Local Nursing Home Confines Resident Against her Will and Denies Visits from Family

When a loved one is entering a nursing home, understandably, there is a lot of worry and concern. What most people do not worry about, however, is the possibility that our loved one might be held there against his or her will or that we might not be allowed to visit. That is exactly what happened to a local woman, who was the subject of a case captioned, NMS Healthcare of Hagerstown v. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Docket No. C-14-1566 and decided on April 10, 2015.

The case involved a woman in her seventies who was a resident of NMS Healthcare of Hagerstown (“Nursing Home”). When she first arrived at the Nursing Home, she was free to come and go within the premises.  After a brief stay in the hospital for chest pains, the Nursing Home placed her, upon her return, in a locked unit and denied her access to other parts of the facility. Despite the resident’s protestations, the Nursing Home also denied her visits from members of her immediate family and an attorney who she asked to meet with for legal advice. 

The Nursing Home stated that its actions were in her best interests and in part based on a power of attorney held by the resident’s daughter, who wanted her mother confined.  Medicare’s investigation found no basis in the Nursing Home’s clinical records that would support confining the resident against her will. Instead, the record showed that the resident was calm and cooperative. Medicare found that the Nursing Home’s violation of the Medicare rules was so egregious that it put its residents in “immediate jeopardy”, and imposed considerable civil penalties on the Nursing Home.

The Nursing Home appealed the decision to the Appeals Board of the Department of Health and Human Services and the decision was affirmed. The Judge who authored the opinion stated that the “regulations governing skilled nursing facilities do not allow facilities to abdicate their responsibilities to residents in order to cater to the whims of residents’ family members, whether or not they have POAs.”  Opinion, pg. 10.  The nursing home must find the “least restrictive approach that is reasonable to protect the resident and assure his or her health and safety.  Id. Nursing facilities are not intended to be prisons for older or incapacitate individuals. Residents of nursing facilities have rights and those rights include the right to freedom of movement.”  Opinion, pg. 11.  In this case, the “resident was imprisoned against her will without any clinical evidence supporting her imprisonment.”  Opinion, 12.  Strike one in favor of the rights of our loved ones in nursing homes.

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