New Legislation in Washington D.C. Could Impact Assisted Living Facilities

by Jeffrey J. Downey, Attorney handling assisted living and nursing home
negligence cases in Washington DC, Virginia and Maryland
Phone: 703-564-7318
On the web at

Legislation before the DC Council’s regulating the District’s assisted-living residences could
have implications for many who have loved ones who suffer moderate to severe dementia,
explains personal injury and nursing home malpractice lawyer Jeffrey J. Downey.
Tucked into the draft is a provision that would prohibit assisted living residences from admitting
anyone who “is or has ever been diagnosed with moderate to severe dementia, or requires
hospice care.” As the bill is written now, DC residents with dementia or in need of hospice care
would not be displaced from their assisted living facilities.

DC Council member Vincent C. Gray, a lead sponsor of the bill and chair of the council’s health
committee, presided over last week’s hearing as DC residents and advocates for the bill raised
concerns over the legislation. Gray said the DC Department of Health had been dragging its feet
until the council introduced the legislation, referring to the department’s process as having
“faded into the ether.”

In a recent article in the Washington Post, Kate Sullivan Hare, executive director of the Long
Terms Care Quality Alliance, acknowledged its support for the bill, saying that her group wants
dementia patients limited to facilities with dedicated “memory care” units. She said she would
support an amendment clarifying that facilities with specialized units would still be allowed to
admit patients with dementia.

The Alzheimer’s Association and LeadingAge DC are two organizations following the
discussion over this bill and testified at the hearing last week. The Alzheimer’s Association is
advocating that a provision in the bill requiring residents who may be at risk of wandering to
carry identification that includes their names and the name, address, and phone number of their
facilities. The Alzheimer’s Association raised concern over privacy, noting that an estimate 5.5
million Americans live with some form of dementia.

Supporters of the legislation said it would protect the rights of assisted living residents and
would shield them from retaliation if they complain about their facility. Several representatives
who develop of run assisted living residences raised concern about increased costs should the
new legislation be passed.

About 600 people live in the city’s 12 assisted living residences, according to LeadingAge DC, a
local chapter of an association of nonprofit organization care for the elderly. It is estimated that
about half of the residents across the country have dementia.

“In recent years we have seen assisted living facilities accepting patients with higher acuity or
advanced medical problems, like pressure wounds or patients who are at a high risk of falling,”
explains Downey. “This can often put patients at risk as the staff in an assisted living facility is
not typically trained to provide skilled nursing care, as in a nursing home. On the flip side, it is
not always easy to assess the level of dementia. A regulation that is too strict in limiting assisted
living admissions could prevent high-functioning demented patients from being placed in a less
restrictive environment. We will have to examine the final language closely as this legislation is
yet to become law.”

For more information regarding this issue a potential claim, contact the Law Office of Jeffrey J.
Downey, 8270 Greensboro Drive, Suite 810, McLean, VA, 22101, Phone 703-564-7318. On the
web at