Several provider associations Wednesday came to assisted living’s defense during a Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing on quality and oversight, arguing lawmakers need not create more regulation to ensure resident safety, but instead provide sufficient funding to enforce existing laws.
The impetus for the committee’s hearing came from Miami Herald reports earlier this year detailing tragic cases of abuse and neglect in Florida assisted living facilities that included the deaths of wandering and restrained residents.
During his testimony at Wednesday’s hearing, Richard P. Grimes, president and CEO of Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA), insisted that attention must be drawn to the lack of state resources for funding watchdog agencies.
“From time-to-time, there are calls for more regulation of assisted living,” Grimes said. “This is usually tied to high profile incidents of neglect or abuse in communities licensed to provide assisted living that are not professionally managed.
“Unfortunately, as states cut budgets, state regulatory agencies are increasingly compromised,” he continued. “Without the staff and resources for regulators to do their jobs, frail elderly seniors and other vulnerable populations are put at increasing risk.”
In a separate testimony, Stephen J Maag, director of residential communities at LeadingAge, urged the committee “not to look to more regulation,” and instead promoted quality initiatives by his association, as well as those of ALFA, the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL) and the Center for Excellence in Assisted Living.
“For those few providers who do have quality of care issues, state licensure officials should use the authority they already have to require poor performing communities to seek and implement the programs and resources they need to raise their level of care to that of the rest of the assisted living providers,” Maag said.
In a media statement, NCAL Executive Director Dave Kyllo said, “NCAL believes that any instance of abuse and neglect must be dealt with swiftly and sternly. Protecting our seniors and individuals with disabilities is a priority that must be shared by government, providers and consumers.”
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, opened the hearing by stating “we need some level of consistency in the quality of service and safety standards” for all providers.
“And we need to provide much more transparency about quality and foster a better dialogue between residents, their families and providers” to prevent tragedies such as those reported by the Miami Herald, Kohl said.