Discrepancies between assisted living facilities and nursing homes in Massachusetts has raised concerns over how effectively senior living communities are regulated in the state, according an article from The Boston Globe.
Highlighting several instances where staffing, negligence and abuse have occurred at various assisted living communities throughout the state, the article attributes Massachusetts’ regulatory shortcomings as a result of outdated rules and guidelines, inadequate training and, above all, limited oversight.
“What I have seen is facilities cut corners, particularly with staff because it’s the most expensive item, so it’s not surprising that some preventable accidents happen,” said a Boston lawyer in the article whose firm handles neglect cases involved assisted living residents. “People are given the wrong medication, or are overmedicated, or they are not observed and are allowed to get injured.”
Regulating the hundreds of assisted living facilities in Massachusetts has even proved an overwhelming task for the state agencies charged with doing so.
The Executive Office of Elder Affairs, the agency that oversees 224 senior living residences in the state, is also ill-equipped to protect the welfare of the approximately 13,700 people who live in assisted living facilities, writes The Boston Globe.
Additional concerns have risen to surface internally within Elder Affairs, particularly the agency having just two ombudsman to handle the thousands of complaints it receives each year involving assisted living facilities.
Among the most “glaring” concerns the article mentions include outdated rules that fail to address the need for adequate staffing levels and training, as well as guidelines that also fall short of ensuring safety during emergencies and “lax” rules for monitoring medications, especially among residents living with dementia.
Massachusetts rules governing assisted living facilities that haven’t been updated since 2006 are particularly disturbing to industry advocates, especially as the percentage of residents with dementia has risen from 37% to 44% of the state’s assisted living population, according to state data cited in the article.
Central to the issue is the dilemma spurred by the most crucial difference that distinguishes assisted living communities from their nursing home counterparts—where must the line be drawn when it comes to regulations in residential-style versus institutional settings?
“[Industry leaders] acknowledge the conundrum of balancing independence for seniors with rules to ensure their safety, but say industry surveys show consistently high consumer satisfaction and a steady march of customers to their doors,” the article writes.
Read The Boston Globe article.
Written by Jason Oliva