Is Florida Finally Starting to Address Assisted Living Facility Abuse and Neglect?
An Assisted Living Facility, also known as an ALF, is a place seniors can live that need some assistance with their activities of daily living but do not need enough care to qualify for a nursing home. Florida has detailed laws that are supposed to protect seniors living in ALFs from abuse and neglect. Unfortunately, as the Miami Herald has recently reported, Florida has come under fire for failing to enforce these protections.Recently, I was critical of Gov. Rick Scott for firing the c hief a dvocate f or Long-Term Care Residents . However, his most recent decision deserves recognition. Last month, Gov. Rick Scott made two important decisions regarding Florida's assisted living facilities. According to the Miami Herald, he vetoed legislation that would have helped assisted living facility owners avoid regulations and bureaucracy and launched a task force to find ways to improve living conditions.The vetoed legislation would have made it easier for homes to cover up incidents of assisted living facility abuse. Facilities would no longer be required to report lawsuits to state regulators and regulators would no longer have to file yearly reports on facilities. In his veto statement, Gov. Scott wrote, "I do not believe it is prudent to relax any reporting requirements for assisted living facilities."State Senator Ronda Storms is also forming a legislative initiative to investigate ALFs. The panel will likely include advocates for the elderly, including the state Ombudsman, and industry representatives. It will examine, among other things, the pattern of reducing penalties for assisted living facility abuse and the 33% drop in state inspections.These decisions may have been fueled in part by the Herald's "Neglected to Death" a series of investigative articles on ALF abuse and assisted living facility death. The investigation found that while 70 homes should have been shut down between 2008 and 2009 for violations including assisted living facility abuse and ALF neglect but, only 7 were closed.As an assisted living facility abuse attorney, I know Florida's assisted living facility law, one of the oldest in the country, needs to be overhauled. Advocates expect the governor's task force to call for an increase in inspections of facilities and higher qualifications for assisted living facility administrators. Something needs to be done because, as Senator Storms said, "lackadaisical oversight is deadly."