At any given time, 18,000 Arkansans call a residential care community home, according to Rachel Bunch, executive director of the Arkansas Health Care Assocation, an industry trade group. There are currently about 75 licensed assisted living communities in the state, representing nearly 6,700 beds. In addition, there are 225 skilled nursing facilities (the preferred name for nursing homes) offering just under 24,650 beds.
“There is at least one skilled nursing facility in every county except for one county in Arkansas where there’s one right over the county line,” Bunch said. “The way that it works for the beds and distribution is based on population. There’s a methodology that generates new beds in a county based on the number of people at the age of retirement. Areas of the state that have a higher population, there are more facilities.”
Some senior living communities provide a continuum of care, meaning they provide independent, assisted and skilled nursing all on one campus, while others are more targeted. The primary difference in independent and assisted living is the level of care – day to day life in assisted living includes help from medically credentialed staff, trained to a level commensurate with the degree of services required, while independent living is just that.
In Arkansas, Level 1 assisted living clients may only require help with bathing, toileting or other daily needs; Level 2 requires more involved services. General skilled nursing and specialty skilled nursing communities, such as memory centers, provide a much more involved level of care for their residents.
Unlike independent living communities, assisted living and skilled nursing centers must meet certain staffing requirements to maintain their licensure, both in head count and in training level of its employees. They’re also subject to a variety of inspections and other regulatory requirements to ensure residents are receiving proper care. Bunch said part of AHCA’s function is helping facilities meet and exceed these requirements.
“We just completed a big round of training with literally thousands of direct-care workers on how to better communicate with residents who have some sort of dementia,” she said. “That’s not necessarily a requirement, but it’s something that a lot of our facilities are interested in for training those staff to be better equipped.”
“Our facilities provide really high-quality service. The profession as a whole has made drastic improvements and changes over the last several years. We expect that trend to continue.”