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New Assisted Living Regulations Do Little to Protect Consumers

Alliance asks the public to make their voices heard on fundamental rights

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Proposed rules to cover assisted living facilities fall far short of what is needed to ensure that Pennsylvania's elderly and those with disabilities receive adequate care in safe surroundings, according to the Pennsylvania Assisted Living Consumer Alliance (PALCA).

Fundamental consumer protections are missing from the proposed regulations. As proposed, a consumer would have to move in, sign a contract for residency and services, and begin payment to the facility weeks before the facility would be required to identify the consumer's care needs and explain to the consumer and her family how they proposed to meet those needs or even how much it would cost. As proposed, direct care staff would not have to complete a minimum amount of training hours and not all direct care staff would need any training in first aid or CPR. As proposed, facilities that exist as of the day the regulations take effect would not have to meet the best available standards or practices for fire safety or even wheelchair accessibility.

"The Department has made some moves in the right direction. And, for these, we are thankful," said Alissa Halperin, Senior Attorney and Deputy Director of Policy Advocacy at the Pennsylvania Health Law Project, the organization leading the efforts of PALCA. "But, the measures are baby steps when what we need are significant strides so consumers can feel confident that they or their loved one will be well cared for by adequate amounts of appropriately trained staff in safe and accessible facilities. These regulations just do not do cover all the critical bases."

The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare released the proposed regulations on Saturday, August 9.

The public has until September 8 to comment on them before the agency's final review. People can send their written comments about the proposed assisted living regulations to the Department of Public Welfare, Division of Long Term Care Client Services, Attention Gail Weidman, P. O. Box 2675, Harrisburg, PA 17105. Persons with a disability may use the AT&T Relay Service, (800) 654-5984 (TDD users) or (800) 654-5988 (voice users).

"Consumers must make themselves heard on this issue," Halperin said. "About 50,000 people currently live in facilities that may call themselves assisted living facilities. They are our mothers, our husbands, grandparents and our friends. The regulations must protect them and give their families confidence that their loved ones are well cared for. And, the public must speak out to make sure the final regulations do just this."

PALCA was formed this year to make sure that new licensing rules would protect elderly and disabled residents. The Pennsylvania Health Law Project is primarily using operating support from The Pew Charitable Trusts to fund the campaign.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly last year passed a bill to license the fast-growing assisted living industry. The regulations being developed will set the standards that these facilities must meet. Until now, state regulations have lumped assisted living facilities together with a wide range of homes for Pennsylvania's elderly and individuals with disabilities.

Some other ways in which the proposed regulations fall short include:

-- They propose far too few staff members on duty to meet residents needs.

-- They allow resident living space that is far too small. -- They omit essential residents' rights that should be afforded to all consumers.

-- They provide consumers with no right to challenge a facilities decision to kick them out.

-- They make no requirement for all hallways and common areas to be wheelchair accessible.

-- They take away a residents' right to continue to use or otherwise choose their own healthcare providers, such as their doctor or psychiatrist.

Assisted living has emerged in the past generation to house people who are not so sick that they require a nursing home. But these people generally need more help with bathing, dressing, medication management and other basic care needs than may be provided in personal care homes. Assisted living has been a marketplace phenomenon for consumers who want independence, privacy, and choice, but who also want the ability to "age in place" -- meaning they will not have to move when their care needs increase. In the past, however, state regulation of assisted living has only been by treating them as board and care homes, the regulation of which has been so minimal and enforcement has been so lax that there have been numerous reports of bad outcomes and tragic results for residents.

"Here is our opportunity. We need to get this right. Pennsylvania's families deserve to know that they can trust Pennsylvania's assisted living facilities to safely and appropriately care for their loved ones and that the state is committed to ensuring that the facilities fulfill this promise," added Halperin.

PALCA members have met monthly since January and regularly talk to state regulators in the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. The Alliance consists of numerous individual consumers and family members as well as several local and statewide organizations.

The Pennsylvania Assisted Living Consumer Alliance encourages you to share your Assisted Living experience with us at and to share your opinions on the proposed regulations with policymakers before September 8th.

SOURCE Pennsylvania Assisted Living Consumer Alliance
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