Senior Living Organizations Clash Over Effort to Set New Industry Standards

Several senior housing and care organizations are butting heads over the right to potentially shape new U.S. senior living standards, most recently at a hearing held Tuesday.

At the core of the discussion is an effort from Argentum to help create new senior living standards with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), a national organization that sets voluntary standards for a wide variety of businesses and industries. Argentum last April applied to become an accredited standards developer with ANSI, a move that would give it more influence over voluntary standards affecting the senior living industry.

Currently, assisted living and memory care communities are regulated on a state-by-state basis. While new voluntary standards wouldn’t affect those regulations, they could set a new bar to clear for some senior living owners and operators across the U.S. There are a few organizations with existing standards for senior housing and care, including the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).

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Argentum first set out to establish new voluntary standards for the senior living industry in 2015. Three years later, the organization had established its Senior Living Standards Commission, which was meant to help forge the industry standards.

“Our vision for the industry calls for taking prudent, positive steps to address operational issues that can directly impact the resident experience and quality of life as well as industry reputation, long-term growth and profitability,” Argentum wrote on its Senior Living IQ website.

Though ANSI accepted Argentum’s application last September, the effort rankled other senior housing and care organizations — LeadingAge, the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), the Center for Excellence in Assisted Living (CEAL) and the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL) — that want a seat at the table, too.

The organizations filed appeals requesting that ANSI reconsider its decision last fall, citing concerns regarding due process, dominance, openness, and a potential lack of balance in the proposed standards’ development process. Critics also say the voluntary standards could open up the industry to new legal woes.

Those organizations made their case during a Feb. 18 hearing before ANSI’s Executive Standards Council in New York City. Though the organizations agreed that quality is of primary concern for the industry, they also believe that any new senior living standards should be created with input from more industry stakeholders.

“When initiatives demonstrate potential to have a widespread effect on the entire profession, it is important that we work together … to reach an overwhelming consensus,” leaders of LeadingAge, ASHA and NCAL wrote in a joint statement after the hearing. “One association alone should not have full discretion to embark on such an immense effort.”

In a statement, Argentum President and CEO James Balda said maintaining quality was also a top priority for the senior living organization.

“We are encouraged by the dialogue we continue to have with our association partners and other stakeholders to identify a collaborative path forward for the development of industry best practices, among other opportunities,” Balda stated.

ANSI is expected to release the results of the hearing in the coming weeks.

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