For The Health of It
  Change of Address - Not That Simple    

This month I'm deviating from my usual medical subject matter and focusing on resident rights. This article was intended for the November issue, but due to a run around from postal authorities I missed the deadline.

Recent communication from the United States Postal Service (USPS) reveals an unfortunate situation. It seems that when a person needs to come to a long-term care facility, all that they have to do to assure that their personal mail follows them to the facility is fill out a "Change of Address" form and give it to a USPS representative. On- line services for this function is also available.

Here is the rub. All State and Federal laws pertaining to Long-Term Care Facilities operations require and regulate that Long-Term Care facilities treat and respect their residents as if this were their home. For the USPS, the same is not so!

If a resident were to rehabilitate and go home from a Long-Term Care Facility and had previously changed their mailing address to the facility they went to, the USPS will not accept a "Change-of-Address" form redirecting their mail back to their home address. It imposes upon the resident the requirement to make these arrangements.

Why?  The USPS says that once the resident comes into the facility, "a business" the resident loses the right to change their mailing address through the use of the standard form because the facility is a business.

According to Domestic Mail manual 1-8-2006, section 508

1.7 Mail addressed to a patient at an institution is delivered to the institution authorities. If the addressee is no longer at that address, the mail must be redirected to the current address (can't use change-of-address form), if known or endorsed appropriately and returned by the institution to the post office.

2.1.5 Prohibited UseA change-of-address order cannot be filed for the following:
An addressee (e.g., an individual or a business entity or other organization) may not file a change-of-address order for mail originally addressed to the addressee at an organization, business, place of employment, or other affiliation. The organization or business may change the address (but not the addressee's name) on a mailpiece to redirect it to the addressee. Barcodes on redirected mailpieces should be obliterated to facilitate automation processing.

Why the resident can't fill out a change-of-address form as they did before or at the time they came into the facilities in my mind is unclear. The Post Office representative said that there would be too many to handle. I contend that this is not so and that the workload for such a service is no more than from single homes where changes of addresses occur all the time. Actually, it might be easier in that those who need the service are from a centralized location and not all over town. 

In my mind the USPS policy imposes an undue hardship on our elderly who at times are just able to keep their affairs in order. I feel that the USPS should adopt a policy that fosters and promotes independence for our elderly and assists them in this situation as they did when they were in their homes. 

If you agree with my opinion, provide your input to your local Congressional Representatives and organizations like California Association of Health Facilities (CHAF) at info@cahf.org or California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform at: www.canhr.org/RCFE/rcfe_help.htm to voice yours.

Dr. Ron Brown has administered various heath care facilities for the past thirty years and is best known locally for his development and opening of Country Crest in Oroville in 2002. Currently he oversees facility management of Paradise Skilled Nursing in Paradise and Shadowbrook Health Care in Oroville.  He can be contacted at paradise.h.c@sbcglobal.net  or shadowbrook.h.c@sbcglobal.net
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