|Posted:||September 5, 2018 11:41 AM|
|From:||Senator Donald C. White and Sen. Kim L. Ward|
|To:||All Senate members|
|Subject:||Independent Senior Living Facility Privacy Act|
|In the near future, we plan to introduce legislation to address what we believe to be a violation of the privacy and rights of senior citizens currently living in independent senior living facilities.
The specific case bringing this issue to our attention involved a Westmoreland County Continuing Care Retirement Community that offered a variety of living and service options for seniors, including private apartments, home care, personal care homes, and nursing facilities.
The privacy issue first came to light when state agency officials interpreted current law as allowing them to gain access to private apartments in order to audit/interview seniors residing on the Westmoreland retirement community campus. In doing so, the agency deemed a number of residents as unfit to live alone—conclusions that were made without adequate information. Examples include circumstances where, although a resident was unable to grocery shop, the groceries were delivered instead. Another resident wasn’t able to handle her finances, but was helped regularly by her daughter, while another had difficulty with medication management, but had assistance from a spouse. Despite contractual language between the resident and the facility that seeks to define when a resident is deemed unable to live independently, the “audit” resulted in a fine, and a cease and desist order for operation of an illegal personal care home. The state agency, in their letter, required that every resident interviewed be moved into another wing of the facility (at a considerably higher cost to the resident).
We believe the agency violated the privacy of the older adults they interviewed, failing to tell them their informal answers to questions could be used to impact their living situation or that they could decline to participate in the audit. Additionally, the retirement community staff provides programming to informally gauge residents in independent living facilities, providing assistance, opportunities for regular wellness checks, and counsel for residents who may want or need to move to a different level of care. As such, we believe the state agency overstepped their authority in conducting the audit in the first place.
Our legislation would allow seniors to live freely in their apartments on these campuses without fear of inspection from state agencies unless there is a reason to suspect abuse or serious neglect. Specifically, the bill would amend the Human Services Code to exclude certain senior living units that are not providing round the clock care or services from the definition of personal care home.
This proposed legislation has a companion bill in the House – HB 2291, which was amended to clarify that any premise not providing supervision or personal care for 24 continuous hours will be excluded from the definition of “personal care home.” The amended bill would continue to allow for the state long-term care ombudsman to advocate on behalf of the applicable residents. It is our intention to introduce the amended version of HB 2291.
Please join us in protecting the privacy and rights of seniors by cosponsoring this legislation. If you have any questions, please contact Anne Achenbach (Senator White), 7-4404, email@example.com or Geri Sarfert (Senator Ward), 7-1640, firstname.lastname@example.org