States and the federal government are reporting a rising risk for the 1.3 million Americans now in nursing homes—being improperly evicted. But there are ways to fight back.

In a typical scenario, an elderly person with low income is discharged from the hospital to a nursing home for rehab after a major operation or injury. But after a few weeks—and before the patient is truly able to return home—the nursing home tells the patient that therapy is no longer helping and the bed is going to someone else.

In other words, get out.

What’s really going on: The temporary insurance coverage by Medicare is about to run out—typically 20 full-pay days and up to 80 additional partial-pay days. Before lower-paying Medicaid kicks in, the patient is shown the door.

Another scenario: With dementia patients—even some with private pay—the family is told that the patient is a hazard to other residents. What’s really going on: The institution is looking for easier-to-manage patients.

If your loved one is told to start packing, don’t panic. Federal regulations require notice, in writing, 30 days before discharge, that specifies a legitimate reason such as patient improvement or endangerment to others.

Important: You have a right to appeal. Do so immediately—your loved one can stay in place for 30 days during the process. Contact your state’s long-term-care ombudsman’s office. (To find one in your state, go to

Another option: Hire a private ­patient advocate, who can determine if the cause for the resident’s status change can be remedied…initiate a plan…get appropriate parties working together…engage new resources…and improve communications. To find one, go to

For more information about the rights of nursing home residents, go to website and search for “involuntary transfer and discharge.” You’ll find a wealth of materials that let you know your rights and how to fight for them. ­

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