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Justice in Aging Calls for Stronger California Rules Governing Assisted Living

February 12, 2014

WASHINGTON – Based on a comparison of California’s assisted living laws with those of 11 other states, the National Senior Citizens Law Center says that the state’s laws are out of date and fall short in several areas, putting residents’ health at risk.

There have been at least 27 assisted living residents in San Diego County alone who have died as a result of injuries or neglect since 2008.

In testimony at a Joint Oversight Hearing of the California Senate and Assembly Human Service Committees today, NSCLC Directing Attorney Eric Carlson said, “California lags far behind other states in responding to the needs of today’s assisted living residents.”

Carlson recommended that the state develop new standards that remedy the problems outlined in Best Practices in Assisted Living: Considering Potential Reforms for California, a report that was released today.

For example, he recommended that the state increase staff training, an area in which Carlson said California currently falls short. The state requires only 10 hours of training for direct care staff members, while in Connecticut and Washington the minimum requirement is 75 hours.

According to Carlson, California’s Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly law was enacted in 1985 at a time when most assisted living residents had relatively limited care needs. Persons with greater care needs lived in nursing homes, but since that time, both in California and in other states, assisted living facilities have changed and are likely to house residents with significant care needs.

“The central problem is a mismatch between state law and the types of persons who now reside in these facilities,” Carlson explained.

He said that a significant problem is that the state’s law covers very different types of facilities in the same way while other states have addressed facility differences. For example, Arkansas allows only certain types of facilities to admit and retain residents who require nursing home levels of care.

“California’s public policy strategy should be to develop standards that vary as necessary with circumstances, rather than applying loose, lowest-common denominator standards across the board,” Carlson said.

The report was funded by the California Health Care Foundation and is available on the NSCLC website.


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