Tips to Manage Rising Acuity in Assisted Living

The average age of assisted living residents has increased in the last decade, and because of this, the prevalence of residents with chronic conditions has also increased. However, there are ways assisted living providers can continue to maintain a high quality of care.

In 2001, the average age of people moving into assisted living in America was 80, and by 2010 it was 87, according to Elizabeth Jensen, clinical director at senior living equipment and solutions provider Direct Supply.

“Assisted living residents today have two to three chronic conditions and adults 85 and older have a much higher risk of falling compared to their younger counterparts,” she said Wednesday at the LeadingAge Illinois 2017 Meeting and Exposition in Chicago.


One way communities can maintain quality as acuity rises is to embrace a community health model, which includes staff members working in conjunction with one another instead of just one staff member coordinating care.

Jensen related the community health model to a course she took in college where she was required to drive around one particular part of town, assessing what grocery stores, health care facilities, and other resources were helping keep people’s lives running.

When applied to an assisted living community, start by assessing what is happening in a specific community among its residents, she said.


Conduct a community assessment by analyzing the following:

  • What are the top diagnoses in the community?
  • What are the top prescribed medications residents use?
  • What are the top incidents that impact residents?
  • How many residents are active?
  • How many residents use walkers, wheelchairs?
  • How many smoke?

Once a community has a clear picture of what residents’ lives include it will be easier to construct a plan that addresses those issues, explained Jensen.

“The typical assisted living philosophy includes health and wellness, but now we are adding additional aspects to the health side to address communities specifically,” she said.

The customization could include implementing chronic disease management, physical therapy, visits from physicians and nurse practitioners, and on-site home health nurses, dietitians and social service providers.

The analysis of an assisted living community could also tie into programming in terms of resident activities.

“Once the community assessment is complete, the community’s organizers can put their heads together to construct what the community should implement … from activities for residents to education for residents and staff members,” she said.

Measure Outcomes

Once new programs are implemented, measuring outcomes of the programs is vital.

Because of the fact that assisted living residents are moving in later in life, it will soon be standard for families and potential residents to ask what providers’ rehospitalization rates are, as well as fall rates and customer satisfaction scores, explained Jensen.

“If you’re not collecting data today, put your team together to think about what measurements you will want to know moving forward,” she said. “Savvy consumers in the future will ask for all kinds of data.”

Written by Alana Stramowski

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