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November 27, 2020

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How are nursing homes different than assisted living?

Many people mistake a nursing home for an assisted living facility. The two have different levels of care and other treatment in the eyes of the law.

Assisted living communities generally take healthier people who need extra help and monitoring, while nursing homes are for the seriously ill.

Nonetheless, you can sue nursing homes and senior living communities when they have been negligent and harmed your loved one.

Just because assisted living laws are not as detailed does not mean they do not owe your loved one the duty of care.

The Different Legal Definitions of a Nursing Home and an Assisted Living Facility

An obvious difference between a skilled nursing facility and an assisted living facility begins with their legal definition.

In Illinois, an assisted living facility is defined in 77 ILCS 295.200.

It states that an assisted living facility is: “a home, building, residence, or any other place where sleeping accommodations are provided for at least three unrelated adults, at least 80% of whom are 55 years of age or older” where the following are provided:

  • Services based on a social model where the resident’s unit is their home
  • Mandatory services such as meals and laundry
  • A physical environment that is a homelike setting

These are generally personal care and minor assistance with the activities of daily living. There are care services, but there is more of a level of independent living.

Their residential care could include occasional visits by registered nurses or medication management.

A long-term care facility has a much higher level of care than a senior living home and requirements under the law.

In Illinois, the law defines a long-term care facility as “a private home, institution, building, residence, or any other place, whether operated for profit or not, or a county home for the infirm and chronically ill.” 210 ILCS 45/1-113

Thus a major legal difference is the facility’s purpose and who they are intended to treat. Illinois law views an assisted living facility as providing a setting for seniors who may need extra help and a social community who do not need intensive medical care.

The facility’s primary purpose is convenience and social interactions with other seniors. Older adults living there may be taken on outings and live in private rooms.

In contrast, the legal purpose of a nursing home is to provide intensive health care and nursing care to sick people who suffer from chronic conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s instead of just helping a more independent style of living.

These skilled nursing facilities will provide memory care and more intensive help, such as toileting.

The Regulatory Differences Between a Nursing Home and an Assisted Living Facility

From a regulatory standpoint, there are definite differences between nursing homes and assisted living. Nursing homes will be much more tightly regulated, no matter your state.

Nursing homes are licensed and frequently inspected. The answer to both the federal and state governments will often be cited for violating the myriad of federal laws and regulations that apply to them.

Every aspect of the daily care they provide residents is subject to regulation, and they may be held responsible for failing to follow the law.

While each state has its regulations, the federal laws and rules that apply to a nursing home are the same, no matter where the nursing home is located. There are many different ways that your loved one is protected when you move them into as nursing home residents.

The picture is different when it comes to assisted living. These facilities are not regulated anywhere near as tightly as nursing homes. This is why you can have some facilities that are completely not equipped to care for the people they are being paid to help.

No federal assisted living laws give a uniform framework for regulating these facilities. Instead, how an assisted living facility will be regulated will depend on the state.

Assisted living facilities do not receive Medicare or Medicaid funding, so the oversight level given to nursing homes will not apply here. The federal government has a say over nursing homes because it pays them many billions of dollars each year.

However, the only things that pay for assisted living are long-term care insurance or private pay, so there are fewer regulations.

In Illinois, there is state regulation of assisted living facilities. The Division of Assisted Living must license them. Illinois began regulating assisted living facilities in 2002. Illinois’ laws are found in 77 ILCS 295.

Illinois’ laws about assisted living are not as detailed as the regulations regarding nursing home care. They do provide for the following:

Licensing of assisted living facilities

Certain minimum basic services for residents include three daily meals, housekeeping, and laundry.
A physician’s assessment when the resident moves in and at least once annually after that or after a change in the resident’s condition.

As you can see, there is still some regulation for assisted living, but it is not very extensive. Assisted living facilities can still be fined when they break the law, but the fines are relatively insignificant.

The worst sanction that they can face is the loss of their license.

Accordingly, there are many cases of abuse at assisted living facilities in Illinois since they are regulated but nowhere near as stringently as nursing homes.

One thing that an assisted living facility and a nursing home have in common is that you can file a lawsuit against either one of them for negligence. The case’s facts may differ, but the same standard will judge each court action.

Even though they do not provide the same level of medical care as nursing homes, assisted living facilities may still be found liable for some of the same things they are sued for frequently.

For example, the following may be grounds for suing an assisted living facility:

The resident was left unattended during an activity, or the facility failed to supervise when they had an offsite activity.

The assisted living facility staff failed to notice a medical condition such as pressure ulcers and failed to get treatment.

Staff may have abused a resident physically or financially.

Contact the attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers to learn more. Call us for a free consultation.

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