By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Senior communities speak out against proposed rule
State agency tables plan on emergency aid that could send many to nursing homes
Placeholder Image

On Wednesday, a handful of Gainesville residents traveled to Atlanta to speak out against a proposed Department of Community Health rule they say would cripple local assisted-living communities and leave many of their residents without a home.

The proposed regulation would require that all residents at assisted-living communities be able to leave the building during an emergency without any hands-on assistance from staff. Those who could not would be required to live in nursing homes, which can often be more expensive.

Even before the Wednesday public forum, outcry from across the industry prompted the DCH to issue a statement saying the rules were not meant to be read so restrictively and that the department would not recommend the board adopts the rules at its January meeting.

That was a relief to many in the industry, said Robin Sippy, director at Autumn Breeze Assisted Living Community in Gainesville, who attended the public forum.

But she said the proposed change still shows a lack of communication between the department and those it affects.

"What was asked many, many times (at the forum) by especially providers, small and large, was that we are invited to the table," Sippy said.

Julie Ann Hamilton, executive director of Dogwood Forest Assisted Living Community in Gainesville, also attended the meeting.

"(Our hope is) that they will form some type of work group or task force that includes all aspects of people who are affected by the regulations — providers, families, residents, the department — and that we would be able to come up with a good solution."

Hamilton said at least 70 percent of her residents would be required to leave Dogwood Forest if the proposed rule was adopted. Sippy said that it would affect closer to 90 percent of those at Autumn Breeze.

"If the changes as written went through ... the state would be in a crisis as far as trying to find community-based programs that could adhere to those kind of restrictive rules and regulations," Sippy said.

Dale Clegg's 92-year-old mother, who lives at Dogwood Forest, is one of the residents who would have to find a new home if the rule was adopted. Clegg was one of many family members who attended the forum.

"Where does the government get off thinking they can mandate how you should spend your parent's money when they're comfortable, and evict them from nice, stable situations into a nursing home situation?" she said.

Her mother has lived at the assisted living community for five years. Leaving would be devastating, Clegg said.

Lisa Marie Shekell, spokeswoman for the DCH, said there is no time line as to when the department will revisit the proposed regulations.

"Every time we have a public hearing it's an opportunity to present rules that have been created and get stakeholder feedback in a public arena," she said. "... We'll look at the public comments, we'll evaluate those comments and then we'll look back to look at those rules and revise those rules."