When considering assisted living facilities for loved ones, Kathryn Stebner advises families that staff is the key to everything, especially those who are engaging residents in a variety of activities which help to keep them healthy. If you see people sitting in a corner in wheelchairs and no one interacting with them, this is a bad sign.
A recent article in the San Jose Mercury New exposed the deplorable working conditions for staff in assisted living facilities that elder advocates have known about for years. Most family members would not want their loved one cared for by a worker who is working "16-hour days, six days a week, and given around $60 stipends for each day's work." or sleeping on "futons in the living rooms and dining rooms of the residence." ("Wage theft allegations grow against Bay Area elder care homes" Mercury News February 4, 2016, http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_29471011/wage-theft-allegations-grow-against-bay-area-elder.) Apparently, county district attorneys are beginning to prosecute owners for bad working conditions in these facilities, which hopefully will result in better outcomes for the elders who depend on them.
It may be difficult to ascertain whether there are labor violations going on at the facility you are considering. However, it's important to ask questions. Some staffing issues for families to consider when choosing an assisted living facility include:
- What is the staffing ratio? How many staff per resident? Having an adequate amount of staff for the resident population is critical.
- Does the facility change staffing when people with higher needs are there?
- Does it make staffing decisions based on how sick the residents are; or does it make staffing decisions based only on the number of residents
- Does the residence have either an LVN or an RN, and if so, are they on call or on premises, and if so, when?
- Has the residence been cited by the state for regulatory or legal violations?
- Is this a large, corporate-owner facility, or is there an independent owner? This is important because you want people who can make decisions affecting your loved one here and now, not three states and two timezones away.
In order to review the citations against assisted living facilities in California, you can search the Community Care Licensing database at https://secure.dss.ca.gov/CareFacilitySearch/. Another excellent resource for reviewing facilities is California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. www.canhr.org.