Seal of Approval

By Kevin McKay

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The BC Seniors Living Association has been around for more than 10 years with a mission to provide advocacy, leadership and networking opportunities for its members.

Perhaps their most significant achievement has been the creation and implementation of the BCSLA Seal of Approval, a designation that their senior residence members can receive when they meet stringent conditions based on safety, infection control, staff training, resident services and assisted living.

Marlene Williams, Executive Director of the BC Seniors Living Association, says the accreditation process started nearly five years ago.

“The idea for the Seal of Approval started in 2008 when industry providers chose to be proactive with self-regulation of the Independent and Assisted Living communities rather than have the government step in to regulate,” says Williams. “It was felt if BCSLA members provided the highest standards of safety and service by self-regulation, government, seniors and their families would have peace of mind with us taking care of their loved ones.”

“It is important for seniors to feel they direct their own lives, come and go as they please, yet still have the safety and security of a social environment within a retirement living community."

The Ontario Retirement Communities Association (ORCA) had been providing accreditation to their members for many years. ORCA graciously agreed to allow BCSLA to use their accreditation document as a model.

"They had nearly 130 points in their document,” says Williams. “We hosted three focus groups around the province within our membership and asked the participants if they would be willing to sit on a task force to revise the ORCA model to BC standards.”

“From there we… rewrote the document to make it work for us in this province. We wrote a section for assisted living because BC is the only province that has an official Assisted Living Registry and we needed to conform to these standards within our document."

Once the document was written and ready for implementation in the summer of 2009, BCSLA asked for three test communities: one that had about 30 suites; one with about 80; and one with over 140 suites.

“We then offered the initial Seal of Approval assessment free to BCSLA members. It is important to note this assessment is not a requirement; it is on a volunteer basis,” says Williams.

In the first year, over 72 member communities came forward to put their community to the test. The community is then assessed every two years for a nominal fee. BCSLA has an assessor who not only understands the industry and the communities, but is also willing to work with the communities to help them get to levels needed for compliance.

One example of how BCSLA is doing this is through the development of a manual.

“Of the 79 points in our Seal of Approval program, our assessor felt that 39 of them required a written policy and procedure,” says Williams. “In many of our smaller communities, where they have extremely small staffing levels, this is particularly challenging.”

By purchasing the manual, members have access to written procedures that allow them to implement measures that meet the requirements to receive the Seal of Approval designation.

BCSLA has currently 131 member communities and, to date, nearly 90 senior communities in the province have received the coveted Seal. Though the Seal of Approval is relatively new, it is already making its impact felt on seniors choosing where to move as they downsize.

"We receive many phone calls from seniors asking us which residences have the designation in whatever city they are looking in,” says Williams. “Our members who have been certified place the Seal of Approval plaque in their lobby and it is one of the first things they explain to anyone considering a move."



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