Every major relationship you enter into has some kind of legal ramification. Be they marital, job-related or another situation, relationships are often subject to laws or contracts that govern how they begin and end, and what happens in between. Relationships between assisted living communities and the senior adults who call them home are no exception.
Although these living arrangements are likely to be positive, beneficial, and long lasting, here are some legal considerations you and your family should be aware of prior to your becoming a resident of an assisted living community.
Generally speaking, guardianship of a senior parent is granted when a power of attorney is not in place. Guardianship is at the center of cases involving a senior parent who is believed to be incapable of making rational decisions and/or taking rational actions about critical aspects of their life such a senior’s well-being turn to the courts to gain guardianship, which involves expert findings to establish that someone is incompetent.
Depending on the state, a guardian may be granted authority to make decisions about the senior parent, the estate (property and finances), or both.
A request for guardianship can be costly, lengthy, and – for everyone involved – highly emotional. Once the court declares a senior incompetent, responsibility for such things as the person’s money, residence, and medical needs are transferred to the guardian.
Guardianship can be terminated when the senior parent regains the ability to manage decisions regarding health and money. The senior parent or the guardian has to petition the court for permission to terminate the guardianship.
Powers of attorney
A power of attorney is a proactive legal arrangement as it is generally established before a crisis develops. The arrangement involves an “attorney-in-fact” or “agent” acting on behalf of a “principal.” As the agent, an adult child can legally make decisions affecting the senior parent, or principal. However, the parent determines how much power the adult child will have. That power can govern a specific, single issue or multiple, general issues.
No matter the level of power, the power of attorney must keep meticulous records of transactions made on the senior’s behalf and must always know the scope of his or her power to make decisions and take action. Power of attorney can be voided in two ways, provided the senior parent is still competent:
- Destroying the power of attorney
- Revoking the power of attorney by sending a signed and notarized document to the adult child
Laws pertaining to guardianships and powers of attorney can vary significantly from state to state. It is best to consult an attorney to obtain a full understanding of the specifics relating to both of these legal relationships.
Sometimes, the relationship between an assisted living community and a resident changes. Perhaps an individual becomes disagreeable as time passes. Or maybe that person’s health needs exceed the facility’s ability to deliver optimal care. In such cases, a resident may be involuntarily discharged from, or asked to leave, the community. However, senior adults and their families typically have legal recourse in these situations, even in states that lack laws that pertain specifically to such discharges. Assisted living facilities licensed in Illinois follow the Department of Public Health’s process to dispute an involuntary discharge.
Hidden costs/rate changes
Another important question that prospective residents should ask about fees involves changes in prices. Before signing an agreement, seniors should carefully review the community’s fee schedule for additional services, reasons for changing fees, and how much notice they will get prior to fees being increased.
An assisted living community’s standing in the industry should be a consideration for every prospective resident. Lexington Square is proud to report we have a top-10 ranking of top assisted living facilities in Illinois. Reviewing this information involves scrutinizing public records that are likely to contain inspection summaries and violation histories for individual communities. States are the source of such information.
It is imperative to thoroughly understand your state’s policy concerning Medicare payments at assisted living communities. Such payments are not accepted at assisted living facilities in Illinois.
Addressing these types of issues upfront will help ensure that you make the best decision about the community you’re considering, which should help you to smoothly transition into a new environment.