Approximately 13 percent of Alabama citizens are older than 65. As our population ages, more and more people are seeking assistance with daily care. One option is an assisted living facility. The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) regulates these facilities, and defines them broadly as an “entity that provides, or offers to provide, residence and personal care to two or more individuals who are in need of assistance with activities of daily living.” Assisted living facilities are commonly referred to as retirement homes, senior homes, or the like.
These facilities are distinct from nursing homes, primarily because they do not provide the same level of health care to the residents. Most of these facilities may have a nurse who checks on residents daily, and they are required by the ADPH to ensure that the residents are “under the direction and supervision of a physician.” This physician is typically the private physician of the resident, with whom the nurse or staff should make contact, as needed, for the proper care of the residents.
More direct, the facility is required to “provide general observation and health supervision of the residents sufficient to develop awareness of changes in all residents’ health conditions and physical abilities, and awareness of the need for medical attention and nursing services.” In other words, the facility’s staff should be adequately trained to oversee a resident’s well-being and to take prompt and necessary action to obtain the appropriate medical care. Typically, this means having the person transferred to a hospital, though in appropriate circumstances on-site care or getting the resident to their doctor may be appropriate.
Assisted living facilities are required to have policies and procedures that address matters such as: (1) Abuse, neglect and exploitation management; (2) admission and continued stay criteria; (3) guidelines for discharge; (4) the services the facility is capable to provide; (5) medication assistance; (6) provisions of meals; etc. The ADPH requires that assisted living facilities maintain adequate staff “to meet the care needs of all residents” and must screen staff to ensure those persons are appropriately qualified to care for the needs of senior citizens.
The assisted living facility is required to evaluate whether a senior citizen can be properly cared for and monitored while at the facility. If not, the facility must undertake measures to have the resident “transferred or discharged to an appropriate setting.” For those individuals who can be safely monitored at the facility, the facility is required to have a plan of care to oversee the care and meet the medical and health needs of the resident.
In this day and age of competition for insurance, Medicare, Medicaid and private-pay dollars, all too often some assisted living facilities will hold onto a resident longer than it should and beyond its means to appropriately and safely care for that patient. In those instances, the facility may become liable for harm, injury or death of the resident. Lawyers in our firm’s Personal Injury/Products Liability Section review potential cases against assisted living facilities. If you need more information, contact Ben Locklar, a lawyer in our Personal Injury/Products Liability Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Ben.Locklar@beasleyallen.com.
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