Lately, the news has been filled with stories of ALF’s (assisted living facilities) neglecting their residents. For instance, a Miami Herald investigation recently revealed filthy conditions, gross negligence, and in many cases, abuse at various facilities. The people subjected to these conditions cannot fight back; they are either elderly, severely disabled, or mentally disturbed. For example, at All America ALF, in Miami-Dade, an elderly man was burned so badly by scalding bath water, he later died from the burns. Another incident at All America ALF involved staff standing by, watching two residents beat each other with two by fours. All America ALF now has over 100 state citations. All America is still licensed to operate by the state.
The number of citations received by these facilities seems high, but is lower than the probable number of incidents that actually occur. For example, Alva Trout died in a Wilton Manors nursing home. The facility signed her death certificate with the cause of death being “failure to thrive.” The mortician compared that cause of death to the body, and knew something was up. Ms. Trout had several injuries, including a fractured neck. The cause of her death was pneumonia brought on by injury.
One of the reasons the gross misconduct continues at ALF’s throughout the state is because inspections of each facility are scheduled to occur only once every two years. Moreover, if an inspection uncovers anything, it only leads to a warning. This is probably the reason why there are over 2,800 ALF’s in Florida, tending to over 80,000 patients. With such a large number of ALF’s, and a troubled state budget, it is often hard to enforce any citations that are issued. Most ALF’s are fined if they are found to have committed any offenses, and these fines usually go uncollected. Another reason there is such misconduct is that an ALF director is only required to have a high school diploma, and a certificate from a 26 hour course.
The violations that occur at the various ALF’s often lead to serious medical complications, mental anguish, and even death. It is unfortunate that the various State Attorney’s Offices throughout the state aren’t focusing on such a serious problem. In my opinion, the state prosecutors should focus more on crimes with real victims rather than petty crimes like suspended driver licenses or possession of marijuana for personal use. It is time for Florida to wake up and spend its judicial budget wisely by fighting real criminals, as opposed to the poor and addicted. Until this happens, the burden of finding justice for the voiceless ALF residents falls on private attorneys, willing to take cases on contingency.