal counsel. From legal-based causes to improved care availability at an alternative nursing home, familiarize yourself with some of the main reasons why nursing home residents transition from one place of residence to another.

Neglect or Abuse

Many nursing homes across the globe are staffed by loving caretakers, healthcare professionals, and staff who truly desire the best care for all residents. However, circumstances certainly exist where nursing home abuse and neglect necessitate a move.

If you suspect that your own nursing home, or the nursing home of a family member or friend, might be guilty of abuse or neglect, consider filing an official complaint or report of suspicion through your state’s Department of Health. In instances of personal abuse, hiring a lawyer allows you to protect yourself from future trauma and hold your abuser accountable for his or her actions. Stopping the abuser means more than ending current trauma; it also means saving any future victims from mistreatment.

Moving by Choice

If you or your loved one feel as though it’s time for a change, that option should certainly be made available. Some residents simply don’t feel comfortable in their current nursing home, in the same way a particular resident in a neighborhood might not feel completely welcome.

Residents also may not need the type of care that their nursing home currently provides. Or, those same residents might require a different level of care, offered at a higher quality from another facility. If the needs of a nursing home resident would be better satisfied at an alternative facility, it’s likely time to consider a move. Choosing the correct nursing home for seniors means pairing a resident’s needs with a facility that offers appropriate levels of care, at appropriate pricing.

Forcing a Resident to Move

Under certain circumstances, residents of a nursing home could be forced into a move. For example, nursing home closures would obviously warrant new homes for all active residents. Residents could also be forced to transition nursing homes for financial reasons, though certain payment options could still make your current place of residence a viable option.

In other cases, an understaffed nursing home simply may not be able to handle the existing demand. Whether because of underpaid nursing home employees or sheer demand, the total nursing home volume could present issues. If a nursing home finds itself among the many active facilities currently understaffed, and can no longer offer appropriate levels of care due to population constraints, a move could be in order.

Illegally Forcing a Resident to Move

Nursing homes have been known to illegally attempt to move residents, making the protection of nursing home patient rights a top priority for the duration of a resident’s stay. The events at a California care center offer just one example of a recent illegal patient movement, where residents were forced to explore other living options without input.

Nursing homes offering insufficient excuses before moving residents is hardly a new trend, but it’s certainly a dangerous one. If you find yourself in the middle of a similar situation, know that there are options to protect your rights, including hiring a lawyer with experience confronting similar offenders. And if you find this situation playing out for a loved one currently residing at a nursing home, advocating on their behalf is critical in preserving their safety.

Nursing homes looking to move patients against their will may be guilty of financial exploitation, theft, even discrimination that you can protect against.

Can a Nursing Home Refuse to Discharge a Patient?

Though nursing homes are forbidden by law from refusing patient discharge under normal circumstances, there is a single exception. Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities cannot force residents to stay, but any resident leaving the facility must be able to make his or her own medical decisions. If a resident has surrendered the right to make medical decisions on their own behalf, the decision-maker has the right to act on their behalf. In all cases, the decision to refuse resident discharge should be made in the interest of that resident’s overall health or future viability.

As long as a resident still retains the ability to make sound choices, a nursing home cannot ever force them to remain onsite, despite any medical orders to the contrary. In addition, nursing homes must help coordinate discharge planning on that resident’s behalf. If you find yourself or a family member in a situation where a nursing home is preventing free movement, consider filing a complaint or hiring a lawyer to secure your rights.

Creating a Plan to Remove Someone From a Nursing Home

While the nursing home completes holistic discharge planning, help your friend or family member in the nursing home establish a plan for the future. Here are a few suggestions, to help outline your nursing home discharge strategy:

  • Discuss pros and cons of leaving the facility with the current resident;
  • Develop a plan for any possessions currently in the patient’s room or onsite;
  • Prepare the home or next place of residence for the patient ahead of departure;
  • Offer cell phone use to the resident, to help coordinate any details of the move;
  • Notify insurance providers of any new details;
  • Provide the resident’s new address to appropriate family members, friends, and payment companies that require up-to-date billing information;
  • Outline budgeted spending habits for the new resident, in light of the effect moving costs could have against retirement savings or a fixed income.

These and other tips can help promote a streamlined moving experience, that maximizes comfort for the resident and minimizes the possibility of relocation stress syndrome.

Tips for Removing Your Loved One From a Nursing Home

When it comes time to remove your loved one from their current nursing home, simple steps can mean the difference between a hassle-free move and a struggle from step one. Consult the tips to maximize your efficiency on moving day:

  • Remain aware of medications and required doses, to maintain appropriate care throughout the day;
  • Coordinate with your transportation provider to ensure on-time arrival and departure for the resident and anyone accompanying them;
  • Minimize resident stress by accounting for all important possessions on move day;
  • Ensure regular meal times for your family member or loved one, despite any scheduling conflicts;
  • If applicable, meet with representatives at your loved one’s new nursing home to familiarize yourself with the setting, explain any resident-specific issues, and establish points of contact.

Minimizing your own stress and the potential stress of your loved one can go a long way toward promoting an easy move day experience. Ultimately, whether the resident is moving to a home, another nursing home, or an alternative long-term care facility, moves are intended to secure residents the best possible care.