Doctor points to where patient should sign medical record.

(Credit: 10255185_880 / Getty Images)

A Kansas bill backed by the Alzheimer’s Association regarding appeals of involuntary discharges from long-term care communities is a “cure worse than the disease,” according to senior living advocates.

House Bill 2004, known as Charlie’s Bill, would require assisted living communities to give notice and a reason for a forced transfer. It also would provide the right to a state administrative appeal for residents of adult care facilities and permit the residents to return to a facility while an appeal is pending.

The bill is named after Charles Imthurn, a man living with dementia who died as a result of “transfer trauma” after the assisted living community where he lived initiated an involuntary transfer. State government offices told Imthurn’s wife, Rachel, that no law forbade involuntary discharges from assisted living communities, so she joined with the Alzheimer’s Association in Kansas and other organizations to press for change.

Senior living organizations, however, maintain that the bill’s requirements could cause serious harm to both residents and providers that may be ill-equipped to address their needs.

In testimony last year, LeadingAge Kansas Vice President of Government Affairs Rachel Monger said that assisted living and other residential care settings are not equivalent to landlords or nursing home operators. 

“Forcing an assisted living facility to retain a resident whose needs it cannot meet has wide-ranging and seriously negative effects on the health and safety of residents, and the continued affordability and operations of residential care settings,” Monger testified. “House Bill 2004 is a cure worse than the disease.”

Assisted living communities are not nursing homes, LeadingAge Kansas President and CEO Debra Harmon Zehr said.

“They do not have the staff, clinical teams, specialized services or physical environments to even remotely function like one,” Zehr told McKnight’s Senior Living. “The bill would allow a resident to stay in an assisted living for months after the assisted living has determined that it cannot meet their needs. It’s an impossible situation for the provider and a very dangerous one for the resident.”

The bill, Zehr said, fails to address the actual source of complaints around assisted living discharges — namely, the lack of consumer awareness and provider transparency regarding the role of assisted living and the limits of care and services. 

“We believe that finding ways to improve education and transparency for consumers during the admissions process will greatly reduce the confusion and anger experienced by residents when a facility determines that they are no longer able to meet their increasing needs,” Zehr said. 

Alzheimer’s Association Kansas Director of Public Policy Research Jamie Gideon testified last year that residents of assisted living communities should have the same rights regarding transfers that are afforded to nursing home residents under the federal Nursing Home Reform Law of 1987, by establishing an appeals process. The association supports the bill to “enhance the quality of care in residential settings and protect persons with dementia.”

House Bill 2122

The Alzheimer’s Association also is advocating for House Bill 2122, which would provide an option for people living with dementia who need decision-making guidance and fall in the gap between independence and legal guardianship. 

The bill would create the Supported Decision-Making Agreements Act, allowing adults to enter into agreements to receive decision-making assistance with their affairs from one or more other adults or supporters. 

Those affairs could include assistance with monitoring health, managing income and assets, handling personal healthcare and financial matters, and monitoring support services, living arrangements and work arrangements.