A growing trend in nursing homes has many families worried about their financial futures. Nursing home chains have begun suing for legal guardianship of patients in order to seize control of their assets. While their actions are presented as necessary for patients who do not have the mental faculties to make decisions, in reality it often plays out as just heavy-handed debt collecting.
In South Carolina, a legal guardian is a person, institution or agency appointed by the Probate Court to handle personal matters for an incapacitated person. This can include people with mental illnesses, drug addicts, and, increasingly, seniors.
Many nursing homes worry about getting paid by their patients, some who are incapable of making decisions or pass away before ensuring all bills are paid. If a patient’s family proves difficult when it comes time to pay bills, a nursing home facility is left in a jam. Suing for guardianship becomes a better alternative to going broke.
But this is by no means an excuse to take away the civil rights of senior patients.
In January, the New York Times reported a husband, who disputed a spike in nursing home bills for his wife and complained about the inexperience of the staff that dropped her on the floor, received a six-page legal document from the Mary Manning Walsh Nursing Home seeking guardianship.
Earlier this month, a bill was introduced in Florida by State Sen. Nancy Detert to protect people who were denied due process in court and afterward in guardianship cases. She told the Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, Fla., “Some predators in this field have created their own cottage industry and are crawling through cracks in our otherwise very good laws and taking advantage of the elderly.”
What both stories tell us is guardianship cases are hard to tackle. They are often closed to the public for confidentiality. In the New York Times article, however, Hunter College researched 700 guardianship cases filed in Manhattan over the past 10 years. More than 12% were filed by nursing homes.
Reporting Nursing Home Mistreatment
It is our duty to take care of our seniors and make sure they are in facilities that will treat them with respect. Taking over guardianship should only be exercised when the patient is in true danger without it. If your loved one has suffered a serious injury or financial exploitation by a nursing home, call the Law Office of W. Andrew Arnold at 864-242-4800 and tell us your story.