OpenPlacement Blog

Absence of Comparable Data for Families Seeking Assisted Living Facilities

Doctor with apple and orangeSome of you may have recently read my post from last week entitled, "A Close Look at the Assisted Living Industry – And What You Should Do About It."  In the article I highlighted that the absence of comparable data for families seeking care is a core issue facing those in need of any type of long term care.

Assisted living facilities provide a solution for seniors who are not able to live entirely on their own but who do not want or need the round-the-clock medical care that is provided in a nursing home. Assisted living facilities can allow seniors to maintain a broader degree of independence and to live in a more home-like setting as compared with the more institutional setting of a nursing home.

In a recent story, it was alleged that many problems at assisted living facilities exist throughout the United States.  Issues ranged from patients getting inadequate care and improper supervision which led to the patient’s condition progressing to the point where the assisted living facility was no longer able to provide the essential care.

While every individual assisted living facility is different, the state requirements they are licensed under are standardized. One of the biggest issues consumers face is that there is an absence of easily-comparable data on these facilities. This makes it difficult for seniors or family members to compare assisted living facilities based on reported deficiencies, and it makes it difficult for individuals to find out whether an assisted living facility is a good and safe facility.

Absence of Comparable Data

Assisted living facilities are primarily private-pay facilities where seniors pay for their room and board and for any additional services required. Medicare and Medicaid offer only limited coverage in very limited situations for assisted living, as opposed to nursing homes where Medicaid picks up the tab for many of the residents.

The definition of assisted living facilities also vary from state to state, as do the requirements for licensing and regulating the facilities. There are no federal guidelines that govern assisted living facilities, and since most facilities do not get much or any funding from Medicaid/Medicare, the facilities don’t have the requirement or incentive to be compliant with regulations necessary to continue to receive this type of funding.

All of these factors mean much less oversight on facilities calling themselves assisted living homes.  The services and assistance provided to seniors may vary greatly from one home to another, and there are few if any official government databases that offer information on the different assisted living facilities in each area. This means that when trying to place a senior in a facility, the elderly person or his/her caregivers and family members must try to research each individual assisted living facility in order to get an idea of the facility’s reputation and the service that it provides.

As the AARP reports, the absence of sufficient regulation in assisted living problems has led to many issues including medication errors, inadequate staff or under staffing. The PBS documentary also showed the consequences of many of these problems on the lives of residents.  Comparing facilities and understanding what each offers is absolutely essential to finding the right environment for a senior.  Unfortunately, with so little centralized data and so few tools for comparison, this can be a major undertaking for family members and caregivers who place a high premium on finding the right assisted living environment. 

Recently, guest Authors: Katy Fike, PhD & Karen Carpenter wrote a post on the  Senior Housing Forum blog entitled, "Assisted Living 2.0 – High Tech and High Touch". This was a great article identifying examples of innovative, tech-enabled solutions to the specific challenges identified in the recent documentary. Katy and Karen identified a variety of companies who are re-imagining solutions to unmet needs facing older adults, their families and professional care providers.  One of the problems they identified speaks directly to my post which was - "Families in search of senior housing have difficulty finding unbiased information about care options and quality". They highlighted several technology platforms including this site, OpenPlacement and the platform it has built, as truly helping to solve this key issue.  There is no doubt that more technology solutions are coming out each and every day that help provide comparable data for families seeking assisted living facilities. We just need to make all those looking for care more aware of these solutions and have them readily accessible.