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Choosing Assisted Living: Pros, Cons & Liability Issues
Choosing an appropriate living facility for an aging loved one can be difficult. Researching your options and understanding the laws that govern them can help make the decision easier.

As the baby boomer generation grows older, decisions related to selling the family home and moving, in order to provide aging family members with additional care, will become increasingly important for many American families. For some, this decision will focus on two alternative housing options in particular: assisted living facilities and nursing homes. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of housing, though both are governed by sets of laws that protect residents and ensure their proper care.

Nursing homes have gained a bad reputation over the past few decades, but a reputable nursing home is sometimes the best option for an older person, especially if he or she requires advanced medical care. Nursing homes are more likely to employ qualified medical professionals and have facilities capable of providing care for residents with medical needs. Nursing home employees, unlike most staff members at assisted living facilities, are able to administer medication and provide health care to residents. However, one of the costs for such care is decreased resident privacy, since most residents of nursing homes share rooms with other residents.

Assisted Living

Assisted living facilities, on the other hand, offer residents more privacy and greater independence. However, it is important that families do their homework when searching for the appropriate residence for their loved one, since the term “assisted living” encompasses both independent living where residents are expected to look after themselves and their private rooms and skilled care facilities that offer more care support. Assisted living facilities may or may not have facilities which can adequately care for residents with dementia or other mental impairments, and many do not employ staff with the medical certification necessary to administer medication, though employees can hand medications to residents.

Since there is such a wide range of facilities that define themselves as “assisted living,” it is important to understand what Florida law requires of such facilities and the rights of residents at assisted living homes.

Florida Law

By law, assisted living facilities in Florida are required to closely monitor the physical, mental, emotional and social health of their residents. More specifically, they are required to:

  • Provide services to help facilitate resident well-being
  • Provide healthy diets and monitor what residents eat
  • Provide recreational, social and educational programs for residents and encourage their participation
  • Monitor the comings and goings of residents and have a general awareness of where residents are
  • Monitor and facilitate medical care by communicating with medical care providers and residents’ families and providing transportation to medical appointments

In addition to these standards of care, Florida law also states that assisted living facilities must prominently display elder abuse hotline information and make this information easily obtainable by residents. An assisted living facility cannot require a resident to work without pay unless lease provisions require residents to clean their own living areas. The state also prohibits assisted living facilities from using restraints on their residents; even half-bed rails designed to prevent falls must be used at the discretion of the resident.

Florida law which governs resident care at assisted living facilities is specific and extensive. Violations of the regulations carry serious penalties. The abuse or neglect of residents is a felony under state law. Abuse causing great bodily harm, disability or disfigurement is a felony of the first degree, and abuse that does not result in great bodily harm is a felony of the third degree. Failing to provide adequate care for a resident as outlined in state law is either a felony of the second or third degree, depending on the scale of the neglect and whether or not the neglect caused great harm or permanent disability or disfigurement. Neglect can occur in a single incident or repeatedly over a span of time.

Florida’s laws governing assisted living and other elder care facilities are designed to protect residents and ensure adequate care for all of the Sunshine State’s elderly. If you or a loved one has been abused or neglected at an assisted living or nursing home facility, please contact an experienced personal injury attorney, who can help you understand your legal options.

Keywords: elder abuse, assisted living facilities, nursing homes
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