An investigative report in the Miami Herald earlier this year showed an alarming trend in assisted living negligence and abuse in Miami and across the state. According to journalists Rob Barry, Michael Sallah and Carol Marbin Miller, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), which is tasked with overseeing assisted living facilities in the state, has not monitored these facilities adequately and has allowed dangerous conditions at facilities to continue – even after residents and families have reported serious problems. As a result, serious injuries and even fatalities have occurred in Florida’s assisted living facilities, according to the reports.
According to the Miami Herald, the number of assisted living facilities has increased by 550 across Florida in the past five years while inspections of these facilities have declined 33% in the same period, allowing dangerous conditions to continue. This allows almost one abuse- or negligence-related fatality per month at these institutions. In addition, between 2011 and 2012 the newspaper reported that there were 70 homes that could have been shut down due to violations of laws, but only seven were actually closed. Some of the homes that remained open had more than 100 violations that created dangerous conditions for residents. Conditions are so bad, according to the journalists, that some facilities have had their funding frozen by the government and some government agencies are no longer sending residents to facilities with known violations – but these homes are still, in some cases, licensed by the AHCA.
Assisted living facilities were created more than 25 years ago by legislation meant to protect the ill and the elderly. Today, tens of thousands of people live in more than 2800 facilities across Florida and are supposed to be protected by assisted living laws as well as other legislation.
However, according to the Miami Herald, these facilities have in some cases become so dangerous that slip and fall accidents in Miami, overmedication, medical abuse, neglect, and outright abuse are occurring at some of these homes. In many cases, however, the journalists claim that no steps are taken to shut down the homes or punish those who are guilty of assisted living facility or nursing home abuse and negligence in Miami and other cities.
Assisted living facilities are supposed to be an alternative to nursing homes. However, while many states inspect such facilities annually, Florida currently only inspects them once every two years. Between 2002 and 2008, according to the Miami Herald, investigations of injuries and deaths at these facilities declined by 90%. At the same time, the number of abuse and neglect cases at these facilities doubled over the past five years, according to the Florida Department of Elder Affairs ombudsman program.
According to Miami Herald reporter Kenny Malone, more than 70 people have died in assisted living facilities in Florida over the past eight years due to abuse and neglect. Part of the problem, according to the reported, is that the state can keep records of deaths secret even from family members. In some cases, Malone reports, there have been cases of assisted living facilities falsifying or destroying records in order to cover up abuse and fatalities, but few were ever charged as a result.
One option for families affected by nursing home abuse and neglect as well as assisted living facility negligence is to work with a personal injury attorney to pursue civil charges. To find out more, contact Flaxman Law Group today to arrange for a free consultation.