Last Modified: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 5:39 PM
A reader recently contacted the American Press to complain that Villa Maria Retirement Center, an assisted living home in Lake Charles, was charging some residents $350 a month for others to come in to help them take their medication.
The man, who said he needed no help with his own medication, considered the charge unfair and believed it to be a result of federal law.
The Informer spoke with the administrator and resident care supervisor at Villa Maria and with the head of the Louisiana Assisted Living Association and learned that the charge — which has nothing to do with federal law — is the result of changes in state oversight.
In July 2010, the state Department of Health and Hospitals took over regulation of assisted living centers, which until then had been overseen by the Department of Social Services, now called the Department of Children and Family Services.
That change in authority meant the application of additional regulations — primarily those pertaining to the administration of medicine to assisted living center residents, said Lisa Comeaux, executive director of LALA.
Before December 2011, Villa Maria charged $200 a month to residents who needed help with their medication — help that was given by assisted living center staff members, said Jo Ann Niles, the center’s administrator.
The rules governing assisted living centers — regulations dating from 1999 — set conditions on what staff members can do to assist residents in administering medicine.
They can remind residents to take their medicine; they can read the dosing instructions aloud and check the dosage; and they can open medicine containers.
Additionally, the rules say, staff members can help a resident pour or take the medicine, “so long as the resident is cognitive of what the medication is, what it is for and the need for the medication.”
If residents don’t meet that standard, they must receive medicine from a family member or third-party provider, Comeaux said.
Additionally, regulations governing the occupation of nursing — the profession of assisted living center inspectors — say “the administration of medications is a complex task” and should only be done by nurses.
Comeaux said LALA — worried about increased scrutiny from nurse inspectors — advised its members to suspend their service and find a third-party company that residents themselves could contract with for the service.
“We have more assisted living facilities today that say we do not provide medication services,” she told The Informer on Tuesday. “It has become a new niche business.”
At Villa Maria, Niles said, the company that fills that niche is Shreveport-based KB Medication Therapy, which charges the home’s 15 participating residents $350 a month. She said residents in retirement homes in east Louisiana pay as much as $500 a month.
State regulations specifically prohibit assisted living centers from hiring outside companies for the service, saying that only residents may do so, “just as they can if they were living in their private home.”
On Wednesday morning Jason Belcher, CFO of KB Medication Therapy, left The Informer a voice message saying that the $350 it cited above mischaracterized the cost of the service — which, he said, is provided to 20 Villa Maria residents, not 15, a figure offered by the home’s administrator.
In a subsequent phone conversation, Belcher, whose wife is KB’s CEO, said service costs vary from one resident to another — from $3 a day for four daily visits from a nurse to $6 a day for two visits. The $350 fee, he said, is paid by some.
Additionally, in his voice message Belcher rightly castigated The Informer for incorrectly naming his company “KP” instead of “KB” — a typographical error The Informer owns up to here and one that has since been corrected above.
A final note: Comeaux, LALA’s director, told The Informer by email Wednesday that the service change was less a result of new rules than the fear of oversight by DHH nurse surveyors, who must gauge whether staff members properly determine residents’ cognizance.
The text above has been changed to reflect that.
The Informer answers questions from readers each Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. It is researched and written by Andrew Perzo, an American Press staff writer. To ask a question, call 494-4098, press 5 and leave voice mail, or email email@example.com
Posted By: area nurse On: 7/23/2012
Title: another flaw in heathcare
If tenants are requiring med administration seems as though they atent meeting criteria and need anothet level of nursing service.....minimal assistance is required for assisted living resident is the general concept