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The Canadians Lead the Charge on Assisted Living Certification

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By Steve Moran

A few months ago I moderated a panel of experts at the British Columbia Senior Living Association (BCSLA) in Whistler. One of the coolest things the BCSLA has done is to create a “Seal of Approval" designation for their members.

I did a short interview with Marlene Williams, Executive Director for the BCSLA. They represent about 70 percent of the BC senior living community market, about 275 buildings, housing both independent living communities and assisted living communities.

The Seal of Approval

In BC assisted living communities are regulated through the Canadian Home and Community Care Act; but not independent living communities. They were very concerned about the threat of increasing regulation.

So what is the Seal of Approval designation?

“We basically took the accreditation program that our sister association, Ontario Retirement, had been using and added some sections of our own,” Marlene told me. “So now we have all the main parts covering safety, infection control, resident services, staff services, and then a whole section on assisted living.”

What It Looks Like

Here is how the process works:

They have a full‐time assessor who spends a full day in the community and reviews the four areas: Safety, Infection Control, Resident Services, and Staff Services. For example, for their fire plan, they have to show that they have a procedure in place, as well as documentation that they're actually doing the fire drills and everything that goes along with it.”

It is not a slam dunk that a community will meet all the standards, the first time around. The goal is for each community to say “what we provide, goes above and beyond the basics.”

They’ve made it affordable at only $750 per community to put the process in place and get the designation, which is good for two years. “We don't do it to make money from it. We do it because we're trying to help our members do the best they can.”

Ninety-one of their 162 members have the designation and they are finding it does provide a real competitive advantage.

The Right Approach

What I thought was cool about the program is that it takes a positive, proactive approach, unlike many government regulatory agencies who just look to catch you when you’re doing something wrong.

But what’s ironic is that even the government was impressed!

When Marlene and her colleagues sent the whole program off to the government, they basically told them that, as long as the BCSLA is running the program at the highest standards of operation, they don't need to come in and regulate them! That’s refreshing.  

For now the Seal of Approval is purely voluntary for BCSLA members. But it may soon become a mandatory part of membership.  “We have taken steps to make it easier for our smaller member communities to adapt to the new standards and help them prepare for inspection. So in 2017, our goal is for every BCSLA member to get the Seal of Approval designation through us,” says Marlene.

You can listen to the entire conversation here:

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