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SC Retirement Community Can No Longer Push Residents Into Nursing Home

A federal lawsuit challenging a continuing care retirement community's policy of requiring residents to move to their nursing home when they need assistance with daily living has been settled.

The Bishop Gadsden Retirement Community in Charleston, SC, has agreed to modify its policies so that "needing help" will not in and of itself be grounds to make the resident move to its nursing home. They have also agreed to create formal appeal procedures for residents who disagree with transfer decisions.

The suit was filed in July by Blanche W. Bell, an 80-year-old resident who used a power wheelchair and needed help from others for bathing and dressing. Bishop Gadsden had demanded that she give up her apartment and move into its nursing home when her condition was determined to be "permanent."

Bell sued the Episcopal Home, which operated Bishop Gadsden, under the federal Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The retirement facility "then entered into a consent order allowing Mrs. Bell to remain in her apartment while the case was litigated," said attorney Harriet McBryde Johnson, who handled the case. "On August 17 Mrs. Bell died from respiratory complications of ALS, but her family decided to continue the lawsuit in hopes of making changes to benefit others. The result falls short of what we had hoped to achieve, but is a step in the right direction."

"More advocacy is needed to bring the continuing care retirement industry into compliance with federal laws that prohibit disability discrimination," says Susan Ann Silverstein, an attorney for AARP who had joined in the suit. Unlike some settlements, this one "in no way limits the rights of people who were not parties to it," she said.

The entire settlement is a matter of public record at the U.S. District Court and can be reviewed online at http://www.scd.uscourts.gov/ at case number 05-cv-1953-DCN-RSC. And the attorneys have made other court documents in the Bell case available online via Ragged Edge.

Related: Bishop Gadsden settlement reached (Charleston Post and Courier)

Read court documents in Bell case.