Nursing Home v. Independent Care: Legal Differences

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on March 07, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Maybe you have aging parents or perhaps you are wondering for yourself what choices to make as you approach your twilight years. There's a lot to consider when choosing between a nursing home and an independent care facility.

One thing to think about is the legal differences. Independent care certainly sounds appealing. Who doesn't want to be independent well into old age?

But reports about an 87-year-old woman's death at an independent care facility where a nurse refused to perform CPR may make you wonder what that independence may cost you.

Legally speaking, nothing went wrong when the nurse refused to administer CPR. That's left some people scratching their heads.

Nursing Home Licensing

Part of the problem may be that people consider nursing homes and independent living facilities to be the same thing. But they are vastly different, as The Tennessean points out.

A nursing home is a licensed facility that is required to provide medical care to the people living in the home. In many states, that means having one person on staff at all times who can perform CPR.

Nursing homes generally must provide care, unless a resident is under a "Do Not Resuscitate" order. Assisted living facilities are similar, but independent living facilities are not.

Independent Living Is, Well, Independent

Think of independent living as an apartment complex that's a little more fun and interesting than where you've lived before.

In exchange for rent, the facility provides a living space, meals, social activities, and perhaps transportation. What they don't provide is medical care. And since those facilities generally aren't licensed, they don't have to.

That doesn't mean they can't provide medical care, like what happened with Bayless. But there's no guarantee that anyone on staff will know CPR when an emergency happens.

Of course, just because it's legal doesn't mean that independent living facilities never provide medical care. That's a question of policy that you'll have to ask when you shop around.

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