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Are there laws that dictate whether a person is eligible for Independent living vs Assisted vs dependent living? Or is eligibility up to the housing facility?

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See the Federal Fair Housing Act as the more people who know about this and enforce it the better. Do an internet search for these legal articles and READ THEM: Bazelon Center's "The Illegality of Independent Living Requirements in..." (search for it), and "For the Rest of their lives: Seniors and the Fair Housing Act" by Michael Allen and Robert G. Schwemm; "Disability Discrimination in Long Term Care: Using the Fair Housing Act to Prevent Illegal Screening in Admissions..." from the Notre Dame Journal of Law Volume 21 Issue 2, Article 4; "Fair Housing Compliance in the Senior Living Context" by Daniel Sternthal; Fair Housing Rights of Seniors with disabilities" from the John L Marshall school of law 2006; "Fair Housing Challenges for Senior Housing Providers" by Robin Dale and Paul Gordon; and Dykema Law Group presentation "Basic Provisions of the Federal and State Fair Housing acts, Feb. 25, 2015" -- this presentation references and recaps several cases about places trying to (illegally) insist upon independent living requirements and wheelchairs and all sorts of issues that were found in violation of FHA
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To Barb -- if the individual is a 2-person lift, then absolutely needs SNF. The # of aids per # patient drive that need. There are 2 levels of Assisted Living (AL1 & AL2). Here's a link to one of my favorite brochures that help explain some of the differences:
http://health.mo.gov/seniors/ombudsman/pdf/res_care_brochure.pdf
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Typically, it depends on the health of the elder as to the facility whete they end up residing.
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In most cases, independent living is just that. They don't need assistance. My friend is in a CCRC (I'm POA) and I see people in IL that shouldn't be there but sometimes they allow them to hire their own CNAs if they have lived there a long time. We had to move from AL memory floor to Skilled once he became a 2 person assist from a broken femur. In AL they cannot be on puréed or mechanical soft diets or need two persons to assist in toiletting or bedcare. AL usually means one person helps them get dressed but then they are on their own to come to the nurse for meds and to dinner except on the memory floor. What is really needed is a middle step from AL to Skilled. Sometimes they need more assistance than AL gives but are not truly skilled care patients.
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Good point Bobby, anyone who can't transfer on his own would need help getting out of bed, possibly with dressing (pulling up pants), getting into and out of the shower, and on/off the toilet and then getting back in bed... not really independent.
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"...except he needed assistance transferring himself to his wheel chair." Such a person is not a candidate for independent living. At sometime, or several times during a 24 hour period he needed assistance. He could not perform all ADL's - activities of daily living which define when a person needs assistance.
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A sales guy at a Continuing Care Retirement Community in FL told my husband and I that as long as one of us was ambulatory, we would be eligible to stay in independent living. I wonder if that could be why some folks in your mother's facility are able to remain--because they have an able roommate. They could also be able to transfer themselves to the wheel chair unassisted.
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My dad was living in assisted living and developed a condition that made him unable to bear weight for which he was hospitalized. While he was in the hospital I was told that he could not go back to AL because of this and he would have to move to a nursing home. Unfortunately his condition worsened and he was transferred to a hospice facility and passed away there.
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To be more specific 5-6 years ago, we had my father-in-law who was in a wheel chair in an independent living facility and we were forced to move him because the facility said that MO state law requires that you must be able to get yourself to safety in the event of an emergency. He was in perfect health except he needed assistance transferring himself to his wheel chair. Because he couldn't get into the wheel chair by himself he failed independent living requirements.

Current day...my mother is in an independent living facility and I see many people who would clearly not be able to get themselves to safety in the event of an emergency....many even have wheel chairs on 2-3 levels and are not able to walk down the stairs.

Was the facility several years ago just not wanting to deal with my father in law or is the facility where my mother at now, not complying with state laws?
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There are laws about what assisted living, for example, can and cannot provide. If someone needs care that the ALF can't provide, they typically turn the applicant down.
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Eligibility is up to the doctor. It needs to be prescribed, then the facility determines the services necessary. However, unless the person is incompetent it is up to them.
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