Nursing Home Deaths Prompt Families to Remove Loved Ones, But Legal Obstacles Make It Difficult for Many

With nursing homes and assisted living facilities being hit the hardest by the novel coronavirus pandemic, many family members have pulled their loved ones out of long-term care facilities. However, Daniel J. Reiter, Principal Attorney, Law Firm of Daniel J. Reiter, Esq., says that, sometimes, there may be legal obstacles in doing so if the resident is mentally incapacitated, for example, with severe dementia.

According to the New York State Department of Health, there were 2,983 nursing home deaths statewide, as of April 26 (the number includes residents who died at either a facility or a hospital). Some of them, according to the agency, resulted from presumed or confirmed cases of the coronavirus. In New Jersey, the state Health Department reported that nursing homes in The Garden State had 16,244 cases of the coronavirus, resulting in 2,981 deaths, as of April 27.

Before family members can move their loved one out of a nursing home, Mr. Reiter says they should speak with someone at the facility, or seek outside assistance from an appropriate professional, such as a geriatric care manager. “If you are the adult child of a resident who may have dementia or is mentally incapacitated, then you may need legal assistance,” he says. “Being the resident’s child, by itself, does not mean you can remove them from the nursing home.”

If the court has named a family member as a guardian, Mr. Reiter advises that the guardian check the Order and Judgment appointing them guardian. If there is a “place of abode” provision, they may not need to seek the court’s approval to remove their parent from the nursing home. However, in New York State, someone with a statutory short-form power of attorney without modifications, or a health care proxy, cannot authorize agents to move a resident out of a nursing home.

“Even if you want to move your loved one out of these facilities, more often than not, the resident has the last word,” Mr. Reiter says. “But if the resident does not have the mental capacity to make these decisions, you may require legal assistance. If you need help transferring your loved one out of a nursing home, contact an attorney immediately.”

For more information, call (646) 820-4011 or visit www.djrattorney.com.

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Daniel J. Reiter Urges Loved Ones to Seek Legal Assistance before Transferring Their Family Members from a Nursing Home

With recent reports of nursing home residents dying from the novel coronavirus, many family members are looking to take their older loved ones out of these facilities. Daniel J. Reiter, Principal Attorney, Law Firm of Daniel J. Reiter, Esq., says that, while he understands that families are concerned about their elders’ health, if the nursing home resident cannot make decisions on their own — for example, if they have dementia — it may not be very simple to transfer their loved ones out of a nursing home, and legal guidance may be required.

 

According to Governor Andrew Cuomo, more than 3,300 nursing home residents statewide have died from the novel coronavirus. Mr. Reiter points out that nursing homes are “hot spots” for the novel coronavirus. “Because of their age and physical health, nursing home residents are extremely susceptible to this disease,” he says. “Also, they may be living in close quarters, with two or three to a room. One of them may be a carrier without the other roommates knowing it, so the disease can be easily transmitted.”

 

The disease may be spread not only by other residents, but by staff members as well. “Some of these nursing home employees are overwhelmed and see many residents at a time,” Mr. Reiter says. “The workers may not have the proper protective gear in this environment, thereby infecting the residents and other staff members inadvertently. In addition, many nursing home residents are bedbound, and workers have to make physical contact when turning the resident many times a day to avoid bed sores, which makes maintaining social distancing at six feet medically impossible.”

 

While he understands that many family members are looking to get their elders out of these facilities as quickly as possible, Mr. Reiter says it is not always as simple as walking in, signing them out and bringing them home. “Moving your loved one out of a nursing home is a decision that should be made in consultation with the appropriate professionals, such as a geriatric care manager,” he says. “However, the legality of moving your loved one from a nursing home if they are mentally incapacitated may require the assistance of a lawyer, or an application to the court on an ‘emergency’ basis. This applies to court-appointed guardians and agents under a power of attorney. Just because someone is named an agent in a health care proxy, or is the resident’s child, does not mean they have the right to remove their aging parent from the nursing home.”

 

He recommends that guardians check their Order of Judgment appointing them guardian. Some of these court documents — which name a family member as the guardian — do not require the court’s approval to transfer their ward from the facility so long as a “place in abode” provision is included in the Order and Judgment. Meanwhile, a standard New York State statutory short-form power of attorney that is not “modified” and health care proxies do not authorize agents to move residents out of nursing homes.

 

“Either the resident has the capacity to consent to being transferred from a nursing home, or the loved one will need a power of attorney with a provision in the modifications section of the power of attorney authorizing the transfer or to be appointed guardian,” Mr. Reiter says. “If you need help transferring your loved one from a nursing facility, contact an attorney immediately.”

 

For more information, call (646) 820-4011 or visit www.djrattorney.com.

 

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