New Georgia Law Revises Assisted Living Standards

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As Georgians struggle to find suitable facilities for aging family members, many recognize that sometimes neither nursing homes nor assisted living facilities provide just the right fit. Nursing homes can, or should, provide a high level of hands-on nursing care for usually elderly and incapacitated residents. Nursing homes are empowered by Georgia law to provide medication and significant nursing care to residents. By contrast, until recently, assisted living facilities were more like boarding houses. Assisted living facilities have historically provided very little, if any, medical care to their residents and were generally viewed as a place more appropriate for seniors who needed little supervision in their activities of daily living.

Assisted living is generally considered to be the preferred living arrangement. ALFs are usually more appealing to both residents and their loved ones. These facilities offer a more home-like environment with apartment-esque rooms that often resemble a studio apartment or large hotel room. Residents of ALF have a lot of independence, and they receive the support and service they need. Assisted living facilities are designed to provide those who live there with assistance with activities of daily living (eating, showering, etc). Some states also allow staff at assisted living homes to provide medication assistance and/or reminders. (Until recently, Georgia was not among those states).

A nursing home is a facility for elderly individuals who are not appropriate candidates for a hospital but who have needs that can usually not be met in a private home setting. Most nursing homes have aides, LPNs, and RNs on staff throughout the day. The staff of the nursing home provides medical services and, if appropriate, therapy. Usually, there is a nurses’ station situated either on each floor or placed such that the nurses can watch over a certain number of rooms. Some nursing homes have special rooms or section for people with serious mental issues. These units entail closer monitoring and, if necessary, various types of physical restraint.

As a lawyer in Atlanta who handles long-term care cases, I have seen first hand why selecting the right facility can be an extremely important decision.

The Georgia legislature passed, and the Governor signed, a new law that will help enable seniors enjoy better, and more significant, support in assisted living facilities and, under the right circumstances, avoid needless moves to nursing homes. Similar laws have already been passed in Oregon, Maryland, and North Carolina. This new law has been popular across the long-term care community and received praise from the Assisted Living Federation of America. (ALFA).

The new regulations created an ALF licensure category for facilities with a resident capacity level of 25 or more. Most of these new ALF rules will be effective in 2012. The law will expand the types of services ALF residents may receive. For example, medication administration by specially trained staff and assistance for residents who have mobility problems will now be allowed under certain circumstances. Also, more non-ambulatory residents will be allowed to continued to reside at assisted living facilities rather than being forced out and transferred to nursing homes.

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