Throughout the United States, around 750,000 senior citizens live in assisted living facilities. These nursing home alternatives have very few federal regulations that govern operations or that set rules for resident safety. Since Medicaid and Medicare don’t pay for assisted living environments, the facilities aren’t subject to the requirements or oversight of these programs. Furthermore, while federal law requires that inspections be performed on every nursing home at least once every 15 months, this rule doesn’t extend to assisted living facilities.
This leaves seniors in these facilities largely dependent upon state lawmakers and state regulations to protect their interests and to impose rules and requirements that ensure a safe and comfortable living environment. So, are states up to the task? A joint investigation by ProPublica and Frontline suggests that they aren’t and that regulations, which vary substantially from location to location, may be inadequate and insufficiently protective of the health and safety of the vulnerable senior citizen population.
Assisted Living Facilities Can be a Dangerous Place for Seniors
Assisted living facilities provide a solution for seniors who don’t need the intensive levels of care and supervision provided in nursing homes but who also aren’t equipped to live on their own any more. While such facilities may not be designed to provide a lot of medical help to seniors, many people would believe they provide at least some.
The reality, however, is that this is not necessarily the case. An experienced nursing home negligence lawyer in Phoenix knows that in a total of 14 states, there is not even a law or regulation mandating that administrators of assisted living facilities have a high school degree, much less any kind of advanced training or medical background.
Just 14 states have imposed any kind of regulations regarding the ratio of staff to residents, and most don’t require that assisted living facilities have even one trained nurse or other medical professional on staff. Regulations on the ratio of staff to residents may allow such a high number of residents for each worker that the rules are virtually useless. For example, in California it is permissible to have just two staff members on an overnight shift for every 200 residents. As if this isn’t bad enough, neither needs any medical training and one of them is permitted to be sleeping.
This means that not only is it possible staff members will be largely untrained, but they also may be very overworked and not able to tend to even the basic needs of the residents. This is all bad enough, but in some states, these staff members can be as young as 16-years-of age, which means they may be totally ill equipped to know how to recognize or handle problems that seniors are having.
Unfortunately, penalties for safety violations aren’t enough to make assisted living facilities take care when hiring staff members either, since fines can be as low as just $150 for even serious violations of safety rules.
All-in-all, the ProPublica investigation revealed a mixed bag of regulations across the different states, but the news was largely bad for seniors. If you are thinking about going into an assisted living facility, this investigation may make you think again.