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News10NBC Investigates a nursing home ultimatum: ‘Sign it or you're out’

Berkeley Brean
Created: February 06, 2020 06:10 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Sign it or you're out. That's the ultimatum families say they faced when they put a loved one into a nursing home.

It's the latest News10NBC investigation into how some nursing homes are treating families.  

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Last week, we showed you how a dozen local nursing homes using a few local law firms are suing the spouses, children, grandchildren, relatives and friends of residents for tens of thousands of dollars. 

Now News10NBC exposes the ultimatum some nursing homes put on families at a moment of crisis. 

"So my dad has Alzheimer's," Kelly Hodge said. 

Hodge's father is a Vietnam veteran, a retired police officer and a grandfather. Before Christmas, Kelly and her family had to move him to a nursing home upstate. 

Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "And then the admission agreement comes."

Kelly Hodge: "Yep."

It was 33 pages long. 

Kelly, who lives in Fairport, said she wanted a lawyer to look at it before she signed it. With the lawyer's advice, she crossed out certain sections. But she says the nursing refused to accept the changes. 

Hodge: "And then it became not only will they not move him but they would give his room away."

Brean: "They were going to discharge him."

Hodge: "They claimed they would discharge him, that we could discuss the discharge process."

Brean: "Because you didn't sign the agreement."

Hodge: "Yes."

The nursing home actually put it in writing. 

News10NBC obtained emails sent from the nursing home to Kelly Hodge. 

On Jan. 17, the email from the nursing home says her father's move to the "long term care unit cannot occur without the signed admission agreement."

On Jan. 20, the email said if Kelly didn't sign the agreement her father's room would go to "another family" and then they would "begin the discharge planning process." 

Hodge: "There was no negotiations. It was just, let's talk about discharge."

Brean: "Sign it or he's out."

Hodge: "Yes."

"And now they're hearing this, and it is: ‘Sign this right now or else we're discharging you,’" attorney Tim Pellittiere said. 

Pellittiere is the lawyer Kelly Hodge went to.

Timothy Pellittiere, Esq., Pellittiere & Jonsson, PLLC: "Or you have to sign it, it can't be modified, it can't be changed. We can't change any of the language. Sign it as it is. That's not a freely negotiated contract."

Brean: "But it's by signing these contracts that people are opening themselves up to getting sued."

Pellittiere: "What choice do they have?"

For the last two months, I compiled a list of more than six dozen lawsuits by non-profit nursing homes against residents, some of them dead, and their daughters, sons, spouses, nieces, nephews and friends. 

Click here to watch our investigations into the lawsuits, including a woman sued for $21,000 after she tried to help her friend into a nursing home.

In almost every case, the relative or friend getting sued signed their loved one's admission agreement because it made them the "financial agent." 

Brean: "So what is the answer here? Don't sign these agreements if you have a loved one going into a nursing home?”

Miles Zatkowsky, Dutcher & Zatkowsky Elder Law: "Again that gets complicated because what clients are telling us is that if I don't sign the agreement as is, I'm not getting a bed offer."

Miles Zatkowsky is an elder law attorney in Brighton.

Kelly Hodge eventually signed the agreement and her dad got a bed. 

But she added her own handwritten part to the agreement. It says "I have been told... that I must sign this contract as is, without any changes, or my father will be discharged from the facility." 

It was signed by her and the nursing home. 

"Now, I signed this knowing that eventually I could be sued," Hodge said. "But I also know they don't have a strong case. But I knew that. My attorney told me that. People don't know that."

Kelly asked that we not name the nursing home to protect her father. It's not in Rochester. It is upstate. 

I spoke with the State Association of Nursing Homes.

The CEO says nursing homes have the right, under state law, to ask a resident or their families to sign admission agreements. 


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