For the first time since its founding, the legal branch of AARP Foundation is suing a California nursing home for allegedly evicting an 83-year-old woman without due cause or notice. This is one of the first official responses to a growing trend of illegal nursing home evictions across the country.
It all started when 83-year-old Gloria Single was kicked out of the Pioneer House nursing home in March 2017. Before her eviction, she had lived in the California nursing home with her husband, Bill Single. The two have been married for more than 30 years.
But Bill and Gloria Single were separated after Gloria was evicted from their home last spring. Bill was allowed to continue living in the home, while Gloria had to find accommodations elsewhere. After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and a number of other medical conditions, Gloria Single has been unable to live on her own for many years. She requires the level of care and expertise that nursing homes bring, as her children and family are unable to handle her needs by themselves.
Gloria Single’s family claims that this is a case of an illegal nursing home eviction, and that she should never have been removed from the facility. Meanwhile, the nursing home staff claims that they were well within their rights to remove Single from the premises. They say that Single frequently threw objects at staff members, such as plastic dinnerware, and that she was fairly aggressive throughout her time at Pioneer House.
To remedy the problem, staff at Pioneer House had her transferred to a hospital for a psychological evaluation. But the hospital’s staff told them that Single was mentally healthy, save for her Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
But even though the hospital gave Single the green light to return to the nursing home, staff members refused to take her. They claimed that Single’s behavior was too much for their staff to handle.
Single’s family fought back. They immediately contacted the California Department of Health Care Services to demand a hearing. They claimed that this was a case of illegal nursing home eviction under the state law.
The hearing was a success for Single’s family, and the department ruled in favor of keeping Gloria Single in Pioneer House. Unfortunately, the department has no authority to force the nursing home to comply with the ruling. To enforce the it, the family would have to go through another California state agency. Gloria Single’s family would have to start the hearing process all over again.
That’s when AARP Foundation stepped in. Their goal is to open a full civil rights investigation into illegal nursing home evictions, starting with California nursing homes, and perhaps moving into other nursing homes nationwide later on.
Although this is the first legal action that AARP Foundation has taken against a nursing home, similar scenarios have played out in nursing homes across the country. Studies estimate that more than 1,500 nursing home residents claim that they were wrongfully evicted, and this number is on the rise nationwide. Experts found that illegal eviction complaints have increased by 73 percent over the past six years.
Lack of beds, resources and funding are possible reasons for the rise in illegal nursing home evictions, as many nursing homes no longer have adequate tools to care for people who need a higher level of care.
Lack of resources notwithstanding, according to state law, nursing homes must give their residents at least 30-days notice before an eviction. In addition, the nursing home has to provide at least one week of hospital services for former residents. Gloria Single’s family claims that she was not given enough notice, and that she spent four-and-a-half months in a hospital without the level of care that she needed.
The latest legal action by AARP Foundation could be an early indicator of further lawsuits to come. If the Foundation represents more nursing home residents in legal cases around the country, we could see significant changes in the way that nursing homes handle evictions and communicate with the people living there.