Perhaps the worst thing about growing old in this country is the vast array of people and institutions that line up around the block to feed off of us, and off of our children.
When Linda's father was sick the first time, we ended up getting him in an apartment near us. Turns out the landlord there specializes in renting to senior citizens who are likely to die or become too infirm to stay in the apartment, and he also specializes in tricking the children of the tenant to co-sign the lease, and then holds the child responsible for the entire amount of the remaining lease (which, as we learned, can be up to 14 months, or approx $14,000, as he requires 90 days written notice to end the lease).
We also learned that, in the case that a poor person becomes infirm and has to go to a nursing home, it is illegal for his money to be used to pay his outstanding debts, except for approved medically necessary bills. This included his rent, et. al., and even some of his hospital bill. If any of his money was used in this fashion, the nursing home (with the support of the welfare office) can sue the adult children of the poor person. Precedent in Pennsylvania is that the nursing homes typically win these cases. Also, there may be criminal penalties, the adult children can be thrown in jail for up to 6 months.
A cheap, crappy nursing home costs in excess of $7000 per month. If the welfare folks decide that they should not pay for a poor person's nursing home care, the nursing home can and will go after the children of the poor person for the money. Even if said child has not seen her parent since he abandoned her at age 10. The child is still legally responsible for somehow coming up with $7k per month.
Now in our particular case, Linda's father died before all his money was gone. The nursing home owes us $1968.
Let us describe the circumstances of Sig's passing.
We received a call early one morning saying that Sig was found slumped over, and they were not able to revive him. The nurse believed that it was a heart attack. We would be receiving a call from the doctor soon.
We waited. No call. Linda called the nursing home multiple times throughout the morning, and was not able to get through to anyone who could talk to her about her father. Someone, she was told, would call her back. Nobody ever did. Nor did she ever talk to the doctor. Eventually, in the early afternoon, she talked to someone who berated her for not having contacted the funeral home and had someone come and pick up the body. "He's been here a while, you know."
When we visited him at the funeral home, we noticed that the side of his face was all cut and bruised. This seems at odds with the report that he had been "slumped over." We also discovered that his jewelry, the only things he owned that were of any small value, had been stolen off his body, while still at the nursing home. His jewelry consisted of a silver ring and a silver bracelet that had belonged to his father, engraved with their common name. We had planned on giving these to his two grandchildren.
Unsurprisingly, the nursing home was unable to discover anything. They promised to reimburse us "the maximum" of $300.
After that, no word from the nursing home. No reimbursement check. No refund check. Nobody ever there to take Linda's calls about these things. Eventually, she got hold of someone. The check, she was told, had been cut and sitting on the desk for a month because they didn't have an address to send it to. This, despite the fact that they got all our information right from the very beginning, and were quite willing to send us stuff in the mail when it came to getting money.
So they sent us a check. The check is made out to "the estate of..." We cannot cash this check unless we create an Estate for the purpose of cashing this check, which involves what is most likely more costs once all things are said and done than the amount of the check. We talked to the nursing home.
"It is illegal," we were told, "for us to make the check out to the family of the decedent."
The nice people at the bank contacted the nice people at the courthouse. The nice people at the courthouse said that this was bullshit. That for smaller amounts, there is no reason to put things into probate and involve the courts and all the legal fees involved in that, and that the law specifies that there is an exception for small amounts. The law stipulates that the nursing home can make the check out directly to the families in cases where the refund is $4000 or less. Nursing homes, the people at the courthouse said, do this on purpose, knowing that there's no way for people to ever cash the checks, so that they can keep the money.
They then faxed us a copy of the code specifying the exception for smaller amounts of money.
It took me from mid-December until yesterday to actually get ahold of and speak to the director of the nursing home. Mostly, I would call and be told that he was in a meeting, and then he would fail to return my calls. We had a brief discussion. He seemed surprised that an exception existed, and moreover, disbelieved it. I got his email address and forwarded him a copy.
This morning, we received a response. While very polite, it was a "fuck you, we're keeping the money" letter.
"I'm sure you will understand the facility's position"
It is not about us getting the money, though it would be nice if the kids could get something from their grandfather. It is about them not getting to keep the money.
Anyone out there know a lawyer who wants to set a precedent to end a systemic injustice?