In Massachusetts right now, there’s a bit of a war going on between the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs, nursing homes and assisted living facilities. As is so often the case, while the consumer is the party who is supposedly is designed to benefit from these regulatory skirmishes, that isn’t always what results.
Have you ever noticed these ‘Assisted Living Facilities’ when driving around Massachusetts (or elsewhere,) and wondered, “What are these places?” Well, in theory, they were developed about 15-20 or so years ago as a kind of an alternative to a nursing home, for primarily elderly residents who need some kind of care outside their families’ homes, but weren’t so seriously disabled that they needed a nursing home or skilled nursing facility with round-the-clock care. These facilities – or real estate developments as many would call them – supposedly offered primarily elderly residents (or otherwise infirmed persons) an alternative environment to a nursing home. In theory, many such residents would need limited assistance – perhaps to bathe or similar functions – and many would hire their own part-time nurse, Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN,) or nurses’ aide to come in for a few hours every day to help with these daily living functions. In practice, many assisted living facilities operate more like apartment complexes that have almost exclusively elderly residents, than anything else. Advocates for the elderly have criticized this practice, saying it’s an essentially low-ball way to make money off elderly patients – without being regulated as nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities.
This ‘sub-nursing home’ option became quite popular with the public, for a variety of reasons: 1) The primary one is that the cost for an assisted living facility is usually far less than that for a nursing home of skilled nursing facility. 2) Next, in theory at least, these facilities offered the resident a greater degree of independence and autonomy; but 3) – and as a Massachusetts nursing home neglect attorney, in my opinion this next one is very important – they offer the adult children of the elderly parents that they place in these facilities, a ‘way out’ of the guilt that usually results when placing an aging parent in a traditional nursing home. So, for a variety of reasons, assisted living facilities have grown rapidly, to the point now where approximately 14,000 in Massachusetts live in these facilities across the state. These facilities are regulated by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs – but trust me, as a Dedham Massachusetts nursing home lawyer – the oversight to date hasn’t exactly been strict or aggressive. However, it looks like that’s about to change, and that’s what the current battle between the state, the nursing home industry and the assisted living facilities is all about.