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Nursing homes turn to eviction to drop difficult patients

NEW YORK (AP) — Nursing homes are increasingly evicting their most challenging residents, advocates for the aged and disabled say, testing protections for some of society’s most vulnerable.

Those targeted for eviction are frequently poor and suffering from dementia, according to residents’ allies. They often put up little fight, their families unsure what to do. Removing them makes room for less labor-intensive and more profitable patients, critics of the tactic say, noting it can be shattering.

“It’s not just losing their home. It’s losing their whole community, it’s losing their familiar caregivers, it’s losing their roommate, it’s losing the people they sit with and have meals with,” said Alison Hirschel, an attorney who directs the Michigan Elder Justice Initiative and has fought evictions. “It’s completely devastating.”

Complaints and lawsuits across the U.S. point to a spike in evictions even as observers note available records only give a glimpse of the problem.

An Associated Press analysis of federal data from the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program finds complaints about discharges and evictions are up about 57 percent since 2000. It was the top-reported grievance in 2014, with 11,331 such issues logged by ombudsmen, who work to resolve problems faced by residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other adult-care settings.

“When they get tired of caring for the resident, they kick the resident out,” said Richard Mollot of the Long Term Care Community Coalition, a New York advocacy group.

That is often because the resident came to be regarded as undesirable — requiring a greater level of care, exhibiting dementia-induced signs of aggression, or having a family that complained repeatedly about treatment, advocates say. Federal law spells out rules on acceptable transfers, but the advocates say offending facilities routinely stretch permitted justifications for discharge. Even when families fight a move and win an appeal, some homes have disregarded rulings.

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