Gloria Single isn’t asking for much.
The 82-year-old California woman, who suffers from dementia, pulmonary disease and other ailments, just wants to go back to living with her 93-year-old husband, Bill, at a Sacramento nursing home.
Single had lived there until March, when the facility sent her to Sutter Medical Center for a psychological evaluation without her or her family’s consent. The hospital cleared her to return the same day, but the nursing home refused to take her back.
The nursing home, Pioneer House of Sacramento, has continued to refuse to readmit her, even though after a hearing in May the California Department of Health Care Services ordered it to give Single its first available bed.
Single’s best hope for rejoining her husband now rests in a lawsuit filed by AARP Foundation against Pioneer House and its management company, RHF. AARP Foundation hopes to use the case to fight an increase in illegal nursing home evictions. In 2016, AARP and AARP Foundation filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concerning the state of California’s failure to enforce administrative decisions like the one that found in Single’s favor.
“The problem of patient dumping is one of the most troubling complaints of nursing home residents throughout the country,” says William Alvarado Rivera, AARP Foundation’s senior vice president for litigation. “This is basically a form of abuse by nursing homes that dump these patients, especially Medicaid patients, to fill their beds with ‘better’ residents. Until someone holds them accountable, they can keep doing these things.”
The complaint filed in Superior Court of California says: “Nursing facilities, such as Pioneer House, routinely ignore state readmission orders because the state refuses to enforce them itself.” It says that Single’s case is typical of a practice that some nursing homes use to get rid of patients they don’t want.
“To maximize profit through decreased staffing, unscrupulous nursing facilities try to illegally evict the residents who are the neediest of staff time and require the greatest levels of care,” the complaint says. “One such method is hospital dumping, in which the facility gives away the resident’s bed when the resident is temporarily hospitalized and refuses to readmit the resident after she is medically cleared to come home.”
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Single and the California Long-Term Care Ombudsman Association, alleges that the nursing home violated various rights that patients have under federal and state laws before they can be evicted from the facilities.
The complaint says Single was stuck in a hospital for about three months because of the nursing home’s refusal to take her back. During that time, it says, she had no activity, stopped talking and lost her ability to walk as a result of being confined to a hospital bed.
She eventually agreed to be placed in a different nursing facility but is eager to rejoin her husband at Pioneer.
“Ms. Single is spending what may be the last days of her life separated from her husband,” the suit says, calling that separation “irreparable and cruel.”
At the state hearing in May, the nursing home said it called 911 to take Single to a hospital after she became agitated in a dining room and began yelling and throwing plastic utensils. It contended that her primary needs were related to mental health and could best be met at a different facility.
The hearing officer ruled that the nursing home had failed to comply with state rules for holding the hospital beds of nursing home patients when they are sent to the hospital.
On Tuesday, the court denied the AARP Foundation request for an emergency order to readmit Single but urged her attorneys to seek an expedited trial date.
AARP Foundation wants the court to find that the facility acted illegally, a ruling that could be used by other nursing home residents attempting to fight illegal evictions.