Finally, Minnesota is joining the 49 other states in the union in requiring that assisted living facilities be licensed.

Gov. Tim Walz last week signed a bill that puts into law regulations — including licensing — that are designed to protect seniors and vulnerable adults living in assisted living facilities and nursing homes.

Until now, the state’s 1,200 assisted living facilities, where 55,000 Minnesotans reside, have been allowed to operate without regulation. By comparison, nursing homes in the state have long been regulated.

But in Minnesota today, there are fewer people living in nursing homes than in assisted living facilities.

Meanwhile, there have been disturbing stories in recent years of abuse and neglect at assisted living facilities, and elder care advocates have been campaigning for regulations to be put in place to protect vulnerable adults.

This year, legislators finally took action, passing the bill that Walz signed last week. The bill creates a framework for licensure of assisted living facilities, establishes a bill of rights for residents, puts in place stronger consumer protection measures, sets uniform standards for facilities providing dementia care services, and ensures the ability of residents to have cameras installed in their living spaces.

The latter issue was particularly touchy. Not all assisted living facilities were in favor of having cameras in living areas, said Jean Peters, vice president of Elder Voice Family Advocates.

Under the new law, she said, facilities no longer have the right to deny the wishes of residents and their families who want a camera installed.

The camera provision becomes law in January 2020 and the overall bill goes into effect in August 2021. Until then, the Legislature allocated $30 million to set up the infrastructure for enforcement of the bill.

Taken together, the various aspects of the bill, while long overdue, symbolize Minnesota’s commitment to its aging citizens. These men and women have contributed to creating the quality of life we enjoy in this state. It’s about time we repay them by ensuring their twilight years are as safe and comfortable as possible.

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