Legislation Would Establish “Bill of Rights” to Protect Vulnerable Seniors
Bipartisan legislation sponsored on the Democratic side by Assemblywomen Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Shavonda Sumter to protect the rights and safety of the elderly living in continuing care communities was advanced by an Assembly panel on Thursday.
“Continuing care retirement communities offer lifetime housing and a range of care based on needs,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “This legislation will make sure that as those needs change and as financial concerns emerge, there are fair and reasonable protections in place.”
The bill (A-3132) would create the “Bill of Rights for Continuing Care Retirement Community Residents in Independent Living” to establish and clarify the rights of residents living in continuing care retirement communities.
“This will help provide residents in continuing care facilities with a proper voice to ensure that their needs and rights are protected,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). “More importantly, it will help improve their quality of life at a time when their health may be particularly fragile, making a crucial difference in their day-to-day living.”
The rights involved cover entry into Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs), occupancy, transfer from an independent living environment, communication between the facility and the resident, financial issues, termination of service, and penalties for facilities who violate the provisions of this bill and the “Continuing Care Retirement Community Regulation and Financial Disclosure Act.”
Any facility in violation of the provisions of the bill would face a cease-and-desist order and fines ranging from $250 to $50,000. Chief among the rights enumerated in the bill are:
- Permits residents to see their own medical records, participate in their own medical decisions, refuse treatments and determine their life support choices in advance;
- Affords each resident the ability to leave and return to the facility at will, to host guests for reasonable amounts of time, and to refuse to perform services for the facility without coercion;
- Requires facilities to give notice before changing services and fees;
- Requires facilities to maintain and make available records of resident complaints;
- Limits the circumstances under which a resident must leave a unit;
- Allows residents to cancel their continuing care agreements within 30 days;
- Guarantees a reasonable amount of privacy in their units;
- Affords the right to participate in residents’ associations, to seek advocacy, to file complaints and to have those complaints investigated promptly; and
- Permits residents to execute an advance directive concerning the use of life sustaining treatment and the right to expect that the provisions of the advance directive be executed to the fullest extent possible.
The bill was approved by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.