We and our loved ones place an incredible amount of trust in the operators of facilities that offer care to the frail and elderly.
Unfortunately, there are far too many instances in which that trust is violated. While instances of abuse tend to garner the most headlines, more commonly what we see are cases of negligence. These often stem from improper oversight, poor staffing levels and lack of training.
The consequences of this negligence in assisted-living facilities has the potential to be devastating, as a recent ProPublica investigation uncovered. As many people may be paying visits to extended family members over the holidays, we strongly encourage them to be on the lookout for any possible signs of abuse, neglect or negligence.
This kind of watchful eye is especially important because, as the ProPublica reporters learned, oversight of assisted-living facilities varies wildly from state-to-state.
In New York for example, state authorities do have the ability to fine assisted-living sites that falter in their standards of care. State-led inspections are supposed to occur every 18 months, and those reports are posted online to the public.
But in one important area in which the state falls short is in staffing ratios. While the state requires nursing homes to have a minimum number of nurses (per Title 10 Health Sec. 415.13 Nursing Services Eff: 1-13-93, Reissued 7-95, Revised 3-31-97 Reissued 12/19/07), no such requirements exist for assisted-living facilities.
The state also has no minimum staff-to-patient ratios set for direct care staff in either nursing homes or assisted-care facilities.That leaves these agencies to set whatever standards they deem fit. Keep in mind these are for-profit operations. Their financial bottom line is always going to be a top priority, and far too often, we see facilities that place profits over the well-being of patients. However, it’s been well-established that lower staffing levels directly correlates to increased instances of neglect and negligence.
This can come in the administration of the wrong medications or improper dosage, failure to ensure proper nutrition and hydration of patients, oversights in personal patient hygiene and an overall lack of adequate care.
An example highlighted by the ProPublica investigators involved an 82-year-old Ohio woman who died in her assisted-living facility after drowning in her bathtub. Her care chart specifically stated that workers were not to allow her to bathe unsupervised for safety reasons. Yet on the day she died, she had been left alone in that bathtub for at least one hour.
Ohio also has no minimum staffing ratios set for assisted-living facilities.
What’s especially troubling about that case and so many others is that assisted-living facilities generally face very few consequences for even serious lapses in care. State authorities have been known to shut down facilities, but that usually only happens after many years of problems. Typically, violations of care standards will be met with a fine – and often one that carries very little weight. In California, for example, assisted-living facilities have been required to pay fines as little as $150 as a result of care lapses that resulted in residents’ deaths.
If you suspect your loved one has suffered as a result of some type of abuse or negligence, it’s advisable to contact a personal injury lawyer to explore your options for compensation.
The Law Offices of Nicholas Rose, PLLC offers free consultations. Call 1-877-313-7673.
Elderly, At Risk, and Haphazardly Protected, Oct. 29, 2013, By A.C. Thompson, ProPublica
More Blog Entries:
Seabolt v. County of Albemarle Analyzes Government Immunity in New York Premise Liability Cases, May 9, 2012, New York City Negligence Lawyer Blog