Senior living facilities often face many issues. Solutions to these problems are consistently being discussed by the government and other stakeholders. However, many of these issues are difficult and costly to solve. For example, staffing and regulation of facilities are problems consistently faced by senior living. Fraud and abuse are also issues that seem to plague this industry. Let’s take a closer look at these issues.
Staffing is a major issue for senior living facilities. First, it has been reported that shortages in staff are expected to reach crisis level in the years to come. This is due to difficult working conditions and low wages, which is affecting the ability to recruit and keep quality staff. In addition, the demand for high quality care continues to increase, while the number of capable individuals is in short supply. When senior living facilities struggle with adequate staffing, patient care suffers. The ratio of residents to caregivers in a facility directly affects the quality of care.
This issue is daunting, but facilities in various states are seeking to find options to solve this common problem. Developing partnerships with universities is one option some large facilities are using to attempt to solve the issue of quality staffing. These facilities seek to partner with internship programs in nursing to entice students to look at the facilities as a viable employment option. These partnerships also strive to make continuing education more affordable for facility staff. Finally, the universities and facilities are working together to improve training and refine curriculum to better prepare students for working in senior living facilities.
Fraud and Abuse
Fraud and abuse are major issues in senior living facilities. These problems often relate back to the issues with staffing, but fraud is also perpetrated through the business offices of facilities. Seniors fall prey to billing fraud where they are billed for services, prescriptions, and medical care in excess and in ways that are confusing. The facility then pockets the extra money. Billing Medicare and Medicaid for more advanced services is just another way facilities take advantage of their residents. Senior fraud can occur when workers befriend seniors and then take advantage of the often-lonely senior by accepting gifts or convincing them to change their financial plans.
Physical abuse is also a problem with senior living facilities. The use of restraints and drugs to control patients is reported as a problem. Senior abuse also involves hitting, sexual abuse, and mental abuse. There are many ways to report fraud and abuse of seniors. A quick Google search can put families in contact with the right agency to report problems with senior living facilities. Elder law attorneys can also help families decide on the best route in dealing with fraud or abuse. Most importantly, families must be involved with their senior loved ones and keep tabs on finances and the care received.
Regulation and Oversight
Regulation and oversight varies from state to state and varies by facility type. Nursing homes are considered medical facilities and much of the funding comes from Medicare and Medicaid. Therefore, nursing homes are generally better regulated because they are under state and federal regulations. Assisted living facilities where residents generally private pay and are considered non-medical have minimal regulation by the government. While each state has their own regulations for assisted living facilities, most states have not kept up with the changing tide of assisted living facilities. These facilities are dealing with residents with illnesses and therefore are providing more medical care for their residents. However, many do not have medical personnel on site.
Most states require inspections, but these very from once a year in some states to once every 5 years in others. Very few states have adequate oversight of these facilities and many have staff that is inadequate and lack appropriate training. As these facilities garner more negative attention, many states are beginning to look at more suitable ways to oversee and regulate senior living facilities.
The problems with senior living facilities are daunting. Stakeholders are constantly looking for ways to improve these facilities and the care they provide. With the number of senior adults who will need care on the rise, these issues must be dealt with or there will be a crisis of care and options for senior living.
If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us. Please contact our Houston office by calling us at (713) 357-8882, or our Sugar Land office at (713) 331-5158.