The Home Care Consumer Bill of Rights Act was introduced in the United States Senate in 2013 to address growing concerns about the safety and protection of seniors and others who utilize various home care services. Although the Act has yet to pass Congress and become law, it would generally require states to guarantee basic rights for those receiving home care services.
Why Are the Protections Needed For Home Care Patients?
Patients receiving home care services are provided assistance with their daily living or health care needs, while continuing to remain in their homes and living as independently as possible. There’s a wide range of home care options. These can include basic assistance with cooking, cleaning, or transportation, but can also include greater assistance with health care needs. Where health care services are provided, the caregivers are normally licensed medical professionals such as nurses, therapists, or home health aides.
Home care is often a more attractive option for seniors or others requiring greater assistance with their daily living needs. This is due to the rising costs of long-term nursing care facilities, the fact that Medicare doesn’t cover long-term care, and because most people don’t have a long-term care insurance policy. Another reason why people prefer home care is because it allows them to remain in a familiar environment and doesn’t impose a significant disruption in their lives.
Given that seventy percent of seniors will require some form of long-term care, home care will likely continue to be a favored option. However, the greater use of home care also brings increased concerns for the safety and protection of seniors. After all, home care providers have direct and personal access to vulnerable seniors in their homes. With greater awareness of elder abuse and exploitation, many are concerned that there’s insufficient oversight for home care providers, who are not always licensed professionals. Currently, laws exist protecting the rights of patients in long-term nursing care facilities, and The Home Care Consumer Bill of Rights Act would generally extend such rights to patients receiving home care as well.
What Would The Home Care Consumer Bill of Rights Act Do?
If passed, the 2013 version of the Act would:
- Require states to enact and enforce their own "Bill of Rights" for those receiving home care (but would require states to provide certain basic protections for a home care patient's safety, access to information, freedom of choice and their right to submit grievances)
- Direct the federal Administration on Aging (AOA) to establish best practices for state-based enforcement of such rights
- Direct the AOA to establish a National Adult Protective Services Resource Center to improve protective services programs
- Provide funds to support for state home care ombudsman programs (such programs receive and resolve complaints regarding home care services)
- Direct the AOA to develop quality measures and standards for home care providers and to disseminate them to states
Current Status of The Act
Although the Home Care Consumer Bill of Rights Act was introduced in the Senate in 2013, it was not voted on during that session (the 113th Congress). To be passed, the Act would need to be reintroduced in a new Congress, pass both houses, and then signed by the President.
For more information on home care services in your area, see the Administration on Aging’s ElderCare Locator. If you suspect that a home care patient is not receiving adequate care or is the victim of abuse or exploitation, contact your local Adult Protective Services Agency, which can be found using the National Adult Protective Services Association’s APS locator. You should also contact an attorney that specializes in elder law and elder abuse to determine the rights and remedies that are available to victims of elder abuse in your state. To find an elder law attorney near you, see FindLaw's attorney directory.
More information about protective services for seniors is available through FindLaw's "Reporting Elder Abuse" or through the resources provided by the National Center on Elder Abuse.