California Healthcare Advocates Propose New Assisted Living Practices

California legislators have proposed assisted-living facility reforms across the state, and the nation-wide attention to elder abuse problems in our state has rallied a variety of advocates to the cause. A recent special report released by the National Senior Citizens Law Center, in conjunction with the California HealthCare Foundation, identifies the key problems with the current assisted living model in California and proposes new “best practices” for ensuring safe care for our elderly loved ones.

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Overview of Reform Needs

According to the National Senior Citizens Law Center, “California’s assisted living policy is significantly out of date.” What’s the problem? As legislators in our state have pointed out, there’s a stark disconnect between the level of care that many assisted-living facility residents need and the level of care that the state of California requires by law. In short, there’s a “bright line between the medical versus non-medical needs of the residents,” and Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (or RCFEs) aren’t required to supply significant medical care.

While other states have adjusted and amended laws to reflect a higher level of care in assisted living, “California has not adjusted adequately to the sharp increase in residents’ care needs over the past 10 to 15 years.” In fact, the assisted living law in California was enacted back in 1985, and its only been amended “intermittently” and without any substantial modifications. The advocates from the National Senior Citizens Law Center emphasize that California assisted living law “requires significant revision in order to keep pace with the new realities of assisted living.”

How Can Things Get Better? Recommendations for Improvement

The key problem, according to California elder care advocates, is that licensing standards for RCFEs don’t differentiate between the different levels of care needed by their many residents. The National Senior Citizens Law Center has emphasized that there are about 7,500 assisted-living facilities in the state of California alone, and they house about 80,000 total residents. Given this information, it seems rash to assume that all of those residents require the same level of care. So what should be done? The special report focuses on five key areas for reform: types of care, care standards, staff training, residents’ rights, and accountability.

First and most importantly, the law should reflect “a separate level-of-care classification for facilities that serve residents with greater care needs.” For residents who do need higher levels of care, such as those with complicated medication needs or dementia, advocates urge California to “establish a regulatory framework” for training staff members and requiring supervision during medication administration. The special report also emphasizes that staff training and staffing levels should be increased all around, and that residents should have more rights within assisted-living homes. Finally, California needs to provide more inspections and a better enforcement system.

As the California Legislature begins to make decisions about elder care reform, we might see some changes to the assisted-living system in our state. In the meantime, your elderly loved one should never have to suffer injuries from abuse or neglect. If you suspect elder abuse or elder neglect, don’t wait to contact an experienced California nursing home abuse lawyer.

Photo Credit: Neil. Moralee via Compfight cc

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New California Legislation and Assisted Living Reforms
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