Transfer Trauma When Relocating Nursing Home Patients

By Jeffrey J. Downey

Transfer trauma refers to the psychological stress and trauma associated with being uprooted from one facility or home and being placed in a new environment.  It is especially hard on demented residents who have less coping skills to adjust to a new environment, explains nursing home abuse attorney Jeffrey Downey.

In one Virginia nursing home in the rural Appalachian Mountains 20 long term care residents were told they had to find new homes.  Some two years later over half of those residents died.

In July 2022, Ballad Health a nonprofit chain serving northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia announced it was closing Mountain View, a 44-bed nursing home in the small town of Norton.  The company explained the home was fueling “excess capacity” in the region. In other words, too many nursing home beds were not being used. The 20 long-term care residents who lived there were forced to find new homes.

After the transfer many of the residents, including Betty Jo Artrip, struggled to adjust to their new facilities. When Betty transferred to a larger facility with almost 100 beds, she became confused, anxious and fearful, according to Jerry Artrip, Betty’s youngest son. Then, “it was almost like a depression came over her,” Jerry recalls. After roughly five weeks in the new facility, Betty died. She was 93.

AARP reported that of the 18 residents who were moved only seven survive today. Though death rates among nursing home residents are typically high, Mountain View staff and families say the losses were excessive.

Forced transfer trauma is one of the many injuries that nursing home residents must face, explains attorney Jeffrey Downey.  Such cases are rarely filed in Court because such psychological trauma can be difficult to prove, especially with dementia residents who are already cognitively compromised.  Smaller nursing homes like Ballard Health often offer a more homelike environment with a staff that gets to know each resident. Residents in large, for-profit chain facilities are more likely to be neglected by staff in such facilities.  Such neglect may take the form of pressure wounds (bed sores), falls, elopements, medication errors, impaction/bowel blockage, physical abuse and wrongful death. 

About The Law Office of Jeffrey J. Downey, P.C.

We handle cases involving the neglect or abuse of seniors in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  Mr. Downey has over 30 years of experience handling malpractice and other complex litigation.  Every case is handled on a contingency basis, so you pay no attorney’s fees unless there is a recovery.  We handle cases in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. 

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Law Office of Jeffrey J. Downey

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Mclean, VA 22102

Phone: 703-564-7317

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