As you may or may not be aware, Princeton Care Center in Princeton, NJ closed abruptly and seemingly permanently on Friday, September 1. An article describing the immediate circumstances of the closure can be found here. Dozens of families’ loved ones lived at that building, and found out on just a few hours’ notice that their loved ones needed to be transferred involuntarily to another nursing home, often over an hour away. From the elder law attorney’s perspective, what rights, remedies, and concerns do those families have, and how can you avoid this happening to your loved one?
1. The involuntary discharge from the nursing home was entirely wrong.
The first question people will have reading about Princeton Care Center is whether the facility had the right to close and ship its residents elsewhere. Nursing homes that are closing do have rights to involuntarily transfer residents (move them somewhere else), but they ordinarily need to provide 30 days’ notice and have a good reason to do so. The facility closing is one of those reasons. Obviously, nobody involved here got the requisite notice.
Facilities are allowed to involuntarily discharge a resident on less than 30 days’ notice for an emergency, but it is hard to see how the financial hardship qualifies as such an emergency. The article I linked to above states that the staff hadn’t been paid for two weeks. Certainly everyone involved knew about the financial hardship for at least that long if not much longer.
It would not surprise me at all if residents had a cause of action against Princeton Care Center for abuse or neglect in the time leading up to the discharge, and for the distress caused by the sudden and improper discharge from the building. I also would anticipate there will be disciplinary action against the owners and licensees of Princeton Care Center for what transpired.
Lawyers, such as the ones from Archer Law Office, can identify whether a cause of action exists here and form an appropriate response for families. It is just sad that it must come to this.
2. Families did not have a resource to help them through a sudden crisis.
Phone calls to residents started at 8:30am the morning of the closure of the nursing home, and the last residents according to the article were moved out around 10pm. If families did not know what to do, the article seems to indicate that residents were moved to a facility in Morristown, at least an hour away by car. More concerning is that a nursing facility in Plainsboro (I will not mention it by name, but there is only one that fits the description) seems to have been recruiting residents onsite.
If there is a textbook definition of the word duress, it sounds something like this. Families were being forced to make a difficult decision with absolutely no information and no time to process it. Their only guidance came from nursing facility representatives who absolutely did not have their best interest in mind.
At Archer Law Office, our unique Senior Living Resource staff is a resource to clients in an emergency and can jump into action. The staff knows about bed availability in local nursing homes and can make personalized recommendations based on client needs and priorities. Meanwhile, when facility representatives are looking for financial and legal information, clients can just pass that information along to the firm’s lawyers and retain peace of mind.
3. Residents need to be concerned about a new nursing home presenting them with legal documents under duress on short notice, and with their private pay or Medicaid status.
It is typical for a nursing home to require a financial application and a resident agreement upon or before admission to a nursing home. It is hard to imagine that this process happened smoothly, or with any opportunity for families to seek advice or counsel before reading and agreeing to the paperwork thrust under their nose. Meanwhile, in this situation a family might feel as though they have to agree to any nursing home demand – money up front? A private pay commitment (which is illegal under state and federal law)? Limitations on their right to sue or seek redress for damages? To be clear, there is no evidence that any of this actually happened, but it certainly could have.
A family looking to apply for Medicaid in the near future may well be advised by these nursing homes that they should not or cannot use a lawyer or assistance of their own choosing to pursue an application, because the nursing facility wants to do the application themselves. Must the family do this themselves or with the “assistance” of the company sending them five-figure bills each month?
Families of nursing home residents need and are entitled to consult advocates of their choosing. A nursing home has an inherent conflict of interest when representing a family on a Medicaid application or anything else, not least of which because they are pursuing the application for their own benefit. If a family had contacted a lawyer from Archer Law Office or any other elder law firm, we would have simply told the facility to contact us and not to discuss financial matters with the family. Our full-time Medicaid specialists draw on years of experience with thousands of files to guide families through stressful times.
What lessons can we draw from this mess?
There’s one easy one here: every family needs an advocate, and the nursing home is not there to serve as that advocate. They provide an environment to care for your loved one, and often they do a good job, but ultimately they are a business and must look out for their own best interest. It is absolutely essential that you look for a source of information when making a decision about where to place your loved one and how to seek the appropriate government benefits available to them. The team at Archer Law Office has the perfect combination of staff and experience to handle any crisis situation and provide your family with the stability and guidance you need.
Archer Law Office Can Help
For More Information Contact this office (609) 842-9200