Assisted living facilities have long been a viable housing option for disabled people who don’t need the level of care offered at nursing homes. They are also an option for people who do not wish to live in group homes.
Residents have been able to tailor assistance to meet specific needs. Yet they can have a place that feels as if it is truly their home and not a shared space.
Assisted living is for some a “bridge” housing option between independent living and more structured care. For others, especially younger disabled people, it becomes a way of life. Either way it allows people who need assistance to stay in the community longer and to retain some level of independence. Assisted living also can keep people out of nursing homes and out of hospitals.
Assisted living facilities have long had their pitfalls. One is that the regulations can vary widely by state, and seem to give the upper hand to facility operators in some states.
Changes in service providers and level of services provided can become issues.
Residents are sometimes evicted when they are deemed to be too old and frail, or with too many care needs, often with little notice.
Everyone who needs support services, or has a loved one receiving support services in a form of assisted living, needs to pay attention to current trends. While much focus is rightfully on elders, we also must consider younger people with disabilities who need assistance.
The concerning trend we’re seeing in Minnesota and elsewhere is that as assisted living facilities are sold to new owner-operators, the assisted living component sometimes goes away. People who lose their services must seek other housing and care options, sometimes with limited time to do so.
The trend is seen around the state, most recently in the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul. That is where the 105-unit Wellington senior living complex was sold to Presbyterian Homes and Services.
The good news for many residents there is that their rents will be decreased. Another positive development is that the high-rise building will provide rental housing for Presbyterian Homes and Services workers. The nonprofit has indicated that its workers struggle to find affordable housing near their workplaces. Presbyterian Homes and Services has four housing complexes in the Highland area alone.
Up to 20 units at the Wellington will be offered to those workers.
The bad news is that about three dozen Wellington residents who receive assisted living services will have to move. The senior units will be offered only as independent living spaces.
About 20 other assisted living residents can stay because they have contracted for their own services outside of what their previous landlord offered.
Longtime building owner StuartCo. held the assisted living license for the Wellington.
When there is this kind of property sale and transition in services, state law requires at least 60 days’ notice. We appreciate that this has been followed here.
The Wellington is not the only assisted living facility making this kind of change. That is what is worrisome.
Minnesota has more than 2,000 assisted living facilities, ranging from high-rise buildings to much smaller structures with a few dozen residents. Licenses, regulations and other issues are overseen by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
As we read the rules there are safeguards in place for facilities and their residents when an ownership change occurs. For example, a building owner cannot simply transfer an assisted living license to a new building owner. the new owner wanting to retain assisted living must apply for a license of their own.
A report on nursing homes and assisted living facilities that was provided to state lawmakers late last year indicated that in 2021, 131 assisted-living facilities shut their doors. Another 39 chose to not renew their licenses. In the same period, 71 new assisted living facilities opened. That is still a loss in spaces and living options.
But like so many places that provide care for residents, assisted living facilities cannot easily attract and retain staff. And those trends are frightening. As our population ages and more people are approved for disability waivers, it create more pressure on existing staff.
And all of the rules and regulations in the universe won’t make up for our dire staffing shortage in Minnesota. We have a strong and likely increasing demand for more health care workers.
We know there is compassion fatigue as we disabled Minnesotans continue to raise the staffing issues. We appreciate that in many cases pay was raised. But it still is not enough to keep people in important jobs that our lives depend upon.