By Steve Moran
This morning I was sent a link to an article at NPR titled “Nursing Homes Are Suing Friends and Family to Collect on Patients’ Bills.” The story is about a relatively small number of nursing homes that are suing pretty much anyone who signed a nursing home admission agreement for a friend or family member.
The basis for the lawsuit is something called “fraudulent conveyance,” which is a term used to describe the process of transferring assets to friends and family members in order to avoid paying legally obligated debts like nursing home bills.
When fraudulent conveyance does occur, the nursing home should sue and should win, but it appears that in many cases, nursing homes are suing with little to no evidence, hoping they will get some additional money. The problem is that many of those being sued do not have the resources or knowledge to deal with these actions.
The hard reality is that senior living, like every other industry sector, has a small number of operators who are terrible. They are led by individuals who are desperate, greedy, immoral, or all three. They do real and sometimes lifelong damage to people. Residents, family members, employees, and THE INDUSTRY.
The industry mostly stands by silently, not wanting to shine a light on the sins of our own, fearing their sins will taint the good operators (98%+ of us). While I understand the sentiment, it is not good enough. If we want the public to trust us and the industry with their loved ones, and we want people to see senior living as fine and wonderful places to work, we must celebrate the good and condemn the bad.
Lessons From the Nursing Home Industry
Mostly in the past, the nursing home industry has refused to condemn the bad actors, wanting to protect their own. As a result, nursing homes are regulated like crazy (can you imagine that kind of regulation in assisted living?), and there are still too many nursing homes that are a disaster for residents and team members.
This is a great opportunity for us to condemn the bad and point out the differences between the good and the bad.
A Final Note
Senior living is a tough business, with a zillion opportunities for things to go bad in every community every single day. I know that some of the best operators in the whole world have had some terrible things happen in their communities. Sometimes 100% out of their control and sometimes because of a single bad employee or other outside factors.
We are not talking about these kinds of things.
Being Better and More Moral
A year or two ago, a website that specializes in making senior living and other types of organizations look bad in the public eye did a hatchet job on a really good senior living organization. In this case, they exploited a single bad employee who did no real harm to residents. We ignored it, and mostly the rest of the world did too.
But there are organizations that consistently hurt people, meaning they don’t care about people. Like these nursing homes suing innocent friends and family members.
We will be better and more moral when we start condemning and shaming those who behave in this fashion.