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Assisted living, elder care reforms evolve at Capitol, likely to pass this year

ST. PAUL — The laws governing your residence or your parents' may change this year, as the Legislature reforms assisted living laws and takes on other policy tied to senior care. 

Patients and families have been confused by the myriad of rules governing assisted living, said Patti Cullen, president and CEO of Care Providers of Minnesota.

Senior advocates, industry groups and state officials met last year to find some common ground, and they agree assisted living residences need a new licensing system. 

Advocates, many with family members in senior care centers, have been pushing the state to improve its response to abuse allegations and improve other senior-related laws. 

The number of health facility complaints sent to the Department of Health rose sixfold in seven years, and the state struggled with a backlog of complaints until mid-2018. Even still, only about 5 percent of complaints were investigated in 2017, according to a state review. 

"It really, in our minds, is not a partisan issue," she said. Sundberg is not the only one who feels that way. 

Republican Sen. Karin Housley, who chairs the Senate Family Care and Aging Committee, is working on a range of bills on her "No senior ignored" agenda and expects them to be bipartisan.

St. Cloud Sen. Jerry Relph is the committee's vice chairman, and the elder abuse issue is one of his top priorities this year, he said at the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce's Legislative Session Preview in December . 

Housley's first bill would allow residents of a facility or their family members to keep a camera in their room. 

"I will be dropping that bill right out of the gate," Housley said at a December press conference. "That is really an important issue for people around the state of Minnesota."

Licensing assisted living centers, allowing cameras in patient rooms (to some extent) and adding oversight for memory care — those are all areas of agreement, Cullen said. "You're probably going to see a lot of proposals, but we all have the same goal." 

Elder Voice Family Advocates drafted its proposal with AARP and Legal Aide. It calls for a new section of state law with consumer protections for those in assisted living or getting home care. Protections may help discharged residents challenge their termination or get more notice before they have to move. There are also protections against retaliation and permission to assert rights, such as freedom from maltreatment, in court.

Assisted living centers evolved about 20 years ago for people who wanted an alternative to nursing homes, Sundberg said. They're focused on independence and choice, which works for some patients, but not all. 

"Way too many don't have staff appropriate for the care (needs) of their population," Sundberg said. "And there's no uniform standard."

Current assisted living regulations are piecemeal. 

Assisted living buildings are governed by landlord and tenant laws, while health care there is governed by home care service laws, Cullen said. In the past, not all assisted living residents needed health care, she said. But the industry has grown, and the frailty and needs of residents increased. New policies on senior care might be introduced and passed separately, Housley said. She expects changes that require the state inform people if they or their loved one was involved in an incident under investigation. 


By Nora G. Hertel | St. Cloud Times | January 4, 2019 4:08PM

Photos: Jason Wachter, and Dave Schwarz,


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