Assisted Living Facilities are under fire for the treatment of patients with neurological disorders. According to the Consumerist, One of the few regulations put on assisted living facilities by some states is that they cannot care for people who are so ill that they require medical help. However, alarmingly enough, a recent study by Johns Hopkins University found that more than 2/3 of residents in assisted living facilities are suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia. One of the specialists involved in the study, Dr. Constantine Lyketsos stated, “The implications therefore are that anyone who operates assisted living needs to know that dementia is the major player, the major condition that leads to people being there.” This means that a massive amount of elderly Americans with less obvious injuries that are living with critical conditions end up in assisted living—when in reality, they need to be cared for the most.
Catherine Hawes of Texas A&M stated, “When you go into assisted living, you see a lot of cognitive impairment… so, there’s a lot of early memory loss, short-term memory loss, a lot of impaired decision-making.” Coming from a researcher at Texas A&M, the issue seems like it would require an extent of knowledge and skill to handle patients with memory issues. However, assisted living facilities fill this “void” by setting up “Memory Care” units that appear to offer families of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients a non-nursing home option. A former director of an Emeritus Memory Care operation (now owned and operated by Brookdale) told Frontline that, “[she thinks] that they are bringing nursing home patients to an assisted living facility.” Therefore, the patients that would ordinarily go to specialized care such as in a nursing home, are now going to assisted living facilities where their medical needs may not match the training of the staff .
The Training of Staff at Assisted Living Facilities
In Florida, there are four different types of licenses for varying levels of care. These types include: Standard; Extended Congregate Care (ECC); Limited Nursing Services (LNS); and Limited Mental Health (LMH). In order to be functional, a facility must have a standard assisted living facility license in Florida. The other licenses can be added in order for the facility to provide services designated outside the scale of a standard assisted facility license. Most facilities will carry the Limited Nursing Services (LNS) license as it provides an assisted living facility the basic services of an assisted living facility as well as nursing services provided by licensed nurses within the scope of their nursing practice. The resident would still need to meet admission and continued residency criteria as designated by said assisted living facility .
Still, even with such licenses, there is no national standard for training. Some states require up to 25 hours of training for staffers, while others have no minimum; requiring only that certain topics be covered. Directing attorney with the National Senior Citizens Law Center cautions that though most facilities are required to keep at least one person on site overnight, in some cases that person may not be required to be awake. With that in mind, many flock to assisted living facilities because they offer more freedom for their residents in a less institutional setting. Many individuals enjoy their freedom so much that this value overcompensates for their mental capabilities. As such, people with severe health problems who in the past would have been moved into nursing homes are now staying longer in much less expensive assisted living facilities says Brain Lee, executive director of Families for Better Care and former director of Florida’s long-term-care ombudsman program. Moreover, because assisted living facilities aren’t required to have the same training as nursing homes, these facilities can be more dangerous for the elderly.
A Vice President for Emeritus described the entire training process to Frontline:
“Four our staff that works in memory care, they’re gonna go through what we call general orientation which everybody in the community would go through, then we have an 8-hour class that’s the ‘Join Their Journey’ class and that’s where we cover everything from disease process to how we serve meals slightly differently to folks who have dementia to how to engage, hot to approach, hot to communicate…There are some communication barriers at times.”
Summarized from Jody Spiegel, the director of the Nursing Home & Assisted Living Advocacy Project; from a business perspective, Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers are a huge market. As such, many facilities advertise specially trained staff, customized activities and locked floors for those who wander. But real critics say it can be hard to differentiate a sales pitch from a real service, and government regulations of dementia care tend to be minimal. “The law has not kept up.” 
One has to think that this type training is ludicrous compared to the level of attention and skill these patients are expected receive out of staff. The impact of eight hours is not enough to divulge the scope of illness, treatment, communication and so on. Unfortunately, the patients are the ones who deal with the negligence staff without the mindset to do so and sometimes it can lead to fatal outcomes.
Dolman Law Group
Therefore, if you’ve noticed signs of assisted living abuse, you should immediately contact an experienced attorney to discuss how to hold the facility liable for any losses you or your loved one suffered. If you have already placed a loved one at a facility, or you yourself are at an assisted living facility and you feel as though you or your loved one is being neglected by poorly trained staff, please do not hesitate to call the Dolman Law Group at (727) 451-6900.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765