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Mainly Unregulated, Assisted Living Facilities Provide Dangerous Care

Dangerous Care is Dangerous for the ResidentsWhen we think about assisted living facilities, it becomes easy to romanticize the actual living conditions for many elderly Americans. When someone enters into one of these facilities, they are unable to take care of themselves – so we expect others to help them where possible. We worry about whether they will feel comfortable in their new surroundings, whether they make friends, but most people are not actively worried about their living conditions. We also do not worry whether the staff that works there knows what it is doing.

However, the truth is that assisted living facilities have become a multibillion-dollar industry. With such a large industry, it is unsurprising that unscrupulous people become involved. These are people who want nothing more than to turn a profit. Unfortunately, there is no involvement by federal officials and a mishmash of minimal state regulation.

The shameful case in Ohio

One of the cases to highlight how much of a legal mess these assisted living facilities might prove to be is the death of Vincenzina Pontoni. Workers of the assisted living facility near Cleveland that she lived in found her in a whirlpool bathtub. At 82-years of age, the instructions were clear – do not leave her unattended and have staff members stand by as she bathes. However, the records show that the day she died she was unsupervised for at least one whole hour. This oversight turned fatal as Pontoni drowned in that bathtub.

Perhaps worse yet is the fact that Ohio is one of the states that does not require the assisted living facilities to let regulators at the Ohio Department of Health know that a resident died under questionable circumstances while in their care. Because they were not required to do so, the administrators did not provide any information. Law enforcement ruled the death an accident, without ever setting foot on the premise. In fact, the Department of Health did not find out how this woman died until a reporter who was investigating assisted living facilities informed them of the circumstances.

However, it gets worse. Upon confronting the Department of Health with the information and asking whether there were concerns that other cases might have been overlooked as well, a department spokesperson named Tessie Pollock suggested that in this particular case, the Cleveland facility did not appear to have violated any regulations. Instead, she urged the families of residents who live in Ohio assisted living facilities to be vigilant on behalf of their loved ones.

Ohio is not alone

Unfortunately, the approach that Ohio takes when it comes to regulating assisted living is the norm rather than an aberration. Where these facilities were originally intended to help elderly Americans that cannot live on their own and provide them with meals and housing, now many of the residents suffer from dementia or other serious illnesses. These are people who may be in danger when walking to the bathroom, who have to take complex medication regimens.

Unfortunately, in the majority of states the regulations for assisted living facilities have not made the necessary changes to keep in line with the added pressure placed upon assisted living facilities. For example, in 14 states, administrators do not need high school diplomas. In Illinois, a caregiver can be as young as 16 before being allowed to work. Several states, including Colorado, do not require these facilities to have even a single licensed nurse on staff.

It is simple, if the states are unable to react accordingly, it is important to introduce federal regulation for these assisted living facilities. As people in assisted living facilities become increasingly frail and more and more federal money is going towards these facilities, it would only be right that there are federal standards that would require basic, humane levels of care.

For laws related to Ohio nursing homes, look here.

For laws related to Colorado nursing homes, look here.

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