State Residential Care and Assisted Living Policy: 2004. Disclosure Requirements and Residency Agreements

03/31/2005

A GAO study of assisted living facilities in four states concluded that while most facilities provide information about the services available, they do not routinely provide information about discharge criteria, staff training and qualifications, services not available from the facility, grievance procedures, and medication policies. The GAO report concluded that the need to provide adequate information to prospective and current residents is a major issue that requires additional oversight.12

With few exceptions, states that license residential care require facilities to include specific information in residency agreements. Two states do not require residency agreements and Connecticut and Minnesota do not use residency agreements because they license the service provider and the housing provider executes a lease agreement with tenants. Table 1-4 lists the type of information that states may provide in resident agreements and the number of states that require the provision of this information.

Topics Covered States
  Requiring  
Topics Covered States
  Requiring  
TABLE 1-4. Residency Agreement Provisions
Services included in basic rate   49 Grievance procedures 21
Cost of service package 44 Termination (including admission and discharge)   20
Admission/discharge 29 Terms of occupancy 18
Refund policy 29 Temporary absences 14
Cost of additional services 27 Accommodations 12
Service beyond basic rate 26 Advance payments 7
Rate changes 25 Period covered 11
Payment/billing 23 Services not available 9
Residents rights 22 Other 20

As can be seen, the majority of states provide information about services, but only about half or less provide information about most of the other topics. Few states require information about medication policy and staffing.

Examples of "other" requirements follow:

  • Colorado requires facilities to disclose whether it has an automatic sprinkler system.

  • Kansas requires facilities to give prospective residents citations of relevant statutes, information on advance medical directives, resident rights, and the facility's grievance procedure, before an agreement is signed.

  • Maine does not allow the resident agreement to contain any provision for discharge which is inconsistent with state rules or law or which implies a lesser standard of care than is required by rule or law. Agreements in Maine must also include information on grievance procedures, tenant obligations, resident rights, and the facility's admissions policy.

  • Maryland requires disclosure in the agreement of the level of care that the facility is licensed to provide and the level of care needed by the resident at the time of admission. The state also requires facilities to disclose policies concerning shared occupancy and procedures that will be followed when a resident's accommodations are changed due to relocation, change in roommate assignment, or an adjustment in the number of residents sharing a unit.

  • New Hampshire issued regulations in 2003 requiring disclosure of information to allow residents to compare assisted living residences, independent retirement communities and elder housing, in order to make an informed choice about where to live. The state requires facilities to disclose whether they are licensed; the basic rate; the personal care and other services included in the rate; meals provided; transportation services; recreation and leisure activities; amenities in the living unit; policies regarding deposits/advance payment requirements and refundability; services not included in the basic rate and their cost. Facilities must also provide information about their staffing, including whether staff are available 24-hours a day, and the availability of licensed nurses, personal care attendants, nursing assistants, and maintenance staff.

  • Wisconsin requires that the qualifications of staff that will provide services be included in the agreement as well as whether services are provided directly or by contract.

Some states require facilities to provide some of the information listed in Table 1-4 in a residents' rights statement rather than a residency agreement, particularly information about grievance procedures.

The GAO study cited unmet consumer expectations for aging-in-place and forced moves as a major resident complaint. Only 20 states require agreements to include information about the facility's criteria for admission, discharge, or transfer.

Finally, several states have rules regarding the format of resident agreements. Kansas requires that agreements be written in clear and unambiguous language in 12-point type. Maryland requires agreements to use accurate, precise, easily understood, legible, readable, "plain" English. Wisconsin requires that agreement formats make it easy to readily identify the type, amount, frequency, and cost of services. Some states require information about provisions that allow staff to inspect living quarters, with the resident's permission.

Most state rules do not have rules for revising or updating resident agreements. However, Alabama, Illinois, Mississippi, and Oregon require that agreements include the period covered by the agreement. Wisconsin required that the agreement be reviewed and updated when there is a change in the resident's condition or at the request of the facility or the resident. Updates are otherwise made as mutually agreed to by the resident and the provider.

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