Residential Care and Assisted Living Compendium: 2007. Assisted Living Philosophy

11/30/2007

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia reported that they include provisions regarding assisted living concepts such as privacy, autonomy and decision making in their residential care regulations or Medicaid standards. (See Table 1-3.) Some states regulations are more detailed in these matters, others are less so. For example, regulations may state the importance of privacy, but only 11 states with a statement of the philosophy of assisted living require private apartment units;9 five states have mixed requirements, allowing bedrooms in some settings and individual apartments in new construction; and 14 states allow sharing (apartments or bedrooms) only by resident choice. (See section onOccupancy Requirements and Privacy for additional information.) Examples of state provisions that reference assisted living principles follow.

  • Florida’s statute describes the purpose of assisted living as “to promote availability of appropriate services for elderly and disabled persons in the least restrictive and most home-like environment, to encourage the development of facilities which promote the dignity, privacy and decision making ability” of residents. The Florida law also states that facilities should be operated and regulated as residential environments and not as medical or nursing facilities. Regulations require that facilities develop policies to maximize independence, dignity, choice, and decision making.

  • Illinois’ statute defines assisted living, in part, as a model that: (1) assumes that residents are able to direct their services and will designate a representative to direct them if they are unable to do so; and (2) supports the principle that there is an acceptable balance between consumer protection and resident willingness to accept risk and that most consumers are competent to make their own judgments about the services they are obtaining. The statute states that assisted living establishments and shared housing establishments “shall be operated in a manner that provides the least restrictive and most home-like environment and that promotes independence, autonomy, individuality, privacy, dignity, and the right to negotiated risk in residential surroundings.”

  • New Jersey requires facilities to coordinate services “in a manner which promotes and encourages assisted living values. These values are concerned with the organization, development, and implementation of services and other facility or program features so as to promote and encourage each resident’s choice, dignity, independence, individuality, and privacy in a home-like environment,” as well as “aging-in-place and shared responsibility.”

  • Texas’ authorizing statute specifies that rules must be developed to promote policies that maximize the dignity, autonomy, privacy, and independence of each resident; and that service delivery should be driven by a philosophy that emphasizes personal dignity, autonomy, independence, and privacy and should enhance a person’s ability to age in place.

  • Oregon, the first state to adopt a specific philosophy for assisted living, states that: “Assisted living … is a program that promotes resident self-direction and participation in decisions that emphasize choice, dignity, privacy, individuality, independence and home-like surroundings.”

  • Washington requires that the basic training curriculum for staff in residential care settings includes instruction on how to perform tasks while incorporating resident preferences; how to maintain residents’ privacy and dignity; and how to create opportunities that encourage resident independence.

Unless states operationalize assisted living concepts as specific regulatory requirements -- for example, assuring privacy by requiring private rooms or apartments -- the choices that facilities make in their physical and organizational structures and their service and training policies will generally determine whether the state’s intent is realized. In the absence of specific regulatory requirements, it may be difficult to determine whether a facility is carrying out the regulations’ philosophy.

Consumer advocates have questioned whether staff that inspect or survey nursing facilities should also inspect residential care facilities operating under an assisted living philosophy and related rules, without having specific training about this philosophy. Some states provide this training (e.g., Texas requires training for state inspectors on how assisted living differs from nursing homes). The National Academy of State Health Policy 2002 survey of state licensing agencies found that 24 states use different staff to survey residential care facilities than they use for nursing facilities; survey staff in the remaining states inspect both.


9. Oregon defines a “unit” as an individual living space constructed as a completely private apartment, including living and sleeping space, kitchen area, bathroom and adequate storage areas.

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