States regulations pertaining to admission and retention typically consider applicants' or residents' general condition, health-related need including the need for nursing care, physical and cognitive function, and behavioral problems.
Only a few states (e.g., North Carolina and Illinois) do not allow individuals who meet their minimum nursing home level of care criteria to be served in residential care settings. However, virtually all states do not allow persons who need a skilled level of nursing home care to be served in residential care settings (e.g., individuals who require 24 hour-a-day skilled nursing oversight or daily skilled nursing services).
State approaches for setting admission and retention policies can be grouped into three categories:
- Full Continuum--states allow facilities to serve people with a wide range of needs;
- Discharge Triggers--states develop a list of medical needs or treatments that cannot be provided in a facility and that will result in a resident's discharge from a facility; and
- Levels of Licensure--states license facilities based on the needs of residents or the services that may be provided in a specific kind of facility.
These approaches are not mutually exclusive. States may use more than one approach and may also grant waivers for facilities to serve residents whose needs exceed those allowed. Since 2002, Arkansas, Delaware, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington have modified their admission criteria.
States using a full continuum approach have broad criteria that allow facilities to serve residents with a wide range of needs, permitting residents to age in place. However, providers are not required to serve everyone who meet these criteria and can establish their own admission and discharge standards within state parameters. They are required to inform prospective residents about these standards and the type of conditions that would trigger discharge. For example, Massachusetts allows providers to meet personal care needs and at a minimum must provide assistance with bathing, dressing, and ambulation. However, they are not required to offer assistance with other ADLs such as toileting and eating. Most other states allow, but do not require, residences to serve people with ADL needs.
States using the full continuum approach include Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Oregon, and those with the most flexible rules include Arizona, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Oregon. Examples of this approach follow.
Oregon generally does not limit whom facilities may serve. The rules contain "move out" criteria that allow residents to choose to remain in their living environment despite functional decline as long as the facility can meet the resident's needs. However, facilities are not required to serve all residents whose needs increase. Providers may ask residents to move if: (1) their needs exceed the level of ADL services available; (2) the resident exhibits behaviors or actions that repeatedly interfere with the rights or well being of others; (3) the resident, due to cognitive decline, is not able to respond to verbal instructions, recognize danger, make basic care decisions, express need, or summon assistance; (4) the resident has a complex, unstable, or unpredictable medical condition; or (5) the resident has failed to make payment for charges.
Hawaii's rules do not specify who may be admitted and retained. Rather, each facility may use its professional judgment and the capacity and expertise of the staff to determine who it will serve. Facilities are required to develop their own admission and discharge policies and procedures. Discharge with 14 days notice is allowed based on behavior, needs that exceed the facility's ability to meet them, or a resident's established pattern of non-compliance.
Washington may accept and retain residents if: (1) they can meet the individual's needs, and provide required specialized training to resident-care staff; (2) the individual's health condition is stable and predictable, as determined jointly by the boarding home and the resident or the resident's representative if appropriate; and (3) the individual is ambulatory, unless the boarding home is approved by the Washington state director of fire protection to care for semi-ambulatory or non-ambulatory residents. Individuals must also meet all of the boarding home's established acceptance criteria.
Maine's rules are flexible to allow residents to age in place. The rules allow facilities to determine whom they will admit and the type of services they will provide. They may discharge residents who pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others, damage property, or whose continued occupancy would require modification of the essential nature of the program. Rules regarding the provision of nursing care vary by setting. Residential care facilities may provide nursing services with their own staff only to residents who do not meet the state's nursing home level of care criteria. Residents who meet the level of care criteria can be served, but nursing services must be provided by a licensed home health agency. Congregate housing programs may receive a license to provide nursing and medication administration services by registered nurses (RNs) employed by the program.
New Jersey's rules state that assisted living is not appropriate for people who are incapable of responding to their environment, expressing volition, interacting, or demonstrating independent activity. The rules allow facilities to provide a very high level of care, but they are not required to do so. The rules specifically state that facilities may choose to serve residents who:
- Require 24-hour, seven-day a week nursing supervision,
- Are bedridden longer than 14 days,
- Are consistently and totally dependent in four or more ADLs,
- Have cognitive decline that interferes with simple decisions,
- Require treatment of Stage III or IV pressure sores or multiple Stage II sores,
- Are a danger to self or others, or
- Have a medically unstable condition and/or special health problems.
The state also has a provision that can be characterized as a discharge trigger: facilities may not serve residents who require a respirator or mechanical ventilator or people with severe behavior management problems, such as combative, aggressive, or disruptive behaviors.
