No matter whether the criticism aimed at, and regulatory action taken against, several Texas assisted living facilities for their disaster preparedness was justified, lawmakers should take a deep look at common practices in that industry, as the American Association of Retired People suggested in a recent report.

The association’s review of state documents and a report based on that review focused tightly on whether operators of La Vita Bella in Dickinson, and of other Texas assisted living facilities, were well prepared to care for their residents during natural disasters.

The association, which advocates for seniors, argues the operators failed their residents during Hurricane Harvey because they were not prepared to respond to the disaster and blamed the state’s thin industry regulation for allowing that to happen.

La Vita Bella came to international attention in late August through a photograph of several women sitting waist-deep in floodwater awaiting rescue.

That photograph, more than La Vita Bella’s policies and practices, was responsible for criticism and regulator sanctions the center received after Harvey, company officials said Monday.

Assisted living facilities are less regulated in Texas than nursing homes, particularly when it comes to disaster preparedness, and that’s a problem, AARP officials said.

“I think what we’re seeing is that there were a lot of words on paper about checking all the boxes,” said Amanda Fredriksen, the director of advocacy for AARP Texas. “Providers need to be held accountable for making sure that their staff knows their plan.”

Lawmakers should investigate whether such facilities are prepared for disasters, but an even broader look at the industry might be needed.

There’s growing concern among advocates and families of people needing elder care about whether the industry is providing good options; about whether there is much assistance in assisted living facilities; or much real competition among different providers.

The Daily News several months ago began looking into what exactly seniors and their families are getting for the substantial money they spend on independent and assisted living. Our reporters have questions, for example, about whether pricing at such facilities is fair, transparent and market driven and about where consumers can find good information about the relative quality among providers.

There might not be all that much lawmakers could do to change how the industry operates, if change is even really needed, but a legislative process could do a lot to answer questions about those practices.

In the meantime, we want to hear from people about the challenges they’ve encountered — and the successes they’ve had — finding high-quality residential elder care.

If you want to be part of this story, please let us know at

• Michael A. Smith

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206;


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