When a New Jersey care center abruptly closed its doors in September 2023, families of more than 70 frail and elderly residents had one day to find alternative care for their loved ones, according to news reports. Princeton Care Center’s financial problems grew over the years and was shut down after its operators could not pay rent or salaries, news reports said.
Princeton Care Center is just one of many high-profile nursing facility shutdowns in the last 10 years, leaving thousands of seniors without a place to live and with disruptions in their care. An August 2023 report by the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living found 579 nursing homes in the U.S. closed since 2020, leaving more than 21,000 residents displaced. The report notes a December 2022 analysis by a private accounting and consulting firm that found that nearly 450,000 nursing home residents may be at risk for displacement.
What’s Causing Nursing Care Centers to Shut Down?
More than 1.3 million people in the U.S. live in nursing homes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics from 2020. Anecdotally, one study found that New Jersey had the highest prevalence of people living in nursing homes — 14 out of every 100,000 residents. That’s a lot of vulnerable people at risk for traumatic disruptions in their living and health care routines.
The AHCA/NCAL report and others cite labor shortages, inflation and government underfunding as contributors to the increase in care facility closures. A 2020 Forbes article analyzed a variety of studies and concluded that nursing facilities are shuttering rapidly for the above reasons, as well as increased competition and shrinking demand as people increasingly want to age at home.
How Can Families be Prepared for an Unexpected Nursing Care Facility Closure?
However, other reports say that an aging population has increased nursing care center demand. Either way, finding quality, skilled care is difficult for families. When faced with finding that care and making decisions within the span of only a few hours or days, the stress and risks only grow.
While we always hope that the ill and elderly are secure in their care facilities, it’s always smart to plan ahead. Here are some things families should do to be prepared for the unexpected closure of a nursing home:
- Stay informed: Keep up-to-date on the latest news and information about the nursing home, including reading the facility’s newsletter and other communications, attending resident meetings and regularly talking to the staff.
- Develop a plan: Know what you will do in the event of a nursing home closure by having a list of potential alternative nursing homes. Also have plans for how to move your loved one, pay for relocation costs and how to communicate with your loved one about the move.
- Gather important documents: Keep everything together in a place you can quickly access. These documents include the nursing home’s resident care plan, admission agreement and insurance information. They should also include your loved one’s medical records and financial information.
- Have the contact information for an ombudsman: An ombudsman is an advocate for nursing home residents who can provide information and support to families who are dealing with a nursing home closure.
- Seek legal advice: If you are concerned about the possibility of a nursing home closure, you should speak with an elder law attorney who can help you to understand your rights and options. Should your loved one’s nursing home close unexpectedly, contact an experienced elder law attorney immediately.
By taking these steps, families can be prepared for the unexpected closure of a nursing home. This will help to ensure that their loved one receives the care they need, no matter what happens.