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Long-Term Care Residents Deserve Equal Rights

The senior woman holding gas bill in front of heating radiator. Payment for heating in winter.

You may assume all people who live in long-term care homes have the same rights and protections. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Depending on whether you live in a nursing home, an assisted living facility, or another type of setting, your rights differ in certain areas.

One of the most critically important differences is the right to appeal unlawful eviction. If you are evicted from a nursing home, you can “appeal” the eviction by asking for a hearing; however, the vast majority of 80,000 long-term care residents across Washington state do not live in nursing homes. They live in community-based settings that are more homelike, which is great. Many of the rights in these settings are the same as they are in nursing homes. But for evictions and some other rights, where you live makes a big difference in what you can do to stay in your home.

Many residents fear retaliation by facility staff or management if they complain about their rights or how they are treated. This fear is well founded.

One resident of an adult family needed help with daily living tasks when she was diagnosed with a severe spinal cord injury, compounding the physical challenges she already faced as a person with cerebral palsy. In the span of two and a half years, she was evicted from two homes after raising concerns about violations of her rights. As a lifelong professional advocate for people with disabilities, this resident wasn’t afraid to report problems and ask the State to investigate. But, without an explicit guarantee in our state laws granting all residents eviction protections, she was at the mercy of subjective practices of facility owners and staff.

Residents of long-term care homes deserve to live in a safe, clean, comfortable, and homelike environment. Systems are in place to hold providers accountable, but when it comes to an eviction, there is no objective third party ensuring the vulnerable adult is evicted for a legal reason from assisted living facilities and other community-based long-term care settings.

As we near the 2024 legislative session, lawmakers have the opportunity to fix this inequitable situation. House Bill (HB) 1859, sponsored by Representative Tara Simmons, will give all residents the right to appeal evictions through a fair hearing, and give all parties their day in court, no matter where they receive long-term care.

In addition to providing eviction protections, HB 1859 will ensure residents the right to choose their own doctor, ensuring access to culturally appropriate medical care. It will prohibit facilities from denying residents the right to visitors on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability. And it will create accountability by ensuring all long-term care residents have the right to a “grievance” process, with expectations and timelines so residents can have confidence their complaints are reviewed and responded to by management.

Enacting HB 1859 will help fulfill the promise that all residents of long-term care should be treated the same. Please join us by signing this petition in support of eviction protections and other rights for all residents of long-term care homes.

Patricia HunterContributor Patricia Hunter, MSW, is the State Long-Term Care Ombuds and manages the nonprofit Washington State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, which is operated by the Multi-Service Center in Federal Way.


Posted in Housing