Senior America's Information Magazine


Nursing Home/Assisted Living Disputes

Dealing with nursing home disputes

Nursing home challenges - Anytime that you place a loved one in the care of others, there is always room for disagreement.  Some disagreements are not much more than a difference in opinion or a misunderstanding, others are relatively severe and cause for demanding immediate action and turning to authorities for resolution.   No matter how sensitive and caring the staff of a nursing home, nursing home staff and the senior or the senior's family can develop a misunderstanding or a disagreement.

Regardless of the cause of the disagreement, none seems trivial when a family member is involved and the irritations can mount due to the fact that the family member has to deal with it every day.  Examples of such irritations can range from disrespect, to not honoring agreements, outright abuse.  Few assisted living centers will live up to everybodyís expectations. 

Just how you go about resolving these disagreements will vary depending upon the severity of the problem and the personalities involved.  There are however, steps that should be taken in resolving any dispute with legal intervention being reserved for the most severe circumstances or when there are no other alternatives available.  Legal intervention often spells the end of resolving any dispute by any other means and often means that there will be no chance that both parties will be happy with any future living arrangements. 

When significant problems arise, itís often best to involve a geriatric care manager (GCM).  A GCM will act as independent expert who can evaluate the conditions and disagreements in light of state and Federal laws, industry norms, and the specific needs of the senior.  The GCM can also often act as a mediator to talk to the administrator of the assisted living center in terms that they understand, with less emotion because they are not personally involved.  Administrators know that the opinion of a GCM is important as an independent person, should the case ever have to be resolved in court.  In short, assisted living center administrators often attempt to work with a GCM when they would not with an irate family member. 

As mentioned above, there are various steps to take to resolve all differences.  These steps are not only important in trying to resolve differences quickly and without personality clashes, they will help deliver your case in the event that you have to go to court.  Be sure to always take very detailed notes on any contact that you have including the outcome of each and every contact.  Include the date, name of the person that you talked to, the topic discussed, the outcome, and the specifics and descriptions of the care received by your family member. 

  1. Talk to the on-duty, everyday staff. Let them know the nature of your concern and how you would like it resolved.  In some cases, the staff member may not have understood the nature of the problem or the extent to which it matters to you.  

    In other cases, they may also have been concerned about the issue but have lacked the resolve or ammunition to go to their superiors to correct the problem.  At this point, you are looking to get someone on your side so ask for their assistance rather than becoming argumentative. 

  2. Talk to the nursing chief or an assisted living center administrator. Explain the problem fully and ask for their assistance.  Again, you are looking for this personís assistance so expect that they will resolve the issue.  

    The administrator may be unaware of your concern or it may involve an employee problem that they were unaware of.  Administrators are charged with business requisites such as not losing clients.  

    They are often quite happy that you chose to come to them because if an issue exists, it may exist elsewhere and they are afforded the opportunity to nip the issue before losing multiple residents.  

  3. Contact the ombudsperson assigned to the nursing home. He or she should be able to intervene and get a reasonable result. Contact information for the Ombudsman Program in your state can be found at: Ombudsmans

  4. If the problem constitutes a violation of the resident rights, report it to the state licensing agency. The facility will usually respond quickly to this kind of pressure because they could face an extensive investigation and/or loss of their license.  A lost license means they are out of business.

  5. Contact a GCM to do a full investigation and mediate on your behalf. Again, the care center will generally listen to this person more than they will an irate family member.  They know that this person is an expert and the situation has become quite serious.

  6. Hire a lawyer. This is about the last alternative and will probably mean that all other methods of resolving the dispute have come to an end.  Once an attorney is hired, most care centers will avoid dealing with you directly and therefore, the costs go up.  

    At this point, the care center will probably do just about anything they can to avoid any contracts they have and you may be stuck with the last alternative. 

  7. Move your family member to another location.  Though this can be difficult and very costly, it may still be your only option.

Disclaimer:  These pages are created to inform and educate the public only.  They are not and should not be considered legal opinions or advice.  You do not and cannot have any client-attorney relationship with SeniorMag or any of its employees.  You should not act upon legal advice found on SeniorMag and are advised to seek professional counsel before taking any action based upon information found on this site. 


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