Retirement Home Can Force Resident to Move to Higher Level of Care

HNWElder Law

Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq., NJ Elder Law Attorney

A federal court has ruled that a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) can force one of its residents to move from her private apartment to an assisted living unit.

Sally Herriot, 90, is a California resident of a CCRC which provides three levels of care — independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing. Since moving to the facility with her now-deceased husband in 1991, Ms. Herriot had lived in a spacious independent living apartment. After Ms. Herriott returned from a hospital stay, the CCRC determined that it was necessary to transfer her from her apartment to a much smaller, hospital-like assisted-living unit where she could be served by a trained nursing staff. Ms. Herriot, her family and her physician objected to the transfer, arguing that she is able to remain in her apartment with the help of round-the-clock private aides she had hired. The CCRC rejected this arrangement.

Ms. Herriot subsequently filed suit in federal court, alleging that the facility had discriminated against her based on her disabilities by refusing to accept her accommodation of hiring private aides.

The U.S. District Court ruled that the CCRC has a duty to provide Ms. Herriot with medical care based on her level of need, and that it cannot delegate that duty to private help hired by Ms. Herriot. The court finds that the facility would be violating its legal obligations by accepting Ms. Herriot’s plan to allow her to remain in her apartment.

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