When choosing a managed care facility for an older family member, assisted living facilities (ALFs) may seem like an attractive option. These facilities aren’t as rigidly structured as nursing homes and residents have more freedom to decide what they want to do. However, since the residents at ALFs don’t require 24-hour care, ALFs have lower standards than nursing homes. The way ALFs are run can end up encouraging nursing home abuse and neglect. Recent reports have shown that low pay and long hours can lead to elder abuse at ALFs.
As America’s population of senior citizens continues to grow, many assisted living facilities are cropping up to provide care at rates that are cheaper than nursing homes. When ALFs are appropriately managed, they can be an excellent option for families that need help for older relatives. But with so much money flowing into these facilities, some providers try to increase their profits by slashing costs and cutting corners. These-price motivated decisions can compromise the quality of care that residents receive.
One of the most significant issues facing ALFs is maintaining adequate staffing levels. ALFs have fewer staff members than nursing homes, and it’s not uncommon for these workers to be underpaid. A recent article by Reveal examined the issues facing some ALFs in Southern California. Workers were forced to work unpaid overtime, and when calculated reasonably, the workers were getting paid just $2 to $3 per hour.
It’s tempting to blame these issues on a few rogue ALFs, but the problem is more widespread than many may think. According to Reveal, “Tens of thousands of caregivers work in senior residential care facilities nationwide. We found hundreds of cases over the past decade in which operators have violated minimum wage and other labor laws. More than a third of the cases were in California.”
The nature of ALFs makes it harder to find high-quality workers for these facilities. ALFs pay less than nursing homes, so there’s no reason for a talented caregiver to choose employment at an ALF. And because ALFs are the less expensive alternative to a nursing home, there is a race to the bottom. ALFs have to keep their prices low; otherwise, they would lose residents to their competitors. This dynamic makes it difficult for ALFs to invest more in high-quality staff.
The low pay and long hours have a predictably negative effect on the morale of employees and the quality of care they provide. Some of the workers who spoke to Reveal described their work as a form of indentured servitude. By paying a flat rate, unscrupulous ALFs were getting people to work for extremely long hours for a rate that would be illegal if it were calculated by the hour.
When staff members are overworked and underpaid, elder abuse and neglect are the inevitable result of the situation. Tired and exhausted employees are likely to miss responsibilities, fall behind on daily tasks, and take out their frustrations on the seniors they are caring for. Ensuring that your family members are cared for by employees who are paid fairly is essential for preventing nursing home abuse and neglect.
If you’re planning on putting a family member in an assisted living facility, make sure to review their staffing levels and talk to other residents at the facility when possible. Don’t forget to check the state registry to see if there were any violations or complaints filed against the facility. Be sure to download the Caregiver Guide from the Law Firm of Steve Watrel, P.A. for advice on choosing the right facility and what to do if you believe your family member is being neglected or abused.