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Report reveals lax regulations in assisted living facilities

Making the decision to move an aging or disabled loved one into an assisted living facility is never easy. Factors such as the quality of care, the experience of the staff, the condition of the premises and the proximity to hospitals or urgent care facilities must all be considered. Families in Colorado and across the U.S. might assume that finding the right facility will be the most important aspect in a loved one's long term care planning. However, according to a recent report from ProPublica and Frontline, families have much more to worry about once their loved one actually becomes a resident.

According to the report, state regulations for most assisted living facilities do not come close to ensuring that residents who are seriously ill or have dementia will be correctly cared for. In 14 states, an administrator at an assisted living facility is not required to have a high school diploma. In Illinois, the minimum age for a caregiver is 16. Colorado in particular does not require even one licensed nurse to be on the staff.

Specific staffing ratios also vary wildly between states. In Mississippi, there must be one daytime staff member for every 15 residents. At night, the ratio changes to one staffer per 25 residents. However, in California, only two staff members must be on duty for facilities that house as many as 200 people. The staffers are not required to have medical training.

Facilities that are specifically designated as nursing homes have many more federal guidelines to follow. For example, a nursing home must undergo inspection once every 15 months. Assisted living facilities, however, must be inspected only once every five years in many states. Six states don't require inspections at all.

The need for regulation can be debated. The president for the National Center for Assisted Living has stated that 91 percent of people that have a family member in assisted living would recommend their facility to another person. He also states that a lack of federal regulations allows for more options and flexibility for each facility. However, this does not negate all the horror stories that are abundant in the industry. Proponents of federal regulations may need to fight to get their voice heard, but it may be worth it when considering the increasing frailty of residents that are found in these facilities.

Source: psmag.com, "The Horrible Condition of Assisted Living Facilities Across America" A.C. Thompson and Jonathan Jones, Nov. 20, 2013

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