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The Gerontologist

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Life care communities -- United States -- Management


Background and Objectives

State regulating agencies use 350 different licenses and certifications to govern assisted living (AL), resulting in significant variation in regulations governing health services, the scope of practice, and capacity. This lack of standardization makes it difficult to compare and contrast AL operations and residents’ outcomes across similarly regulated communities.

Research Design and Methods We used qualitative and quantitative methods to empirically develop and describe a typology of state AL regulations that captures inter and intra-state variation. Based on the rules governing health services, we created regulatory specificity scores for five thematic dimensions: medication administration, third-party care, skilled nursing, medication review, and licensed nurse staffing. With these scores, we conducted a K-means cluster analysis to identify groups of AL license types. To differentiate the regulatory types, we calculated standardized mean differences across structure, process, outcome, and resident characteristics of the AL communities licensed under each type.

Results We identified six types of AL differentiated by the regulatory provisions governing health services: Housing, Holistic, Hybrid, Hospitality, Healthcare, and Health Support. The types align with previous work and reflect tangible differences in resident characteristics, health service structures, processes, and outcomes.

Discussion and Implications This typology effectively captures differences across regulated dimensions and can inform and support quality of care. Researchers, policymakers, and consumers may benefit from using this typology and acknowledging these differences in AL licensure when designing research studies, developing policies, and selecting an AL community.


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This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in The Gerontologist. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in The Gerontologist. Located here:



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