NURSING HOMES ARE BUSINESSES, but they’re also meant to be homes where many people spend the last years of their lives, often with diminishing capacity. People who live in nursing homes are referred to as residents rather than patients. It’s this idea that’s at the heart of the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act, a sweeping piece of federal legislation that established a bill of rights for residents, including the right to a dignified existence, self-determination, access to community, and rights during discharges.
In March, New York passed a law strengthening protections from evictions for nursing home residents, especially to dangerous, temporary locations. Yet the law doesn’t prevent nursing homes from discharging residents for nonpayment and exploitative debts, nor does it address the financial motivations that often spur evictions, at the expense of a resident’s health, well-being, and social connections.
“[The law] doesn’t really target the central issue, unfortunately, which is that these involuntary transfers or discharges are from the business office,” said Alexia Mickles, a staff attorney at Empire Justice Center. “They’re business decisions. It doesn’t account for the medical needs of the residents.”