Seniors in Continuing Care Communities in neighboring New Jersey are about to have many new ways to protect their rights and obtain better care. On Thursday, October 17, 2013, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed the “Bill of Rights for Continuing Care Retirement Community Residents in Independent Living (CCRC).” The bill covers a wide range of issues facing residents in CCRCs, including a resident’s entry into a facility, communication between the facility and the resident, financial issues, and termination of services. The bill also provides for penalties ranging from $250 to $50,000 for violations of the provisions of the bill.
The bill includes the following rights:
· Each resident will be treated with respect, courtesy, consideration, and dignity;
· Residents are permitted to see their own medical records, participate in their own medical decisions, refuse treatments, and determine their life support choices in advance;
· Each resident may file a complaint with an appropriate agency or State office without fear of retaliation from the facility;
· Facilities must keep records of all written complaints about residents’ rights, which must be available to residents as well as their family members, doctors, and the state;
· A resident may appoint a legal representative with a durable power of attorney to handle financial matters if the resident is unable to do so;
· Each resident is entitled to 30-days’ advance written notice prior to the increase of any fees;
· A resident shall have the right to have guests and visitors at the facility, and the right to allow guests to stay for a reasonable period of time in a guest apartment or unit in the facility, subject to reasonable policies and procedures of the facility;
· A resident may leave and return to their independent living unit at will, provided the resident informs the facility if they will be temporarily absent overnight, or for a longer period of time.
The bill also requires that each new prospective resident is provided information about the facility in the form of a disclosure statement and a written copy of the residents’ rights and responsibilities prior to signing an agreement. Additionally, each new resident will have the option to cancel the continuing care agreement within 30 days of signing, and the option to wait 30 days to occupy the new unit.
The Bill comes at a time when Continuing Care Retirement Communities and other assisted living facilities face increased scrutiny for elder abuse. In a national survey, New York received a failing grade in nursing home care and ranked 45th overall across the United States. Comparatively, New Jersey received a B.