Is it legal that the facility demanded the check?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 27, 2016
D.odle asked...

I live in Rhode Island and I am the the primary caretaker of my grandmother who for the last five years receives benefits. My grandmother was admitted to the hospital for observation yesterday by the request of her doctor.

My grandmother told me yesterday before she left that she she might be sent to a nursing home but wasn't sure. She is still in the hospital for the weekend, at least from what I have been told.

Today the check came in the mail. My fiancee was at my apartment to check the mail for me while I was at work. Shortly after the check came in she received a call from a nursing home social worker whom threaten to press charges against her if she didn't bring the check down to them immediately and she did. All this happened today while I was away at work.

My grandmother pays half of the utilities and rent at our apartment that are due over this weekend and as I know tonight she hasn't been admitted to a home and still in the hospital for observation over the weekend.

Is it legal that they demanded the check?

My grandmother was in a home before for two months a few years ago and they couldn't take her benefits until she was there for more than three months.


Expert Answers

Carolyn Rosenblatt, R.N. and Attorney is the author of author of The Boomer's Guide to Aging Parents. She has over 40 years of combined experience in her two professions. As a nurse, she has extensive experience with geriatrics, chronic illness, pain management, dementias, disability, family dynamics, and death and dying. As a trial attorney, she advocated for for the rights of injured individuals and neglected elders. She is also co-founder of AgingParents.com.

Your question raises a serious concern of legal threats from a nursing home. It is disturbing to hear of a social worker, who is normally licensed by the state, make a threat to "press charges".

Because this sounds so absurd and so wrong, it might be worth it consider if your grandmother got the information straight. From my own experience as a nurse, I know that elders sometimes do get thrown off kilter by being in a hospital. It upsets their normal routine and disturbs everything that gives them a sense of security. It can cause people to misunderstand what others in the hospital say. Question your grandmother in detail and get as many specifics and facts as you can. Try to be objective and figure out if she is correct, or was confused.

On the other hand, your grandmother may be perfectly clear and correct about the alleged threat. If so, the social worker was dead wrong to do what was alleged. First of all, no social worker can legally "press charges" against anyone for not getting a check. Inability to pay or failure to pay is not a crime, and a social worker is not part of law enforcement. If threats of this kind were actually made, you must consider reporting this misconduct to the director or chief of staff of the hospital and to the person in charge of the social services department of the hospital.

If you are totally confident that your grandmother was in no way confused about what the social worker said, at the very least, you can put your reporting of this misconduct in writing, and send it to those mentioned above, as well as to the state's social work licensing board. An investigation is definitely in order.