Yes, you can convert your home into an assisted living facility in the United States. However, you will need to see the regulations in your state and apply them to the structure you are considering for conversion to an Assisted Living Facility.
You also need the statute and the FAC for the assisted living facility operation, and also the building codes as referenced in the statutes. Each county can require different compliance factors so be certain you understand what you are getting into before you start.
The AHCA (Agency for Healthcare Administration) is the licensing agency for assisted living facilities in the United States. Don’t confuse that with “teaching agency.” They do NOT teach, they expect and mandate you to know all the regulations and to comply with everyone.
Have it in mind that some cities make it easy and others make it difficult. You are always advised to contact your local zoning department and ask about the zoning requirements for an assisted living home. Fair Housing laws often limit a city’s ability to restrict where an assisted living facility can be located but only up to a certain size. Zoning is one thing and Building codes are another.
Most assisted living facilities are regulated by the state. State regulations will make available certain requirements for the property itself, how you operate it, and whether you even qualify for a license to do so. Start by learning as much as you can about the specific regulations in your state. Regulations are also online.
Finding the regulations is one thing while understanding their implementation is another. To help sort out state regulations, attend classes, network with other assisted living providers, and consider hiring a consultant. Indeed, hiring a consultant may cost some extra money but non-compliance with regulations usually costs more.
Processes Involved with Converting your Home into an Assisted Living Facility
In modern America, there are various regulations over assisted living facilities which include building codes, staffing requirements, and licensing. Depending on your house, neighborhood and state, it may not be possible to convert your house into an assisted living facility. If it is, the process and steps to take include;
- Check the zoning of your property with your city or county. Assisted living facilities are businesses and are typically not allowed in residential zones. If your municipality allows you to convert your home into a business, inquire about the application process for a local business license.
- Research your state laws and regulations on assisted living facility licensing. Most states categorize assisted living licensing under a department related to health or social services. In Texas, the Department of Aging and Disability Services oversees assisted living. In California, it’s the Department of Social Services and in Washington State, it’s the Department of Social and Health Services.
- Understand the regulations on facility space, structural and safety requirements and compare them to your home. Identify the modifications, renovations, and installations you will need to comply with the codes.
- Seek adequate financing to make physical changes to your home as well as to hire the clinical and support staff required under state law. Assume it will take at least six months before revenues build enough to break even. If you have even one resident, you have to comply with state staffing requirements – which may make your business unprofitable for a while.
- Hire a contractor with experience in assisted living facilities, skilled nursing facilities, or other health care structures. Get numerous estimates before proceeding with work that will transform your home into a licensed assisted living facility. Check with your contractor as well as your municipality about any building permits that might be required for the work.
- Apply to your state for licensure as an assisted living facility. Depending on the state you may need to present blueprints and a business plan in addition to your application form and fees. Expect the state to schedule a site inspection shortly after you file your application. The inspection will either result in a list of modifications you will need to make or an issued license.
- Hire or contract required staffs which usually includes a nurse who visits a certain number of hours per week. States usually have staff-to-patient ratios which you will need to maintain as you accept residents.
Tips to Remember When Converting your Home into an Assisted Living Facility
In a perfect world, a senior stay in a single-story home with a no-rise entry or in a mansion with a functioning elevator. Most of us do not live in that perfect world. Nonetheless, here are few tips to make sure your home is as safe and convenient as possible for your assisted living facility.
There are many changes to consider when you are updating a home to be senior-friendly. Use these novel ideas to prepare your home to adequately serve the purpose you intend.
- The pathway into many homes has cracked sidewalks and uneven surfaces. This creates danger zones. Repave and reconstruct level, smooth surfaces to for easier mobility.
- Add non-slip flooring in the entryway inside the home.
- Outside the home, add non-slip strips or scuff the surface to create improved footing.
- Repair uneven or cracked areas on the walkway toward the home
- If you can, create a no-rise entry with ramps.
- If you must have stairs, install rails on both sides of the stairs. These should be at least one-and-a-half inch in diameter to accommodate aging grips
- Increase stair visibility by using contrast strips on top and bottom stairs. Colour contrast between the treads and risers on stairs
- Multitasking is a recipe for disaster. Create an area for your bundles and packages both inside and outside your home. Use the surface when coming and going to keep your hands free and your balance high when coming and going.
- Make sure there is at least one covered entryway into the home. You want at least one area completely protected from the elements.
- A room with a view makes a difference. Better lighting will keep your loved one safe
- Add motion-sensor lights focused on ramps and stairs. Also, point lighting at the front and back door locks
Your goal is to increase accessibility and prevent bending and crouching. If you can improve the room’s aesthetics as well, that’s a double bonus.
- First, manual dexterity decreases as we age. So make the appliances work for the elders, not the other way around.
- Switch to kitchen appliances with easy-to-read controls and simple-to-use push button interfaces.
- Convert to a side swing or wall oven. This will allow for easy access to the oven and make sure seniors don’t need to lift heavy items over the hot door.
- Microwave drawers are a great addition to the aging in place home. They allow for easier access and increase your countertop real estate.
- Change to an open shelving design for easier access to frequently used items.
- Convert to glass cabinet doors so elders or care workers can identify items without effort.
- Install pressure-balanced valves to provide water at steady temperatures regardless of pressure fluctuations.
- Take the next step and set the hot water heater temperature to 120 degrees.
- Insulate any exposed hot water pipes.
- Convert to a single lever kitchen faucet and install pedal-controlled faucets for easier use.
Safe accessible bathrooms don’t just happen. You will need to tackle the washroom to keep the elders independent and protected. Many slips and falls happen in and around the bathroom and shower area.
- Add slip-prevention flooring throughout the bathroom and shower area. Non-skid bath mats, non-slip strips in the bath and shower, or stable secure bathmats with non-slip rug tape all work.
- Be careful; many cheap bathmats are not non-slip and may increase the risk of falling. Quality, sturdy products are available at your local hardware store.
- Arrange for well placed grab bars in the shower, tub, and next to the toilet to prevent falls.
- Use U-shaped, vertical, or angle bars rather than diagonal bars. Diagonal bars create hand slippage and may increase the risk of falls.
- Add back bracing to the walls where you use grab bars. Ensure you can support 250-300 pounds.
- Make bath time a time for peace and quiet. For many seniors, sitting on the bath floor is hard and standing in the slippery shower is risky.
- Add a fold-down seat or bench in the shower. Some come with padded backs for extra comfort. Others will have a structure that extends outside the tub for easy bath entrance/exit
- Install hand-held, adjustable height, shower heads with a six-foot hose to direct the water where it is best needed
- Home builders design showers for younger eyes. Add extra lighting in the shower stall for the senior user.
Just because you can convert your home into an assisted living home doesn’t mean you should. Note that many have spent thousands of dollars, sometimes their life savings to start an assisted living home while many others are already in their market that is half full.
A half full assisted living home normally won’t make you money; it will cost you money – sometimes a lot of it. Take your time to research and confirm demand in your market by visiting other facilities, talking with local referral sources, and even obtaining a market feasibility study from a qualified consultant.