The Hendersonville Standard Blog
The Hendersonville Standard Blog
Nursing homes: rights and alternatives
“Old age is fifteen years older than I am.” ~U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935)
“Old age is no place for sissies.”~Bette Davis, American film, television and theatre actress (1908-1989)
The 18-year period from 1946 to 1964 is known in the United States as the “Baby Boom.” Many ‘Boomers’ born during those years are now helping their moms and dads with decisions regarding independent living versus assisted living.
This week’s column provides information about the rights of nursing home residents and their families. It is important to note, however, that there are many options available in addition to nursing homes.
Q. What are some of the other options besides nursing homes?
Community-based services such as Meals on Wheels can assist older citizens. Home health care may be a very good option, depending upon health needs. Some older persons move to in-law apartments in private homes. There are many various subsidized housing options for aging and disabled individuals.
Many older persons live in board and care homes or in assisted living facilities. Another growing trend is continuing care retirement communities. Nursing homes may be the best choice when there are serious health conditions that make these other options unworkable.
There is a free legal help booklet called “Paying for nursing home care costs with the CHOICES program.” This booklet also discusses home care alternatives to nursing home care. This helpful booklet was published by the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands. It is available online at www.las.org or you may request a copy from the Legal Aid Society at 1-800-238-1443.
Q. Do many Tennesseans live in nursing homes?
Only a small percentage of all Tennessee residents live in nursing homes and long term care facilities. However, the percentage of older Tennessee residents in nursing homes is much higher than the national average.
In 2011, the United States Department of Health and Human Services announced that the number of Americans 85 and older is increasing from 5.5 million in 2010 to 6.6 million by 2020, a 20 percent increase. This means many Tennesseans have a friend or relative in a nursing home or long term care facility.
Q. What are some of the basic rights of nursing home residents?
In Tennessee, nursing home residents are consumers who are entitled to a basic “bill of rights.” Residents/consumers shall be:
· Free to voice grievances without punishment
· Allowed to exercise their rights as a resident and as a citizen
· Free from mental and physical abuse
· Free from chemical and physical restraints
· Discharged or transferred only for medical reasons, for their own welfare or for non-payment
· Entitled to associate and communicate privately with persons of their choice
· Free to participate in social, religious and community activities
· Assured access to their personal and medical records, to be informed about their medical condition and to participate in planning their care and treatment
· Entitled to manage their own personal affairs
· Entitled to keep and use personal belongings as space permits
· Entitled to share a room with one’s spouse
Q. Who helps protect these rights?
The Tennessee Commission on Aging provides a free advocate for residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, called the Long-Term Care Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is an impartial third party whose primary purpose is the resolution of problems.
Robertson, Sumner, Trousdale and Wilson County residents and their families may contact their Ombudsman at 452-5259. For Clay, DeKalb, Jackson, Macon and Smith County residents and families, dial your Ombudsman at (931) 432-4210. For other counties, you may contact the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman at 741-2056, ext. 117, for local ombudsman contact information.
James B. (Jim) Hawkins is a general practice and public interest law attorney based in Gallatin. This column represents legal information, and is not intended to take the place of legal advice. All cases are different and need individual attention. Consult with a private attorney of your choice to review the facts and law specific to your case. To suggest future column topics, call 452-9200.