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Choosing the Right Assisted Living is a Major Decision ©By: Clare Absher RN, BSN
How does one go about finding a reputable assisted living facility known for providing quality of care? Are they inspected and evaluated and how can one find ratings to compare them? These are common inquires posed by many newcomers faced with the challenging job of deciding on the right assisted living for a loved one. Nursing homes and Home HealthCare Agencies that are Medicare/Medicaid certified are required to undergo annual inspections performed by each state with results entered in to a national database and made available to consumers. On the other-hand no similar state inspections are conducted for assisted living facilities or presented in a national database making the research process a great deal more difficult.
Due to this lack of a national inspection reporting system for assisted living, utilizing different resources is necessary along with a lot more diligence. Many are not aware of the valuable info offered on assisted living homes derived from special accreditation organizations. JCAHO (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations) and CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) are two of the primary accreditation organizations. Meeting the higher standards required to become accredited by one or both of these well-respected organizations are considered a feather in a facility's cap.
JCAHO is an independent, not-for-profit organization that evaluates the quality and safety of care for nearly 16000 health care organizations. To maintain and earn accreditation, organizations must have an extensive on-site review by a team of Joint Commission health care professionals, at least once every three years. The purpose of the review is to evaluate the organization's performance in areas that affect your care. Accreditation may then be awarded based on how well the organizations met Joint Commission standards. Only some assisted living facilities elect to acquire this accreditation so a limited number of homes are included. The information on each accredited facility does however include a detailed report of findings and a number score is given based on a 100 point scale. An online directory allows easy access to this info and further explanation of the value of having this accreditation.
The Continuing Care Accreditation Commission (CCAC) and Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) are respected not-for-profit organizations that accredit care providers merged in Jan 2003. Accreditation not only provides assurance of quality and integrity, but it offers the public a standard for comparison in evaluating retirement communities. Assisted Living homes accredited by this organization is again by no means a complete listings of all homes in a particular area and only a decision on whether accreditation was awarded is provided. No specific details are offered on a facility for the basis of this decision but an explanation of what this accreditation means is included along with an easy to use online search tool.
Lastly AAHSA (American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging) represents 5,600 mission-driven, not-for-profit nursing homes, continuing care retirement communities, assisted living and senior housing facilities, and home and community-based service providers. Not-for-profit homes are gaining more positive attention in recent years in an industry that has become dominated by corporate chain ownership. Some believe that not-for profit facilities offer benefits that a for-profit one cannot such as a governing board of volunteer trustees who are dedicated to assuring their residents receive a high quality of care. The underlying factor that defines them as not-for-profit is that any surplus is returned or put back in to the facility to improve or expand their services. Although not an accrediting body AAHSA is a useful resource to explore not-for-profit assisted living homes and easy online access.