Residents in assisted living facilities are very much on their own with respect to receiving help from CMS as to the quality of their facility. As we’ve discussed, nursing homes are subjected to a centralized rating system that provides consumers with information on both an overall rating of the facility as well as ratings in critical areas such as: staffing levels, inspection ratings and quality measures (such as the incidence of pressure sores amongst residents, amongst other factors) on a five star rating scale.
As the Charleston Post and Courrier reports, no federal rating system exists for assisted living facilities, home to many elderly people. Some states have instituted their own rating systems for the facilities, but in most areas of the country people are on their own to do their own evaluation of the facility.
What is an assisted living facility? Assisted living facilities, licensed as community residential care facilities, are different from nursing homes. Assisted living residents need help with a few activities, such as taking their medicine, dressing or cleaning, but do not require the higher level of medical care nursing homes offer.
Despite the differences between assisted living facilities and nursing homes, many of the problems remain the same. Problems facing assisted living residents can range from serious allegations of abuse and neglect to dinner being served late.
The Post Courrier article chronicles the issues faced by Sandra Belaja, a resident of Palmetto Residential Care Facility– a South Carolina assisted living facility. Belaja entered Palmetto for assistance with her daily living needs as well as for help with administration of medication after a hospitalization.
According to Belaja, the care she received at Palmetto was so poor that she was forced to move out of the assisted living facility and into a nearby hotel where hospice workers monitored her well being. Belaja says she moved into the hotel because residents at Palmetto often went without toilet paper and soap in the common bathroom, which had two toilets for 12 people, she said. And she said that when the heating broke, the oven was used to keep residents warm
The poor living conditions were verified by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) during an inspection of the facility. In October 2006, the authority issued a letter to suspend Palmetto’s license. In July 2007, however, DHEC lifted the suspension because the facility complied with standards.
Jerry Paul, former DHEC director of regulations, said closure of assisted living facilities is hard. “With the administrative law system, you’re looking at long periods of time with a facility out of compliance that can operate. You really have to have horrendous goings on at a facility before you can close one down,” he said.
In most states the only way to access information on assisted living facilities is to file a Freedom of Information Act request with state health officials. Obviously, for a family faced with the stress of placing loved one in a care facility due to immediate care needs this is not practical. Although a wealth of information may be obtained on nursing homes via the internet, no centralized database exists to access valuable information on assisted living facilities.
Why is this acceptable? Why does our society treat millions of assisted living residents like second hand citizens?
For laws related to South Carolina nursing homes, look here.
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