Is It Time For National Professional Standards and Certification in The Senior Living Industry?

Is It Time For National Professional Standards and Certification in The Senior Living Industry?

Two of the major goals of the attempted merger of ALFA and ASHA into One Voice were to:

  • Create specific training requirements for various positions in assisted living that would likely include required minimum skill sets, number of initial training hours, and on-going training.
  • Create an accreditation system whereby an outside third party would do a regular evaluation of participating senior communities and certify (or not) those communities who meet an established set of standards.

Now that this initiative has failed, will any of the national associations step up to fulfill this mission?

Who Benefits From Setting Standards?

Since there are no federal regulations for our industry, and each state creates their own regulations, which vary drastically. Setting standards can provide consistency in operational expectation and care/service delivery would align the expectations of consumers, providers, referral sources, and the associations who represent the industry.

Consumers would have the ability to choose the best community to match their needs and wants with the assurance that every community offers the baseline quality measures as established by industry standards, rather than community interpretation of often-vague state regulations.

Providers would have access to a comprehensive curriculum to train and develop their employees at every level.  This would level the playing field for the independent operators who do not have a company internal training department.  By proactively setting standards, the chains, who have the biggest risk/liability exposure, would benefit by keeping federally imposed regulations at bay.

Referral Sources would have a consistent framework of expectations when making a referral.  While a consistent framework, would be helpful to all referral providers, it would be especially helpful to online lead generators and referral agencies.  While the self-service Internet search generators operate on a model of consumer due diligence, the advisor-based model creates increased liability exposure since their referrals are interpreted as recommendations.  Industry standards with national certification would provide a benchmark for inclusion that would increase their number of partnered communities and therefore revenue.

The Association, who steps up to create the standards, develops the corresponding curriculum, delivers the training and resources, and establishes a recognized industry certification (similar to the Certified Hotel Administrator in the hotel/motel industry – see last week’s post) will increase membership. They have the best opportunity to consolidate the providers in all market segments, leverage lobbying effectiveness and minimize the introduction of federal regulations that would change the dynamic of choice, personalization, and hospitality delivered resident experience.

Standards will drive the content, and the good news is that the content is already developed – it just needs to be curated, organized into a curriculum with a delivery process that makes the information and certification accessible to all operators.  This process can be accomplished through a combination of training offered at state & national conferences and online using Learning Management and Learning Broadcast technology.

So my vote is a resounding “YES!” to creating standards and certification process for the senior living industry.   Next week, I will share thoughts about what some of the standards should include.  What are your thoughts?



  1. I think personnel should be certified and facilities should be accredited if they meet certain agreed-upon standards and that as Diane Walker says, there should be transparency as to health care outcomes for several reasons.
    AND, such certification, etc., should be affordable . . . as most senior care operators are small, independent owner/operators.
    1. To be considered “professionals,” individuals generally have an agreed upon code of ethics and a generally accepted body of knowledge and some form of certification.
    2. I can’t think of a single thriving industry where the government hasn’t stepped in and imposed regulations. Why not get ahead of the curve and pre-empt any governmental body intent on regulating the industry from outside?

  2. Diane Walker Says: August 20, 2014 at 8:53 pm

    I wonder if our faith in the accreditation process is misplaced? If we look at the health outcomes achieved by all our accredited health care institutions and consider the dollars spent, I’m not sure the cost is worthwhile. While I certainly support standards of practice and believe the consumer would benefit from consistency, would the consumer not benefit more from public access to health outcomes by institutions? Much like the Medicare rating system in place now for home health and hospice. The outcomes from private accrediting bodies is not sufficiently transparent in my opinion.

    • Debbie Howard Says: August 22, 2014 at 6:38 pm

      Thanks for your input Diane! We appreciate the feedback. Is this a subject you are interested in learning more about?

  3. ALFA member here, I can tell you ALFA is pouring a lot of money into developing professional certifications right now. Read this to see what exactly they’re doing:

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