Seniors choose their living companions and their hospital visitors

Two posts in today’s weekly bulletin for members of  the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys highlight the ways in which our institutions need to continue to evolve to keep pace with changes in our society.  (

According to figures from the most recent U.S. Census, the number of couples over 65 who are living together has tripled over the past decade.  This may be partly due to financial reasons, as both parties want to keep the maximum amount of Social Security income that they can, and may want to avoid co-mingling their funds.  But it also reflects changes in attitude, as the number of people who believe that living together outside of marriage is sinful is steadily declining.  As more and more baby boomers – many of whom lived together before their marriages – reach this age, these numbers are likely to continue to grow.

The second post talks about increased enforcement of government guidelines to protect hospital patients’ rights to choose their own visitors.  Without these regulations, adult children could exclude their parent’s live-in companion, or other relatives could exclude a same-sex partner.  However, according to the standards that all hospitals must follow in order to be eligible for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement,  hospitals much explain to their patients that they have the right to choose who may visit them, whether it is a family member, a domestic partner of either gender, or any other visitor, and they can also withdraw their permission for visitation at any time. Earlier this week, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid sent a letter to the state agencies that audit compliance with their rules highlighting these new procedures.  More information on the CMS guidance.

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