The recent Frontline/ProPublica documentary called “Life and Death in Assisted Living” has been having an impact on the national conversation, and that can only be a good thing. You can watch the documentary and learn more on the PBS website.
The documentary examines Emeritus Corporation, a company with over 50,000 assisted living beds in 45 states. Far from flattering, the documentary sheds light on a culture that allows terrible infections and injuries to go unreported in the effort to keep beds full of residents.
Two major media publications have responded to the report. The New York Times, rightly warns family members against being overly impressed with plush carpeting and chandeliers. “…they [families] don’t always realize that these reassuring-looking residences may have no nurse on the premises most of the time, that health care in assisted living frequently consists of a 911 call, that the average length of stay — according to the Assisted Living Federation of America — is less than two years.”
Forbes magazine’s Howard Gleckman denied any direct knowledge of neglect, but offered a few valuable suggestions to family members including the rather surprising assertion that the “vast majority” of dementia patients don’t need skilled nursing home care and can do well with “high-quality” aides.
As a Chicago nursing home lawyer, I understand better than most that assisted living facilities have issues with nursing home neglect. Part of that problem may be attributed to the lack of regulation that these facilities face.
The problem is one that any reader of this blog or follower of the nursing home industry could point out: Nursing homes, allegedly heavily regulated, are also places where nursing home neglect and nursing home abuse are at epidemic levels.
The small fines that nursing homes often face, even in the event of severe neglect or abuse, pale in comparison to the profits by understaffed and underfunded facilities.
Unless the regulation of both nursing homes as well as assisted living facilities is dramatically improved, and nursing homes (and assisted living facilities) are no longer able to profit from substandard care, the only recourse for families is the court system.