A New Form of Nursing Home Abuse

Some institutions have given new meaning to the term “nursing home abuse,” and it has nothing to do with neglecting residents’ medical needs or ignoring their safety—it’s about abusing the legal system to gain control over their residents’ property.

They do this, the New York Times reports, by filing a petition in state court for legal guardianship. Guardianship gives a person or company power over an individual’s legal rights, including the power to decide what to do with the individual’s assets. Usually, close family members petition for guardianship when their loved ones are incapable of taking care of themselves or managing their own finances. Nursing homes are now trying to exploit this legal procedure for the sole purpose of collecting their residents’ debts—often over the objections of family members.

One judge has been “outraged by the behavior,” noting that nursing homes that “were supposed to protect the person” have “unabashedly demonstrated…that they are only interested in getting paid.”

Using the legal system to intimidate and exploit nursing-home residents—who are by definition vulnerable—is more than abusive; it’s despicable.

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