If you or a loved one is thinking about moving into an assisted living facility, you are not alone. What originally began as a small industry that was designed to provide an alternative to nursing homes or independent living has now blossomed into a massively profitable enterprise with 750,000 seniors living in assisted living facilities throughout the United States.
Unfortunately, even as the number of seniors choosing assisted living facilities has grown, the regulatory oversight of these facilities has not expanded to ensure that a safe environment is being provided. These facilities generally require private payment rather than accepting Medicaid or Medicare, so they are not subject to the strict requirements imposed on nursing homes by these government insurance programs. Nursing home negligence attorneys in Wilmington, NC know that assisted living facilities also aren’t subject to federal laws that require nursing homes to be inspected at least once every 15 months. Any regulations of assisted living facilities that do exist are typically at the state level and there is tremendous variation in terms of how states actually regulate these senior living environments.
This has created a situation that is really dangerous for many seniors, and a recent ProPublica and Frontline investigation has revealed the troubling truth about assisted living facilities. If your considering this as a living option, it is important to understand that there is a serious potential risk of injury due to abuse or neglect because of the lack of oversight and the absence of effective legal rules.
Regulations Inadequate for Assisted Living Facilities
According to the ProPublica review of regulations across the United States:
- Only 14 states impose a rule requiring that administrators of assisted living facilities to have graduated from high school.
- The majority of states impose no requirements mandating that an assisted living facility have any trained medical professionals such as doctors or licensed nurses on staff.
- Some states permit staff members of assisted living facilities to be as young as 16-years-of-age.
- Just 14 states impose limits on the maximum ratio of staff to residents.
- In states that do impose limits, the ratio may be as low as two staff members for every 200 residents on an overnight shift, with one of those staff members permitted to be asleep and with neither required to have any sort of medical background or experience.
- When serious safety violations occur, fines may be disproportionately low. For example, facilities may be fined just $150 for serious safety infractions.
The lack of adequate regulations means that many residents of assisted living facilities experience substandard living conditions or don’t have their basic needs met. In some cases, this has resulted in serious injury or even death.
Those considering an assisted living facility need to be aware of the lack of oversight and should think carefully about whether this type of living environment is a better solution than other alternatives such as nursing home care or home health aids. If an assisted living facility is the right choice, it is important to research facilities carefully to find the right one. Victims of abuse also must understand their legal rights.