Tuesday, December 18, 2018
Kaiser Health News recently ran a story about ALFs that focuses on resident safety. Assisted Living’s Breakneck Growth Leaves Patient Safety Behind opens with a story about one resident and then points out
Assisted living facilities were originally designed for people who were largely independent but required help bathing, eating or with other daily tasks. Unlike nursing homes, the facilities generally do not provide skilled medical care or therapy, and stays are not paid for by Medicare or Medicaid.
Dementia care is the fastest-growing segment of assisted living. As these residences market themselves to people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, facilities across the country are straining to deliver on their promises of security and attentive care, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis of inspection records in the three most populous states.
[Residents] are older and frailer than assisted living residents were a generation ago. Within a year, 1 in 5 experience a fall, 1 in 8 visit an emergency room and 1 in 12 have an overnight hospital stay, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Half are 85 or older.
“Assisted living was created to be an alternative to nursing homes, but if you walk into some of the big assisted living facilities, they sure feel like a nursing home,” said [one expert who is] director for mission partnerships with the Alzheimer’s Association.
There is a tension between viewpoints-regulation vs. the environment the facilities market for residents. Residents with dementia may pose a challenge for the ALFs.
Nearly a quarter of the nation’s 30,000 assisted living facilities either house only people with dementia or have special areas known as memory care units. These wings have locked doors and other safeguards to prevent residents from leaving. The facilities often train staff members in techniques to manage behavior related to these diseases and provide activities to keep the residents engaged and stimulated.
These units usually are more expensive, with monthly costs averaging $6,472, compared with $4,835 for regular assisted living, according to a survey by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care, a group that analyzes elder care market trends. Senior housing investors earned nearly 15 percent in annual returns over the past five years, higher than for apartment, hotel, office and retail properties, according to the center. Beth Burnham Mace, chief economist at the center, said memory care unit construction was outpacing all other types of senior housing.
Aggressive behavior, a hallmark of dementia, is a major problem in assisted living facilities. One national study, published in 2016, found that 8 percent of assisted living residents were physically aggressive or abusive toward residents or staff.
As noted earlier, regulation varies amongst the states. According to one study cited in the article, "only seven states required facilities to have a registered nurse. States required anywhere from two to 30 hours of training for dementia unit workers. A handful of states required no specialized training ... [and] 19 states set minimum staff-to-resident ratios for dementia units, while the others left it to the facilities."