The Miami Herald has completed a yearlong investigation into Florida’s assisted-living facilities (ALF) and a gruesome picture emerges of abuse, neglect, and inaction by the state agency charged with regulating the industry. There are 2,850 ALFs in the state that are supposed to provide a safe shelter for those who cannot live alone. Some of the residents suffer from dementia, others are mentally disabled.
Unfortunately these are some of the most vulnerable individuals and the investigation finds the state regulatory agency, the Agency for Health Care Administration, does little to monitor, regulate, and shut down the worst offenders. The Miami Herald spent a year examining records from the state, police, and court reports, and autopsy files to expose a lucrative industry that is allowed to be a repeat offender. Among the findings:
- A 75-year-old Alzheimer’s patient wanders away from a Clearwater ALF and is mauled to death by an alligator.
- A man running what was found to be a dangerous facility in 2004 was allowed to renew his license three times, despite breaking the law 51 times.
- Residents were beaten and forced to sleep on urine soaked mattresses without air conditioning.
- A 71-year-old man in a Hialeah ALF was scalded in bath water and left there. He later died.
- A young psychotic woman was raped by a caretaker with a criminal history who gave her an overdose of powerful psychotic drugs. She later died.
At least 70 people have died from abuse or neglect at assisted-living facilities since 2002. Criminal charges have been filed in two incidents. Homes were caught using illegal restraints such as cages, ropes, and drugs like tranquilizers 1,732 times since 2002. Yet, only 26 facilities have been closed down by AHCA since 2005, even though some homes have had more than 1,000 reports of complaints of abuse. And instead of fining offending facilities, which would have brought the state more than $6 million in fines, fines collected totaled just $650,000.
While ALFs in Florida are inspected once every two years, other states such as Texas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Arizona, and Illinois conduct annual inspections. Florida slashed investigation funding by 90 percent between 2002 and 2008 and cut the number of inspectors. With nearly one resident dying every month from abuse and neglect this investigation is long overdue as is state action.
If you or a loved one is involved in an assisted-living facility and need to talk to someone about unacceptable living conditions or abuse, the Florida nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Farah & Farah have an open door policy. Call us at 1-800-533-3555 for a complimentary consultation today.