Accommodating the Disabled
Contemporary Long-Term Care (01/02) Vol. 25, No. 1 p.11; Hayden, Gail

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is one of many federal statutes that protect the rights of disabled people. Long-term care facilities must know the regulations they must comply with as well as know how to install specific provisions for disabled residents. The ADA requires facilities to make an attempt at accommodation, including procedural changes, added equipment, or minor adjustments during a facility renovation. While nursing homes are required to make accommodations according to the ADA, assisted living facilities could be considered a residential unit covered similarly by the Fair Housing Act. According to Paul Gordon, a health care facility attorney for Hanson Bridgett Marcus Vlahos Rudy LLP in San Francisco, much of the debate centers upon whether facilities will admit disabled people or whether they will transfer out disabled residents whose mental or physical health changes. Faith Mullen, an attorney and senior policy advisor at AARP's Public Policy Institute, says nursing homes must admit and accommodate impaired residents under the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) 1987. Assisted living was designed to help disabled seniors stay independent, says Rosalie Kane, a professor at the University of Minnesota School of Social Work; Kane says blind, paraplegic, or quadriplegic people, as well those with arthritis, asthma, and chronic heart failure, among others, can live anywhere--including assisted living facilities--as long as certain services are made available. However, Alzheimer's and similar dementias are common disabilities facing long-term care facilities, but there are no existing laws or court cases to regulate patient care.

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