Is an assisted living facility a health care provider?

Is an assisted living facility a health care provider?

Is an assisted living facility a health care provider? 150 150 Lauren Ellerman

I live in an area where retirees and healthcare are big business.

Some of the largest and most profitable employers in the area are our hospitals, nursing homes and continuing care retirement communities. Billboards interrupt our pastoral landscape with images of happy seniors, smiling and laughing over a glass of wine, or relaxing in a hot tub. The images effectively communicate the facility’s message – RETIREMENT LIVING IS GOOD LIVING.

And yet families who call our office are always shocked to learn that an assisted living facility that assumed care of their loved one with dementia, and agreed to provide nursing care to that loved one, is not a health care provider under Virginia law.

This morning I was exploring a website called A Place for Mom – where you can compare local facilities. They use beautiful images, have consumers rate the facilities and provide their experiences. One highly ranked local facility lists the following amenities on the page:

Amenities Available

  • Outdoor Common Areas
  • Activities Offsite
  • Devotional Services Offsite
  • Meals Provided
  • Beautician Onsite
  • Indoor Common Areas
  • Devotional Services Onsite
  • Activities Onsite
  • 24-Hour Awake Staff
  • Visiting Podiatrist
  • Visiting Occupational Therapist
  • Nurses on Staff
  • Visiting Speech Therapist
  • Visiting Physical Therapist
 Other Services
  • Wheelchair Accessible Showers
  • Hospice Available
  • Full Tubs
  • Resident Parking Available
  • Complimentary Transportation
 Accepts Pets
  • Cats
  • Dogs

Sounds like summer camp or a college dorm, doesn’t it? What it doesn’t sound like is a health care provider. Having a visiting doctor, and employing some nurses does not a health care facility make. And under Virginia law, these facilities should really not accept patients that need daily health care.

“Assisted living care” means a level of service provided by an assisted living facility for adults who may have physical or mental impairments and require at least moderate assistance with the activities of daily living.

The law also requires that assisted living facilities provide and have a program of care, that:

1. Meets the resident population’s physical, mental, emotional, and psychosocial needs;

2. Provides protection, guidance and supervision;

3. Promotes a sense of security and self-worth;

4. Promotes the resident’s involvement with appropriate community resources; and

5. Meets the objectives of the service plan.

 This however, does not mean the facility is providing medical care. Nor does it mean their staff nurses are providing medical care. Most likely, they coordinate a few doctors appointments a year and call 911 when necessary.

The good news is these facilities can provide a wonderful and needed service. The bad news is really needy patients and those with acute medical conditions should not likely live in such a facility. Would you send your coumadin dependent mother who has a history of falls and confusion to summer camp and expect them to meet her needs? Me neither.

Know what services are available on a daily basis before you agree to assisted living care. It’s not a good fit for everyone.

About the author

Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at

Back to top