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With Alzheimer’s diagnoses expected to jump to 13.5 million in 2050* from 5.1 million in 2015, care facilities that specialize in memory loss are in high demand. If you are a leader in this relatively new space, you are no doubt balancing considerable opportunities with emerging risks.

Memory care facilities may be exposed to lawsuits that allege issues such as failure to screen residents for a higher level of care, insufficient staffing, inadequate management of care, and failure to maintain a safe, secure environment.

Fortunately, there are ways to help protect both your residents and your business. Start with these six key areas:

Review the resident selection process. Even before you place residents, your marketing can open up your care facility to risks. It is critical to clearly communicate what your facility offers, avoiding superlatives (such as “best care”) and stating up front that outcomes may vary. Both standardized assessment tools and individualized clinical assessments are critical for appropriate placement. In addition, involving family and significant others throughout the placement process can further help reduce potential liability.

Maintain quality-of-care accreditation. The Joint Commission’s memory care accreditation requirements cover five key areas: care coordination, staff knowledge and competency, activity programming based on resident capabilities, behavioral management, and creation of safe and supportive physical environments. Complying with these requirements, even if your facility is not accredited, demonstrates a commitment to quality and helps keep residents safer.

Provide specialty staff training and certification. As the memory care market evolves, it is important to regularly re-evaluate training requirements for all employees. Consider requiring employee certification in memory care. The National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners and the Alzheimer’s Association* provide well-respected certification programs.

Create personalized behavioral management programs. Behavioral issues, which may intensify as residents age, often require a multi-disciplinary approach. Building a care team that includes nursing, social work, therapeutic specialties, pharmaceutical support, and a licensed physician helps provide a more holistic perspective on patient needs.

Strategically design and safeguard living spaces. There is a delicate balance between keeping residents safe and offering reasonably independent living. Spaces must protect residents against hazards such as falls, burns, and wandering. Once the facility is in use, the facility’s emergency readiness plan should include steps for all stages of an emergency and clearly define requirements and responsibilities.

Review your insurance needs. Your facility’s property, liability, and professional insurance should be tailored to your specific business. Keep in mind that your coverage needs may also extend to areas such as construction and environmental insurance. Some insurers also provide risk engineering services. Consult with your agent or broker to determine whether your insurance fits your needs.

Taking these steps can help protect both your residents and your facility’s reputation and bottom line, leaving you to focus on the business of care.

For a more detailed discussion of the risks and liabilities associated with memory care facilities, download our advisory, Memory Care: Safeguarding a New Model of Senior Living. The advisory also includes links to checklists to aid memory care facilities in evaluating the effectiveness of their existing practices and protocols.

— Diane Doherty is Senior Vice President, Risk Engineering for Chubb Healthcare.

This article originally appeared as “Memory Care Facilities: Six Keys for Reducing Professional Liability Risks" on the Risk Conversation blog on May 8, 2017.

*The Alzheimer’s Association is not responsible for information or advice provided by others, including information on websites that link to Association sites and on third party sites to which the Association links. Please direct any questions to weblink@alz.org.

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