Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Mobilization for Justice Helps Nursing Home Residents Live More Independently

By Daniel A. Ross

Mobilization for Justice (MFJ) (formerly MFY Legal Services) offers nursing home residents advice and representation in a wide range of legal matters.  MFJ’s Nursing Home Residents Project continues the work of Friends and Relatives of the Institutionalized and Aged (FRIA), which provided information and advice to nursing home residents and their families for 35 years.  

Callers to the Nursing Home Residents Project’s intake line receive advice about residents’ rights, decision-making, Medicaid and Medicare, and discharge planning.  We also represent individuals in administrative hearings and litigation to preserve their apartments in the community, obtain home care, and protect residents’ rights. 

For example, one of our clients, Ms. L, is a nursing home resident in Far Rockaway.  She wanted to attend her granddaughter’s graduation ceremony in the Bronx.  She contacted us when the nursing home refused to approve a day pass.  MFJ filed a lawsuit that forced the nursing home to allow her to attend the graduation.  Ms. L explained that a day pass “is important because it helps me relax, gives me something to look forward to, allows me to visit my family and reconnect with friends.”  We published a report about this widespread problem called Imprisoned in Their Homes.

In another case, Medicaid denied rehabilitation services for Ms. H, a nursing home resident who wanted to return to her apartment.  MFJ successfully challenged the denial so she could receive additional therapy. She’s looking forward to returning home.

MFJ also advocates for residents who need help getting discharged from a nursing home.  While Ms. G was in a nursing home, her landlord had illegally evicted her from her apartment.  MFJ forced the landlord to provide her with another apartment. We also helped her obtain the home care and other services she needed to succeed in the community. 

MFJ tracks trends in the complaints we receive to support policy advocacy and impact litigation.  With pro bono help from Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, we represent plaintiffs in a class action case against the Department of Health.  The lawsuit alleges that many nursing home residents have waited years for services from the Nursing Home Transition and Diversion Waiver Program.  The plaintiffs are among thousands of New Yorkers who remain trapped in nursing homes, when they could be receiving the care they need in their own homes.

MFJ hosts the Alliance of New York Family Councils (ANYFC).  ANYFC is a group of leaders of nursing home family councils who share information and advocacy strategies to ensure their loved ones receive quality care.  We also present trainings for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program and provide technical assistance to lawyers and other advocates. 

In 2012, MFJ revised FRIA’s guide for residents and families, Nursing Homes and Alternatives.  Called “the bible of long-term care for the elderly and their caregivers,” this book has been used by many families to ensure that their relatives receive the care they deserve in nursing homes.  MFJ also developed short fact sheets on common problems faced by nursing home residents and their families, including residents’ rights, visitor policies, involuntary discharge, and medical decision-making. 

For assistance with a legal problem affecting a nursing home resident, call MFJ’s Nursing Home Residents Project on Tuesdays between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. at 855-444-6477.

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