As an attorney who handles cases of assisted living facility abuse and neglect in Sarasota, Venice, Englewood and throughout Sarasota County, Florida, I am routinely asked what family members should be most concerned about when placing their loved ones into an assisted living community.
“Independent Living,” “Memory Care Unit,” “Assisted Living,” and “Resident Care” are all feel-good terms that have been invented by corporations to attempt to justify charging sometimes upwards of $8,000.00 per month to house the elderly. The fact is that many of these companies charge such excessive rates while providing little to no medically trained personnel onsite, very little supervision of residents, and minimal safeguards to ensure that a family’s mom or dad, once admitted, is protected from harm. This is particularly true when it comes to residents who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
The term “memory care” suggests that a patient suffering from dementia will somehow receive special care, treatment, attention, and encouragement to assist them with their cognitive difficulties and activities of daily living. More often than not, the reality is that a “memory care” unit is nothing more than a locked room with minimal staff and a host of residents who suffer from varying degrees of dementia. These residents, when left unsupervised or inadequately supervised, frequently become combative, sexually inappropriate or aggressive with one another. The corporation’s solution, you might think, would be to hire more staff. Hiring and training sufficient staff would cut into their bottom line profits, however, so the cheaper alternative is to pump the residents full of ant-psychotic and psychotropic drugs in order to alter and reduce their supervision needs. Corporations which act with such conscious disregard for the life and safety of their residents should be punished.
Overmedicating residents in order to control their behavior is a growing problem in assisted living facilities that has been recognized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Frequently, staff will take an antipsychotic medication prescribed by a physician to be taken on an “as needed basis” and administer it whether the patient truly needs it or not. This constitutes abuse. The overuse, side effects and complications resulting from such medications can lead to falls, dehydration, malnutrition, immobility, the development of pressure sores, kidney failure and even death. If you have a loved one who you believe is being abused by the over-utilization of medication, be sure to consult with the prescribing physician and alert the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration at (888) 419-3456. Of course, if you have questions or a desire to investigate an assisted living facility for abuse and neglect of a resident, you are welcome to call me, James Keim, Attorney at Law, for a free, confidential consultation at (941) 485-7600.