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Independent living residents seek same rights as assisted living residents

A group of diverse older people chatting with a counsellor during a therapy session in a residential care home
A group of diverse older people chatting with a counsellor during a therapy session in a residential care home
(Credit: Vladimir Vladimirov / Getty Images)

Independent living residents in Washington state, through a series of proposed bills, are hoping to gain access to the same rights and services afforded their assisted living counterparts.

SB 5640 would establish a residents’ rights work group to recommend a bill of rights for “nonresidents,” people (independent living residents) who live in unlicensed rooms within an assisted living community in Washington state. Currently, nonresidents may receive certain services from an assisted living community, but they are not afforded the same services and protections as residents.

The Independent Living Residents’ Work Group would be charged with creating a bill of rights that would allow nonresidents to have a process to resolve disputes regarding contracted services with assisted living owners and management.

The work group would be tasked with holding stakeholder meetings to identify barriers and issues affecting independent living residents and to develop recommendations to resolve problems by Jan. 1.

According to advocates, independent living residents sometimes “fall through the cracks” because it is unclear which rules apply to them. And sometimes, two spouses living in the same unit have different legal rights if one is receiving assisted living services and the other is an independent living resident.

Members of the work group would include independent living residents, along with representatives from the state Department of Social and Health Services, Attorney General’s Office, Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombuds, two different associations representing assisted living communities, a community-based or nonprofit organization that advocates for older adults, an attorney with expertise in landlord-tenant law, and the chair of the Dementia Action Collaborative, a group of public and private partners in Washington working to prepare the state for the growth of the population living with dementia.

Additional legislation targeting independent living

LeadingAge Washington and the Washington Health Care Association jointly told McKnight’s Senior Living that Washington, like many states, has a growing aging population that is increasingly relying on senior housing and support services. Housing and long-term care intersect in senior living communities that serve independent older adults alongside those receiving assisted living care.

Washington law, the associations noted, treats independent living residencies — which are considered residential tenancies — differently than assisted living care.

Along with considering legislation to create a work group to make recommendations for additional protections for older adults co-housed with assisted living residents, lawmakers also are considering SHB 2275, which would create baseline resident rights in independent senior housing facilities that serve adults 55 and older who are not receiving long-term care services.

In addition, another measure being considered by lawmakers would amend the Landlord Tenant Act and apply to independent older adults. HB 2114 / SB 5961 would limit fees and rent increases, provide additional notice requirements and create a cause of action for damages against landlords who violate certain provisions.

LeadingAge Washington and WHCA said they are closely monitoring all of these initiatives.

“As community settings like assisted living continue to expand to meet the needs of the aging population, we anticipate sustained public interest in independent senior housing,” the associations said in a joint statement. “Washington is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation for long-term service and support delivery, and our state has implemented thoughtful regulations over the years to safeguard residents in licensed settings.”

They added the legislature faces the challenge of determining how to extend appropriate oversight to independent living residences while considering the overlay of current regulations under the Landlord Tenant Act. Both associations said they would actively participate in the workgroup and work with lawmakers on a path forward.

Read more state news here.

Source: McKnights Seniorliving

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