What Are My Rights

There are several common facts that people should know about long term care facilities.  Long term care facilities come in different varieties.  There are assisted living residences, a nursing facilities (commonly known as a nursing homes), and a continuing care retirement communities or CCRC.  Each type of facility is governed by different laws and each has a different type of license.

From a layperson’s point of view—which to a large extent includes me because I am not qualified or overly knowledgeable about the licensing standards for each of these facilities—an assisted living residence is similar to a hotel in appearance.  Compared to a nursing facility, an assisted living residence typically will have fewer professional staff members (for instance, nurses) than a nursing facility.

The residents often live in a room by themselves and share common areas for eating and socializing. The residents of assisted living residences are typically more active than residents of nursing facilities.  The residents will frequently go on day trips organized by the facility.

Nursing facilities when compared with assisted living residences are more hospital-like in nature. There are a number of nurses on duty at any given time and the residents are frequently visited by a staff physician.

Residents are often less cognizant of their surroundings than residents of assisted living residences. The residents rarely, if ever, go on day trips.  Unless there is a medical reason for a resident to have his own room, residents share rooms with one or more other residents of the facility.

A continuing care retirement community has various living arrangements at one facility. Most residents live in independent living areas, essentially apartments, but with common areas for eating and socialization.  If a resident’s care needs increase, the resident can move to the assisted living section of the CCRC, and if the resident’s care needs increase significantly, the resident can move to the nursing facility section of the CCRC.

The benefit of a CCRC is that the resident never has to leave the facility—or so they are told—if their care needs increase; the resident simply moves to a different area of the same CCRC. CCRC’s cost more than standalone assisted living residences and nursing facilities.  A CCRC will frequently require a large, upfront entrance fee—ranging anywhere from $100,000 to $500,000.  The entrance fee may be partially or wholly refundable when the resident vacates the CCRC, though the resident does not earn interest on the money given for the entrance fee.

Each of these facilities is governed by its own set of rules. For instance, residents of nursing facilities have significant rights that have been codified since 1987 in the Nursing Home Reform Act.  The right to privacy, the right to visit with friends and family, and the right to be free from restraints are just a few of the legal rights that have been established by the law for every nursing facility resident in this country for the past thirty years.  A resident of the nursing facility section of a CCRC would also be protected by the rights codified in the Nursing Home Reform Act.

On the other hand, a resident of an assisted living resident has far fewer legal rights than a nursing facility resident. I know of no codified system of rights that protects an assisted living resident.

The differences in the rights granted to the residents of these different facilities can make practical differences in the lives of the residents. Next week, I will write about how the rights of residents can have a practical application to the residents’ lives and the lives of their family members.

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