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Concerns remain over lack of regulations in assisted living industry

From Emeritus Senior Living promotional video

As the baby boomer generation ages the demand for assisted living facilities is expected to rise dramatically. But, concerns remain over flimsy regulation of the industry.

Assisted living facilities are becoming an increasingly popular option for older adults who can’t live alone, but don’t require nursing home-level care.

But, according to Richard Mollot executive director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition (LTCCC), the industry is poorly regulated at state and federal levels.

“Unfortunately, for some reason, the industry has fought any kind of meaningful standards, especially I think national standards would be most important to ensure that there’s some safety and some level of quality across the board.”

Mollot says assisted living facilities are marketed as a community-like alternative to nursing homes, and this often causes confusion over the level of care that these places provide.                                                                  

He argues this often leads to the admittance of residents who need a higher level of care than the facility is licensed to offer.

“The industry says more and more, oh you know, we do have requirements in the states, generally speaking, of the level of care we can provide for. But we see that constantly being violated.”

Shelley Sabo, executive director of the New York state Center for Assisted Living (NYSCAL), says it should be the responsibility of both facilities and consumers to ensure expectations of care are clear before a resident moves in.

She says the state Department of Health conducts annual inspections of facilities and that current regulations are adequate.

“I think we have very extensive and complex regulations for providers in New York. It’s a multi-tiered approach to adult care and assisted living with many layers of care.”

There are five levels of licenses available for assisted living facilities in New York state with distinctions made between Adult Homes (AH), Enriched Housing (EH), Assisted Living Residences (ALR), Enhanced Assisted Living Residences (EALR), and Special Needs Assisted Living Residences (SNALR).

Richard Mollot says not even the highest level of license, granted to facilities that are able to take residents with conditions like dementia, including EALRs and SNALRs, are required to have a registered nurse on staff.

There is currently a billbefore the state senate which aims to change this, requiring a registered nurse to be on staff for at least one shift, five days per week, at assisted living facilities operating under the higher license classes.

But, NYSCAL’s Shelley Sabo says assisted living facilities already have requirements in place that ensure sufficient care is provided to residents. She says facilities cannot provide nursing services without a registered nurse on staff.

But Mollot says without strict enforcement of the current regulations, there are often recurring violations at these facilities that are not addressed, including medication errors.

He says it’s critical for stricter regulations, enforcement and disciplinary practices to be put in place in the industry to ensure quality care is available for a rapidly aging population.

WXXI/Finger Lakes Reporter for the Innovation Trail