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Announcing the State by State Guide to Assisted Living Records

Jeff Anderson
By Jeff AndersonMay 7, 2014

Our State Guide to Assisted Living Records & Reports is the first thorough evaluation of the openness and accessibility of assisted living records across the U.S. Our guide examines how to find assisted living records in each state. It also reports on and evaluates the amount of relevant information about assisted living communities published online, and the ease of access to it.

51 Systems for Keeping Assisted Living Records

Announcing the State by State Guide to Assisted Living RecordsOne challenge for families who are searching for assisted living is that it’s not always easy to find information about the licensing and background of communities that they are exploring. Information about the performance and backgrounds of nursing homes is available on Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website, but there is no single online clearinghouse for assisted living records. That’s because assisted living is regulated at the state level, as opposed to nursing homes, which are regulated at both the state and federal level.

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The amount of information available on each state assisted living licensing and records website varies widely. The most exceptional states have websites that allow the public to not only identify licensed communities and information about them (such as their capacity and license type), but also to read records regarding their backgrounds.

Florida’s state website is a great example, and Florida was honored in our guide as being among the states that provide consumers with the most information about assisted living backgrounds. Florida’s Deputy Secretary for Health Quality Assurance, Molly McKinstry told us, “We appreciate the recognition from A Place for Mom for Florida’s commitment to developing new and innovative ways to make health care information more accessible to consumers. Florida has worked diligently, through FloridaHealthFinder.gov, to expand timely consumer information that enables families to make informed choices for care.” She went on to add, “A Place for Mom’s website will help raise awareness of the resources available to consumers considering assisted living facility options.”

On the other hand, some states provide only a list of assisted living communities and require that families request assisted living records directly. In the most extreme cases, the public may actually have to submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in order to get these records.

How Access to Assisted Living Records Benefits Consumers

Public records about assisted living communities can be helpful to families during their search. The full text of inspections reports, substantiated complaints and any regulatory violations can help families appraise historic the performance of care providers and judge whether they are an appropriate match for elderly loved ones. The country is full of wonderful assisted living communities, but consumers benefit from being able to know about providers with dubious backgrounds.

How the Guide Was Created

The most exceptional states have implemented a simple search form for finding records.

A Place for Mom is deeply familiar with each state’s level of transparency into assisted living records as we are continuously researching the backgrounds of providers. Our Regulatory Licensing Team conducts an ongoing review of the communities in our network (or which have applied to join our network) to confirm that they are appropriately licensed and that there haven’t been serious substantiated issues in the provider’s recent history. Because our research into assisted living backgrounds mirrors the research that families conduct, albeit on a larger scale, we feel uniquely qualified to evaluate the level of accessibility of assisted living records in each state.

We looked at all 50 states and the District of Columbia and assessed the accessibility of information to consumers on more than a dozen separate objective criteria. Criteria included factors such as:

  • Whether a list of licensed assisted living providers is available online
  • Whether records such as inspection reports and substantiated complaints are posted online
  • Whether the information can be accessed via a convenient search form
  • Whether this information is updated frequently
  • How often mandatory inspections are conducted
  • Whether the state may fine the community

A value was applied to each of the criteria and a scoring rubrics allowed us the fairly and objectively rank states against one another.

How Accessible are Records and Reports in Your State?

The results of our report are now available online. The centerpiece of the project is a color-coded interactive map. Individual reports for each state have details about the level and ease of information states make available, and tips for families who are seeking assisted living records in the state.

Some key findings of the report include:

10 States with Most Accessible Records and Reports

Missouri
Florida
Washington
Indiana
Maryland
Virginia
Michigan
Wisconsin
Pennsylvania
Texas

10 States with Least Accessible Records and Reports

Massachusetts
South Dakota
Montana
Utah
Mississippi
North Dakota
Kentucky
Louisiana
Alaska
California

Other Findings

  • Wisconsin is the only state which includes information about the pricing of providers on their state website
  • Some of the states that update their records every 60 days or more often include Virginia, Washington, Indiana and Maryland
  • In many states, information seekers must file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain assisted living records
  • Some states, like Oregon and Texas, process FOIA requests within two weeks, while others, like Massachusetts and Utah, may take months
  • Some states charge a fee for each printed page required to fulfill a request, as well as an hourly service fee for document retrieval. Requesting information for a single community in Mississippi can cost up to $20 per inquiry
  • In Arkansas, one must be a legal resident of the state to obtain any assisted living records, making it complicated for out-of-state family to help a loved one with the research process

Find Records in Your State

While we rated states based on accessibility criteria, that was only a secondary goal. Our first goal is to make sure that you, the assisted living consumer, knows where to find records about providers your are exploring. So check out our guide and tell us what you think.

Do you have any feedback about the State Guide to Assisted Living Records? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Jeff Anderson
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Jeff Anderson
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