The “graying” of the United States population – more adults are 65 or older than ever before – means that consumer expectations and needs are also changing to reflect the population shift. One of the places where services are not yet meeting the demand is state assisted living facility regulations.
According to the chair of the American Assisted Living Nurses Association, regulations vary from state to state regarding what medical needs can be addressed in an assisted living facility. These regulations mean that depending on the state, an individual may develop a relatively benign medical issue which cannot be addressed by medical staff at their facility. It may even mean they are no longer considered a fit for the residence.
Depending on the state in which the assisted living facility is located, trained healthcare professionals may be allowed to dispense medication and help with “activities of daily living” (bathing, dressing, eating, transferring from bed to chair and back), to not even being able to dispense over-the-counter medications to residents.
In Texas, the law was recently updated to allow trained nurses to provide medical services in assisted living communities. But other states have a ways to go. In Rhode Island, assisted living employees are not allowed to place bandaids on residents. In Massachusetts, assisted living residents are not allowed to receive any skilled nursing services on community property unless provided by a separate, third-party – even if the assisted living facility has licensed nurses as staff. In Louisiana, assisted living providers managing “level three” facilities are not allowed to dispense medications to residents and must hire a third-party heath care companies to come into the facility to do so. And in California, there is a long list of medical conditions which make an individual ineligible from residency, even if they are third-party medical care in place. These limits, say elder care advocates, make it difficult for the aged and disabled in our communities to access care in assisted living facilities which offers more independence to their residents.
Advocates are calling for nationwide continuity of care access to allow residents to receive the care they require, as long as it is offered by licensed healthcare professionals. In a population where needs may include a broad range of services, it appears arbitrary to limit those services by geography, based on regulations drafted before assisted living facilities were known to be a viable consumer model.
If you are considering your assisted living options, inquire about the level of medical care the facility is able to provide to residents.
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