Iowa's Regulation of Assisted Living Facilities Stirs Controversy

Assisted living facilities have become popular alternatives to nursing homes. Residents get their own private apartment, meals and light housekeeping are provided, and there's usually some nursing care if needed, too.

Most people move into assisted living when they need minimal care or simply don't want to manage a house. But as people age, they may need more care. If the individual needs the kind of care that a nursing home gives, this poses a problem for state regulators: Nursing homes are heavily regulated, but in many states assisted living facilities are not.

After a series of newspaper articles earlier this year in Iowa implied that poor care in assisted living facilities was going uncorrected, the governor moved to put the facilities under stricter scrutiny. "Some of these assisted living programs are morphing into uncertified nursing homes, and that's not permitted within the state," says Steve Young of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals.

This means that Iowa regulators are now deciding who is well enough to live in an assisted living facility and who must go to a nursing home. A report on National Public Radio's Morning Edition focuses on Doreen Sparks, 92, a resident of the Sunset Park Place assisted living facility in Dubuque. Her daughter, Carolyn McCoy, says assisted living allows her mother to live with a degree of comfort she could not find in a nursing home. But Sunset Park says the state is requiring it to force Ms. Sparks to move to a nursing home.

"There are similar battles across the country," reporter Joseph Shapiro concludes. "How they get resolved will determine whether assisted living can keep its promise to be both safe and homelike."

To read more and listen to the broadcast, click here.

For more on assisted living facilities, click here.