Vermont has two levels of licensure. One level--for assisted living--allows for a full continuum of care to be provided to residents who meet the nursing home level of care to be served if the facility can meet their needs except for the following conditions:
- A serious acute illness requiring medical, surgical, or nursing care provided by a general or special hospital;
- Care of Stage III or IV ulcers;
- Suctioning; or
- Two person assistance with transfer or ambulation.
Vermont's other level of licensure--for residential care facilities--allows the provision of personal care and nursing services. Facilities may retain current residents who develop a serious, acute illness as long as the care needs are met by appropriate licensed personnel. However, if the resident wanders, the facility must document appropriate interventions to manage this behavior. Residents may be discharged if they pose a serious threat to self or other residents and are not capable of entering into a negotiated risk agreement; are ordered by a court to move; or fail to pay rent, service, or care charges.
Discharge triggers are used by states to regulate the specific medical needs or treatments that can and cannot be provided by certain kinds of facilities and to determine when a resident can no longer reside in a facility. Most prohibited treatments require performance by skilled nursing personnel. States that use these triggers include: California, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. State rules may overlap as Idaho, Maryland, and Mississippi also license by level of care, and New Jersey, which allows a full continuum of care. Examples of this approach follows.
Tennessee allows facilities to retain for up to 21 days (but not admit) individuals who require intravenous or daily intramuscular injections; gastronomy feedings; insertion, sterile irrigation, and replacement of catheters; sterile wound care; or treatment of extensive Stage III or IV decubitus ulcers or exfoliative dermatitis; or who, after 21 days, require four or more skilled nursing visits per week for any other condition.
Virginia does not allow residential care facilities to serve people who are ventilator dependent; have Stage III or IV dermal ulcers (unless a Stage III ulcer is healing); need intravenous therapy or injections directly into the vein except for intermittent care under specified conditions; have an airborne infectious disease in a communicable state; need psycho-tropic medications without an appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan; or have nasogastric tubes and gastric tubes (except when individuals are capable of independently feeding themselves and caring for the tube or by exception.)
Levels of Licensure
Several states--Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, and Vermont--have two or more levels of licensure based on the needs of residents or the services that may be provided. Examples of this approach follow.
Arizona licenses three levels of care: supervisory care, personal care, and directed care. Residential care facilities providing supervisory care may serve residents who need health or health-related services if these services are provided by a licensed home health or hospice agency. Those with a personal care service license may not accept or retain any resident who is unable to direct self-care; requires continuous nursing services unless the nursing services are provided by a licensed hospice agency or a private duty nurse; has a Stage III or IV pressure sore; or is bed bound due to a short illness unless the primary care physician approves, the resident signs a statement and the resident is under the care of a nurse, a licensed home health agency, or a licensed hospice agency. Facilities licensed to provide directed care may serve residents who are bed bound, need continuous nursing services, or have a Stage III or IV pressure sore.
Arkansas licenses two levels of facilities. Level I facilities cannot serve nursing home eligible residents or residents who need 24-hour nursing services; are bedridden; have transfer assistance needs that the facility cannot meet; present a danger to self or others; and require medication administration performed by the facility.
Level II assisted living facilities can serve nursing home eligible residents and participate in a Medicaid HCBS waiver, but cannot serve residents who need 24-hour nursing services; are bedridden; have a temporary (no more than 14 consecutive days) or terminal condition unless a physician or advance practice nurse certifies the resident's needs may be safely met; have transfer assistance needs, including but not limited to assistance to evacuate the facility in case of emergency, that the facility cannot meet with current staffing; present a danger to self or others; or engage in criminal activities. Facilities may be licensed for both levels of care in distinct parts or separate wings but separate licenses are required for the beds providing each level.
Florida licenses four types of facilities: basic assisted living facilities, limited nursing services, limited mental health services, and extended congregate care (ECC) which is the highest level of care. ECC facilities serve residents with higher needs and provide more services than the other levels including total help with bathing; nursing assessment more frequently than monthly; measurement and recording of basic vital functions; dietary management; supervision of residents with dementia; health education and counseling; assistance with self-administration and administration of medications; provide or arrange rehabilitative services and escort services to health appointments.
Utah licenses two levels of facilities. Type I facilities serve residents who are ambulatory, have stable health conditions, require limited assistance with ADLs and need regular or intermittent care or treatment from facility staff. Type II facilities serve residents who need substantial assistance with ADLs, offer separate living units, and enable residents to age in place as much as possible. Level II residents may be independent or semi-independent but not dependent (needing in-patient or 24-hour continual nursing care for more than 15 days, or needing a two-person assist to evacuate the building). Both types of facilities may assist with or administer medications under supervision of a licensed nurse.