exterior of a senior living community
Vitalia North Olmsted in North Olmsted, OH, operated by Arrow Senior Living, reportedly is the second stand-alone assisted living community in the United States, and first in Ohio, to earn assisted living accreditation from The Joint Commission. (Photo by Lois A. Bowers)

Vitalia North Olmsted has become the second stand-alone assisted living community in the United States — and the first in Ohio — to receive accreditation by The Joint Commission. The announcement comes as Arrow Senior Living, which manages the community, plans to pursue assisted living accreditation for its entire portfolio.

The Northeast Ohio senior living community, which also offers independent living and memory care, was one of three communities that Arrow Senior Living selected to go through the accreditation process because they were top performers across internal company metrics. Vitalia North Olmsted was the first of those three communities to complete the entire Joint Commission accreditation process, according to Arrow Senior Living Management and Turnaround Solutions CEO Stephanie R. Harris. She added that she expects the other two communities to receive their letters of accreditation in the coming weeks.

Harris, a McKnight’s 2019 Women of Distinction Hall of Honor inductee, told McKnight’s Senior Living that Arrow pursued accreditation because the process provides third-party, unbiased feedback on company practices and ongoing efforts to enhance clinical outcomes.

“While senior housing is facing strong headwinds recovering from COVID and the tight labor market, we see The Joint Commission accreditation process as the way senior housing operations can continue to raise our clinical excellence,” Harris said. “Accreditation will be key to differentiating our communities, and we believe these efforts to raise the bar will contribute to growing positive awareness and interest in senior housing.”

Vitalia North Olmsted is the second stand-alone assisted living community to achieve The Joint Commission accreditation for assisted living. Another five assisted living communities attached to skilled nursing facilities pursued assisted living and nursing care center accreditation together as a joint process. The SelfhelpHome, a nonprofit continuing care retirement community in Chicago, was the first community to achieve The Joint Commission’s assisted living community accreditation.

Arrow is the first company seeking the accreditation for all of its assisted living locations, Harris said. The company offers assisted living at 29 locations.

“As a private accreditor, The Joint Commission surveys healthcare organizations to protect the public by identifying deficiencies in care, and working with those organizations to correct them as quickly and sustainably as possible,” said Gina Zimmerman, executive director of nursing care centers and assisted living communities at The Joint Commission. “We commend Arrow Senior Living for its continuous quality improvement efforts in resident safety and quality of care.”

Arrow worked with Achieve Accreditation, a Joint Commission accreditation readiness company, to prepare for the process. President and founder Kathleen O’Connor discussed the accreditation process in a podcast last fall with McKnight’s Senior Living Editor Lois Bowers.

Standardizing the industry

The Joint Commission launched its assisted living community accreditation program last summer to bring “national, consensus-based standards” to the industry. The standards address the environment, staffing, emergency management, dementia care, medication management, the provision of care and services, process improvement and more. The program also requires organizations to track and report on five standardized performance measures: off-label antipsychotic drug use, resident falls, resident preferences and goals of care, advanced care plan/surrogate decision-maker, and staff stability.

The Joint Commission also is developing a new assisted living community memory care certification program in collaboration with the Alzheimer’s Association to promote consistent, high-quality dementia care in assisted living communities. 

The National Center for Assisted Living has its own National Quality Award Program, based on the Baldrige Performance Excellence Framework, that recognizes assisted living providers that meet certain goals.

NCAL also has a voluntary Quality Initiative for assisted living communities, with goals related to staff stability, customer satisfaction, hospital readmissions and the off-label use of antipsychotic medications.

National industry associations are working together on standards as well.

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