What You Should Know About Assisted Living Facilities

If you or a loved one are residing in, or are considering residing in, an assisted living facility1, there are some things you should be aware of.

As a preliminary matter, assisting living facilities should not be confused with nursing homes. Nursing homes are generally for individuals who have significant physical and/or mental deficiencies that effect their day-to-day activity and require round-the-clock care. Accordingly, a nursing home is a residence where nursing aides, skilled nurses, and other healthcare providers are typically available 24 hours a day. Unlike nursing homes, assisted living facilities are designed for those who are mostly physically independent, but require some assistance with daily tasks. As such, assisted living facilities monitor resident activities to ensure the health and safety of the residents and typically do not have trained health care providers on staff.

Furthermore, unlike nursing homes, there are no federal regulations for assisted living facilities. Accordingly, assisted living facilities are governed solely by state law, which often leads to significant discrepancies in the level of care that is received from state to state2. While this may seem harmless, the effects have proven to be anything but3. In New Jersey, for example, the state regulations provide that anyone may be in an assisted living facility, even those that require the level of care available at nursing homes. For example, an individual with advanced dementia may remain in an assisted living facility, even though they should be receiving 24-hour care and supervision from trained health care providers.

Moreover, with the aging baby boomer population, assisted living facilities have become a booming business. In fact, more and more assisted living facilities are owned by large corporations that are not health care companies and do not fully appreciate the level of attention and skill that is necessary to care of persons of advanced age and/or disease.

Below is a list of items/questions4 to address when considering whether an assisted living facility is the right home for you or a loved one or, alternatively, when comparing different assisted living facilities:

  • What are the individual’s daily needs?
  • What is the level of involvement of the facility in its residents’ daily tasks (clothing, toileting, bathing, etc.)?
  • Does the facility maintain a schedule to check on each of its residents?
  • How many staff persons are there for each shift and what is the extent of their responsibilities?
  • What is the level of training/skill of the staff?
  • What is the protocol in case of an emergency?
  • How familiar is each staff person with the protocol?
  • Is the staff trained to handle any sort of medical emergency?
  • Is the staff trained to deal with the particular disease that the potential resident (you or your loved one) may be suffering from?

Finally, please note that if you or a loved one have been injured as a result of a negligently run assisted living facility, you may be entitled to legal remedies and should consult the attorneys at MHM to further discuss.

[1] Assisted living facilities are also commonly referred to as “residential care homes,” “assisted care living facilities,” or “personal care homes.”

[2] For New York state’s licensing requirements for assisted living facilities see https://www.health.ny.gov/facilities/assisted_living/

[3] See, e.g., “Life and Death in Assisted Living,” July 30, 2013, available at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/life-and-death-in-assisted-living/.

[4] Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, but a starting point of questions to ask when considering an assisted living facility.