Any time you have individuals who are dependent on a corporation for their care, there is the potential for negligence.
This is true even when there are ample laws and regulations governing how such facilities should operate and what kinds of contingencies should be in place to prevent serious lapses.
However, it raises alarm bells when we find that there are few if any laws and regulations, that they vary in consistency from state-to-state, and that those that do exist are spottily enforced. Such is the case with assisted living facilities, which are marketed as a more independent alternative to nursing homes.
Despite common misconceptions, assisted-living facilities are not interchangeable with nursing homes, and nowhere is the difference more stark than in the kinds of regulations required.
Thankfully, due to strong advocacy efforts in Florida, legislative protections for those residing in both nursing homes and assisted-living facilities are stronger here than those living in other states.
Minimum standards for nursing homes are spelled out in Florida Statutes 59A-4.103-206. Minimum standards for those in assisted-living facilities are spelled out in Florida Statutes 58A-5.0131-58A-5.035.
In Florida, assisted-living facilities can be fined by the state, state officials do post inspection data online, minimum education standards are set for administrators, minimum staffing ratios are set and every facility is required to undergo a state inspection every two years.
Other states lag far behind Florida in this regard, according to a recent report by investigative journalism non-profit ProPublica.
For example, a number of states have no mandated requirements for when state inspections should be done, if they are permitted at all. Among those are Alabama and South Carolina. Other states only require inspections every five years.
Even when those inspections are carried out, a number of states have no policy that requires them to post that data online. That means information uncovered in those reports is less accessible to the public.
Our Fort Pierce elder abuse lawyers know that even when there are strong regulations, inconsistent enforcement will mean that accountability is lacking and the public is left in the dark.
For example, ProPublica uncovered numerous examples where assisted living facilities may not have violated any state laws, but they certainly were negligent in the care provided. One of those instances involved an 82-year-old Ohio woman who was found drowned in a whirlpool bathtub at an assisted living facility in 2010. Her care chart specifically stated that she was not to bathe alone unsupervised for safety purposes. However, on the day she drowned, she had been left to bathe alone for more than an hour. State health officials said they weren’t aware of the incident, as there was no requirement for the facility to report it. What’s more, even after learning of it, they said there appeared to be no identifiable lapse in state law.
Such cases are deeply troubling, and sadly, as ProPublica found, not all that isolated.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
State-by-State: Assisted Living Regulations, Oct. 29, 2013, By Hanna Trudo, Jonathan Jones and A.C. Thompson, ProPublica
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