With baby boomers getting older, there has been an increase in citizens over 60. A decreasing birthrate has left few family members to care for them. Although many have chosen to “age in place,” some aren't able to do so. A shortage of workers and a strain on the welfare and healthcare systems have put many seniors in a vulnerable position. To prevent them being taken advantage of, Texas has created a set of laws, or Senior Rights, to protect them. Here are those rights.
Right to be Free to Exercise Civil Rights Under the Law
Elderly persons have the same civil rights under U.S and Texas laws, except where lawfully restricted, and may exercise them without interference, discrimination, coercion, or reprisal.
Right to Dignity and Respect
Elderly persons have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, without regard to their race, religion, nationality, sex, age, marital status, disability, or source of payment. They may:
- make their own choices about personal affairs, care, benefits, and services;
- be free from abuse, neglect, and exploitation
Right to Designate a Guardian or Representative
Elderly persons have the right, regardless of whether or not they have legal capacity, to designate their guardian or representative.
Right to be Free from Physical and Mental Abuse
Physical abuse includes:
- corporal punishment
- use of physical or chemical restraints to “discipline” the person or for the caretaker's convenience
Restraints may only be used when authorized by a doctor, in emergencies, or when a
court ordered guardian of a person with an intellectual disability gives informed consent.
Right to Communicate and Complain Regarding Treatment, Care, or Services
The elderly person may:
- communicate in their native language with others for the purpose of acquiring or providing any type of treatment, care, or services
- complain about treatment either anonymously or through a designated person
The service provider must respond promptly and may not discriminate or punish the person making the complaint. Nursing homes must have an effective procedure for receiving complaints and responding to them. It is a violation of the law if the facility or its employees intimidate or retaliate in any way against the resident or their family.
Right to Privacy
- While attending to personal needs
- Medical treatment
- Telephone conversations
- Meeting with family
- Mail delivery
- Access to resident counsels
If an elderly married couple is receiving similar services, they may share a room. Although a facility has the right to ask visitors to leave if their behavior infringes on the rights of others, they do not have the right to exclude visitors who might challenge their control over residents.
Right to Participate in Activities
This includes social, religious, and community functions.
Right to Manage Their Own Financial Affairs
If an elderly person wants help with their finances, they may authorize another person to do so in writing. However, they still have the right to spend, receive, invest, save, or give away their money as they see fit. Anyone who helps handle their finances is required to present a complete financial account at any time. Surrendering control of their finances has no effect on a person's rights in other areas.
Right to Access and Confidentiality of Records
An elderly person is allowed access to their personal and clinical records. These records are confidential and may only be released to a new service provider or if required by law.
Right to Information and Choice Regarding Medical Condition and Care
Elderly persons have the right to understand and participate in their treatment plans by:
- being fully informed by their service provider, in understandable language, of their total medical condition and any significant changes,
- choosing and retaining a personal physician and being fully informed in advance about treatment or care that may affect their well-being,
- participating in an individual plan of care that describes their medical, nursing, and psychological needs and how the needs will be met,
- refusing medical treatment after the service provider advises of the possible consequences of refusing, and they acknowledge that they clearly understand the consequences of refusing treatment.
Right to Keep Possessions
A person may keep and use their personal possessions as space permits. The number of possessions may be restricted for the health and safety of others.
Right to Refuse to Perform Services
A person may refuse to perform services for the service provider.
Right to information about Benefits
By 30 days of being admitted for service, a service provider must inform a person:
- whether they are entitled to benefits under Medicare or Medicaid
- which items and services are covered by these benefits, including items and services for which the person my not be charged
Right to Remain with Chosen Service Provider
A service provider may not transfer or discharge a person unless:
- the transfer is for their welfare, and their needs cannot be met by the service provider;
- their health has improved sufficiently so that services are no longer needed;
- their health and safety or that of others would be endangered if the transfer or discharge was not made;
- the service provider ceases to operate in the program that reimburses the service provider for the person's care;
- they fail, after reasonable and appropriate notice, to pay for services
Except in an emergency, a service provider may not transfer or discharge an elderly person from a residential facility until 30 days after giving written notice to the person, their legal representative, or a member of their family, stating:
- that the service provider intends to transfer or discharge the person;
- the reason for the transfer or discharge;
- the effective date of the transfer or discharge;
- if they are transferred, the location where they will be transferred;
- the person's right to appeal the action and to whom the action should be directed
If the person is in a Medicaid-certified nursing home, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission provides a hearing process for those wanting to object to being discharged. In an emergency, such as if the health or safety of others is at stake, a resident could be transferred to a hospital or another appropriate place for treatment without notice or hearing.
Right to Make Other Legal Decisions and Documents
A person may:
- make a living will
- execute a medical power of attorney
- execute a durable (financial) power of attorney
- designate a guardian in advance of need to make decisions regarding the person's health care should they become incapacitated