The safety of assisted living facilities (ALFs) varies on a case-by-case basis. While some facilities maintain exceptional standards of care, others may not.
The federal government does not regulate ALFs. Instead, oversight comes from the state level.
A recent study by the Government Accountability Office determined that Medicaid officials in 30 states do not routinely review the licenses and certifications needed to operate an ALF. Additionally, 18 states do not examine the results of site visits.
Consequently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are currently implementing various procedures to hold ALFs accountable for their quality of living. However, the CMS does not receive consistent, accurate information regarding ALFs as a whole because of gaps in reports from participating states.
When entrusting the wellbeing of your loved one to a third-party facility, the organization’s safety depends entirely on the administration’s standard of care and procedures that are in place.
Assisted Living Homes Are Different from Nursing Homes
ALFs are not nursing homes. The largest difference between these two types of facilities revolves around the medical services provided. Elderly residents in an ALF do not need round-the-clock health care and monitoring. Additionally, ALFs are similar to apartments, and most residents have their own private living space. Conversely, nursing homes offer 24-hour medical care and assistance, and in some cases, elderly residents share a room with another patient.
Relocating your elderly loved one to an ALF can allow a degree of independent living while providing them with resources to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Safety Hazards Found in Assisted Living Homes
As Baby Boomers age, the amount of people entering ALFs is also, well, booming. According to Forbes, there are over 800,000 seniors currently living in this type of housing, while over one million live in nursing homes. Facilities are having to provide more services with fewer financial resources. This can result in the oversight of basic safety measures that would otherwise be in place. Failure to implement these procedures can result in serious injuries or even death.
These can include:
- Lack of safety alert systems. In many ALFs, elderly residents “elope” or leave the grounds on their own, which can result in injuries or death.
- Improper distribution of medications. Most elderly residents in an ALF take medications. Overdoses and dangerous interactions can occur when the attending staff improperly administer medication to their residents.
- Handicap inaccessible spaces. Many elderly residents struggle with mobility. When carpets or floors suffer from poor maintenance, seniors may trip or fall, causing harm.
- Infections. While infections can occur anywhere, many ALFs lack adequate cleaning and care, which leads to a heightened risk of disease. Often, this is the result of poor sanitation and low medical care standards.
With the population of elderly people entering ALFs increasing, many organizations may not have the financial resources to adequately staff their facilities. This can result in strenuous working conditions that can lead to abuse and neglect toward the residents. The National Council on Aging states that seniors who experience such elder abuse have a 300% higher risk of death when compared to others who do not.
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Regulating Assisted Living Homes is Difficult
While ALFs tend to cost less when compared to nursing homes, the lack of regulations may cost elderly residents their quality of care. Illinois has a division– the Division of Assisted Living— specifically assigned to issue state licensure and survey processes for any assisted living homes or shared housing establishments.. This organization requires that ALFs uphold a certain standard of care and face a renewal process each year to maintain operation. When choosing to place your loved one in an ALF, you must do your homework when researching possibilities. Reviewing their licenses and certifications, meeting with their staff, and touring the grounds are all useful in determining an ALF’s sanitation and safety.
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Sometimes, despite the measures you may take to ensure a loved one’s safety, there are certain details that you cannot account for.
Steps you can follow to monitor an elderly relative’s condition include:
- Regularly visiting them in person
- Taking note of changes in behavior, mood, or disposition
- Bringing up concerns regarding their physical health to the medical staff (this can include the development of bedsores, pressure ulcers, or rashes)
- Promptly removing them from unsafe situations
ALFs do not face the same regulations that nursing homes do, as federal laws do not apply to these facilities. Due to lessened government scrutiny, some of these living conditions can be unsafe. If your elderly loved one suffered emotional, physical, sexual, or financial abuse while living in an assisted living home, contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 842-6336 to learn more about how to seek legal recourse.