More than two-thirds of the states in the nation mandate that an inspection of an assisted living facility or nursing home occur every 18 months. However, California has long believed inspecting these facilities once every five years is adequate enough, but might consider conducting a study to determine if annual inspections are necessary. The state’s lack of tighter inspection schedules seems to highlight much bigger issues concerning the deterioration of regulating facilities in business to help the elderly, disabled and ill.
Assisted living businesses, providing day-to-day assistance and housing to the elderly, disabled and ill, are one of the fastest-growing industries in the U.S. The industry provides a variety of housing solutions for its residents to live independently. However, recent publications and television programs have shed new light concerning the industry, where many of the nation’s less able to entrust their lives.
In September 2014, Governor Jerry Brown signed numerous assisted living laws, designed to improve the living conditions and health care provided at California’s assisted living facilities. This was in direct response to reports of deplorable conditions, lack of routine inspection schedules and minimum fines for facilities violating the law.
Recent reports have detailed the many unnecessary and preventable deaths in California and around the nation. The report shows many residents in assisted living facilities are left without proper health care and develop life-threatening bedsores (pressure ulcers, pressure sores, decubitus ulcers) caused by lack of mobility. Without treatment, a simple Stage I and Stage II pressure sore can easily progress into Stage III and Stage IV, placing the resident in grave danger.
Due to understaffing and crowded conditions, some facilities are unable to manage senior citizens suffering from dementia to stop fighting amongst each other. In fact, one report claims that the staff at a certain facility encouraged the dementia patients to fight against each other while photographing or videotaping the altercation.
The California Department of Social Services (DSS) is charged with regulating assisted-living facilities throughout the state. Long before the evidence of them not doing their job properly became known, it appeared as though the department had given up on overseeing these facilities. In recent years, the DSS maintained one of the nation’s most relaxed inspection schedules, where an inspector would show up in a facility once every five years, if even then.
In addition, the department would issue insignificant fines of $150 or less for any case involving fatal abuse or neglect, and many times never collected fines it imposed. Until recent changes were made, inspectors were given a grace period of 10 days to probe into any allegation of serious physical neglect or abuse at a state’s facility.
Before the governor signed the new legislation, the DSS appears to begin taking some steps to correct its disgraceful inactions. After seeking $7.5 million to increase its budget, the department hired 70+ new employees, redesigned its website, and started providing extensive information to the public about the assisted-living facilities in the state that were cited for violating regulations.
More Can Be Done
However, California senior citizen advocates want more to be done. Many are hoping for more frequent inspections than its current cycle of once every five years. Some legislators are pushing back, citing the financial concerns of additional inspection expenses, and the fact that hiring additional employees will only drive costs millions of dollars higher every year.
California, along with other states, needs to consider the vulnerability of its elderly citizens, especially those suffering serious health conditions including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Leaving their care in the hands of negligent or cruel caregivers for the sake of a lower annual state budget brings with it an undesired result.
Sadly, there are many victims of abuse at assisted living facilities including the elderly, ill and disabled. Often times, the resident suffers in various ways including physical attack, emotional abuse, lack of assistance in maintaining personal hygiene, violence, malnutrition, dehydration, and lack of medical care.
While California is taking great steps to help improve the living conditions of residence in assisted-living facilities, more can be done to improve assisted living laws. Providing adequate inspections on a routine basis can help improve the condition of the assisted-living facility, performed by state employees who are eager to report any infraction aggressively.
More than 750,000 individuals entrust their lives to the assistant living facility industry. It is the duty of every state to ensure they remain safe in the hands of caregivers.