Assisted living facilities, commonly referred to as “ALFs”, are long term care facilities that provide a combination of housing, personal care services, and health care designed to respond to individuals who need assistance with normal daily activities in a way that promotes independence. ALFs can include memory care units for those with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease. Services include assistance with daily care activities such as bathing, dressing, and toileting; specialized assistance for those with dementia; medication management; meals; and social activities. As ALFs are not skilled nursing facilities, they cannot accept all of the residents that a nursing home may admit. For instance, ALFs may not admit those who have extensive medical needs or require daily nursing services. Unfortunately, far too often ALFs put profit before people and admit those that they are not equipped to handle. Improper admissions may result in falls, bed sores, catastrophic injuries, and even death.
Obviously, reporting of adverse incidents is critical to holding facilities accountable and deterring future abuse. As a result, the law requires ALFs to report suspected neglect to the state Department of Children and Families’ abuse hotline, as well as to file a full report with the Agency for Health Care Administration. Decreased investigations have tragic consequences. A 2011 Miami Herald investigation found that investigations initiated by AHCA of adverse incidents decreased by 90% (yes, 90%) between 2002 and 2008. Not surprisingly, it was found that the decreased oversight caused neglect, abuse, and even death at the ALFs.
In light of these facts, Senate Bill 402 is simply shocking. The proposed legislation actually seeks to weaken the reporting requirements. Currently, ALFs must report adverse incidents to the state within one day. The proposed law would give the same facilities 15 days to submit a report. A two-week delay will allow the neglect to continue to flourish. We cannot simply rely upon the wrongdoers to investigate themselves, especially with the victims often are incapable of communicating and reporting it themselves.
Another portion of the same bill removes a statutory requirement that the ombudsman’s input be used to develop quality of care standards. The Ombudsman Program is a vital watchdog of ALFs and nursing homes. Eliminating their input is nonsensical and clearly benefits the pocketbooks of the facility owners to the detriment of their vulnerable residents. To the contrary, expanding the authority of the Ombudsman Program and increasing reporting requirements is what Florida truly needs. We encourage you to contact your state representative and provide your input on this important issue.
This blog is written by Partner Joe Landy.