elder couple looking into each others eyes while a nurse smiles down at them

When you are planning for long-term care, paying for it is not the only thing on your mind. You may not know your rights as a resident of a nursing home or long-term care facility. You may not know how much freedom you are allotted. The only thing you know for certain is that your day-to-day life will not be the same as it was in your previous home.

You are not alone in needing to reside in some sort of nursing home or long-term care facility. According to the financial securities company, Morningstar, 52 percent of people that reach age 65 will need some kind of long-term care service in their lifetime.

Given that 47 percent of men ages 65 and older and 58 percent of women ages 65 and older will require long-term care, it is no secret that needs change as you get older. Your rights, however, should not.

Several states are taking action to secure the rights of seniors who may find themselves in a nursing home or long-term care facility. These lawmakers are taking steps to make their elders a priority and make sure that their final years are years of dignity and respect.

Minnesota’s efforts

“In the next decade, for the first time ever, more Minnesotans will be over the age of 65 than in our public schools,” state Sen. Karin Housley (R-St. Marys Point) told the Duluth News Tribune. “This isn’t just important; it’s urgent.”

The bill that passed through Minnesota state legislature includes a wide variety of reforms designed to protect seniors from abuse, as well as establish a bill of rights aimed at residents of assisted living facilities.

This bill was inspired by reports of widespread abuse and neglect in state assisted living facilities and nursing homes, according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press.

“We are committed to providing quality care to seniors,” state Senator Mark Koran (R-North Branch) told the Minnesota Senate Republican Caucus. “They deserve respect and dignity in their final years. This bill is a good step toward ensuring they are treated with kindness and compassion.”

The bill, which is expected to be signed by Gov. Tim Walz, packages several functions aimed at ensuring the rights and protections of seniors and vulnerable adults.

This includes protections for residents against retaliation in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, a process for residents to appeal a termination of housing or services, provisions giving nursing home and assisted living residents the explicitly right to use electronic monitoring devices in their rooms, and enhances the oversight of the state Office of Health Facilities Complaints, while providing funding for the Office of the Ombudsman of Long-Term Care.

It also establishes a licensure system with two levels that separate assisted living facilities from facilities with dementia care services. The dementia care services facilities will be required to undergo additional training requirements, and the licensure system would take effect by August 1, 2021.

While Minnesota is further along in their legislative efforts to defend the rights of seniors in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, several other states are working on forming their own legislation.

Ohio’s efforts

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has promised to reform the state’s oversight and regulation of home health care agencies and caregivers that leave seniors vulnerable to financial exploitation, according to ABC5 in Cleveland.

ABC5’s investigation involving Adult Protective Services and their inadequate ability to evaluate and investigate claims of the financial exploitation of seniors has sparked the need to reevaluate the hiring and training process, as well as how these agencies are inspected.

Gov. DeWine plans on consulting his cabinet, and specifically the Ohio Department of Aging, in order to determine the best course of action to correct the issues that plague these health agencies.

Georgia’s efforts

The state of Georgia also is working toward improving the lives of seniors by awarding aging services nearly $6 million in funding for functions from Meals on Wheels to providing additional caseworkers to protect seniors from abuse, to providing support services like transportation and personal assistance, according to WALB News10.

The Georgia Council on Aging and CO-AGE is an advocacy group that has been meeting with lawmakers to discuss funding and reforms, as well as the plight of middle class seniors who cannot afford the care and services that they need.

“Basically, middle class senior adults aren’t wealthy enough to afford luxury senior living, but they aren’t poor enough to qualify for the government programs that are available,” state Representative John LaHood (R-Valdosta) told WALB News10.

Multiple bills, House bills 246 and 247, have been introduced to assist police in cracking down on elder abuse in the state of Georgia. In addition, a committee made up of five state House of Representative members has been formed, tasked with forming effective legislation that will protect seniors from harm and neglect, as well as provide them the services that they need.

The committee has until December 2019 to make their recommendations, and the bills have passed both the state House and Senate, waiting to be signed by Gov. Brian Kemp.

Protect your future

When you make the decision regarding what type of nursing home or long-term care facility you wish to live in, you want to be secure in your decision and have all of the information available to you. You want to trust that your rights will be protected, and your assets will be secure.

You need to rely on your elder law attorney, in order to plan ahead for long-term care costs and Medicaid planning. They can protect your assets, while helping you pay for the care that you need as you age.

In addition, your rights need to remain protected, which is why these legislative efforts are so necessary. They actively are engaging in talks to ensure that the next chapter in your life is met with respect and dignity. Lawmakers are making sure that the services you need will be there and are looking for ways to improve conditions for years to come.

States Look to Defend Senior Rights in Long-Term Care