When people think about long-term care for older adults, they typically think “nursing home.” However, the majority of long-term residential care is actually provided in assisted living communities, which are state-regulated and provide care to older adults who are commonly thought to be similar to nursing home residents from a decade ago in relation to their acuity and care needs. For this reason, the quality of care and outcomes in assisted living has become of widespread interest. One method to benchmark and potentially improve care is through accreditation; an organization that is accredited has demonstrated that it meets a defined standard of quality based on external review. 

The State of North Carolina is undertaking a novel evaluation of accreditation for assisted living. In 2021, the legislature approved a pilot program to evaluate the effectiveness of an accreditation process for assisted living communities (also known as adult care homes) that would deem accredited communities exempt from routine state inspections if they meet required standards and requirements. The Program on Aging, Disability, and Long-Term Care, of the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, is conducting the evaluation. 

Beginning spring 2022, up to 150 assisted living communities will be recruited for the pilot program, half of which will participate in quality improvement accreditation activities, and all of which will provide benchmarking data for two years. Participating communities will be playing an important role helping to guide the future of assisted living in North Carolina and inform the efforts of other states.