'Loophole' leaves Colorado assisted living facilities unregulated

A gap in Colorado's assisted living regulations could be leaving smaller senior care facilities unregulated and uninspected, according to a report from The Coloradoan.

Colorado defines assisted living residences as facilities that provide room, board, protective services and social care for three or more adults who are unrelated to the owner, according to the 2013 National Center for Assisted Living State Regulatory Review. But facilities that care for two or fewer unrelated clients have no regulatory or licensing requirements, meaning they often go without inspections and aren't tracked by the government, The Coloradoan reported.

These small assisted living facilities, called board-and-care facilities, may advertise lower costs than Colorado's regulated facilities, but don't face the same scrutiny and monitoring, the report claims.

“We have no idea how many there are,” Lori Metz, adult protection supervisor with Colorado's Larimer County Department of Human Services, told The Coloradoan. “There could be two, there could be 22. Because they're not regulated.”

The families of residents who live in Colorado's unregulated assisted living facilities have expressed concerns about care, and issues with payment and deposit returns, Shannon Gimbel, the ombudsman program manager of the Denver Area Agency on Aging told The Coloradoan.

“I can't say necessarily if [putting a family member in an unlicensed facility is] a right or wrong decision because it's not for me to decide,” Gimbel said. “And some of them might be fine. And some of them may be all the family can afford.”

While assisted living definitions vary by state, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Massachusetts and Missouri all follow a “three or more” resident rule similar to Colorado's.