On July 30, the PBS show Frontline aired a documentary entitled “Life and Death in Assisted Living.” The program focused on tragic incidents and ongoing management problems at several communities owned by a for-profit provider.
The program also revealed that the assisted living industry is pretty much unregulated – especially when compared to nursing homes – and that many are increasingly providing medical care that’s beyond the scope of “assisted living” and doing so with insufficient staffing and inadequate training.
This documentary and a related series on the on-line site ProPublica highlight some disturbing issues. However, they also provide an opportunity to define the important and very real differences between Masonicare, which includes two Assisted Living communities, and these other providers. These fall into four areas:
1. We are not-for-profit. We are mission-based, with a commitment to those in our care – not to shareholders.
2. We are a Continuum of Care. Unlike Masonicare, many communities offer only assisted living or independent with assisted living. They are not part of a full continuum of care, which would include skilled nursing/24 hour nursing care. Assisted living was designed to support residents with basic ADLs (activities of daily living) such as bathing, grooming and dressing. It is not intended to offer the complex or “skilled” medical care provided in skilled nursing facilities. Masonicare’s advantage is that our comprehensive continuum allows residents to receive the proper level of care they need all on one campus.
3. We are accredited. Pond Ridge at Masonicare at Ashlar Village is nationally accredited by CARF-CCAC (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities – Continuing Care Accreditation Commission.) It assures best practices for governance and financial management, and the highest standards of care. The accreditation covers all three of Ashlar Village’s service lines: continuing care retirement (independent living), assisted living and assisted living/memory care. Lockwood Lodge does not offer independent living and therefore, does not meet qualification for accreditation; however, Lockwood Lodge adheres to the same Masonicare standards and quality of care.
4. We are licensed. In Connecticut, assisted living facilities have to be licensed by the Department of Public Health, which performs bi-annual inspections. Both of our communities have passed all DPH inspections and are in full compliance with requirements such as staffing ratios and training. We have detailed policies in place to support this, which include admissions protocols, staffing levels, staff training and quality management. In addition, the Professional Advisory Committee and Quality Assurance Committee meet regularly to review resident charts and services provided. The committees include a physician, social worker and registered nurse. Our communities also conduct annual resident satisfaction surveys that continue to receive high ratings (the most recent averaged 94%.)
We don’t know if Frontline’s alarming portrayal will bring about positive change in the oversight, standards, quality and policies of the companies it featured, but we do know that Masonicare’s commitment remains strong and unwavering to doing what’s right for those we are privileged to serve.