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Assisted Living Facilities and Alzheimer’s: How Prepared Are They to Care for Your Loved One?

The most profitable area of real estate right now isn’t hotels, trendy restaurants, or even high rise living. For a real estate investor, the safest return on investment is putting money into senior living facilities. According to the National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries, in the past 10 years the highest property returns have been on senior housing developments.


Alzheimer’s Rates Expected to Skyrocket
The assisted living housing market, especially those properties with designated memory care facilities, is growing at a rapid pace, partly to keep up with the increasing number of seniors expected to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Today, an estimated 5.7 people are living with Alzheimer’s. By 2050, the Alzheimer’s Association expects that number to jump to 14 million, with 1 American developing Alzheimer’s every 65 seconds. The disease is an epidemic and savvy real estate investors are aware that putting their money into senior housing is likely to yield great financial returns.

Working in their favor is the fact that marketing an assisted living facility or a specific unit of a facility as specifically geared towards those with Alzheimer’s or dementia typically creates a false market that enables facilities to charge these residents more. According to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care, a typical assisted living stay costs $4,835 a month, vs $6,472 a month in a memory care unit or specialty facility.


Looser Regulations for Assisted Living Facilities
Nursing homes are regulated by the federal government through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). At the state level, nursing homes are typically inspected and fined for violations through the state’s department of public health. Nursing homes are frequently inspected by these agencies, whom are also called upon to investigate complaints made against a facility. They are authorized to issue fines and citations for any action or situation that violates the standards set forth by the federal government, as well as any state laws regarding nursing home care.

Assisted living facilities are different. They are neither licensed, nor regulated by the federal government. States may have laws or statutes pertaining to the quality of care provided, but they are traditionally minimal. In 2016, then-Governor Bruce Rauner attempted to pass the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Services Act. The act would’ve required any facility or agency claiming to provide care to anyone with Alzheimer’s or dementia (nursing homes, assisted living facilities, home health agencies. etc) to undergo at least 6 hours of training in subjects specifically pertaining to the care of those suffering from the disease. It was repealed before it ever went into effect.

Without streamlined requirements for the specialty care allegedly provided to those with these conditions in assisted living facilities, one has to wonder exactly what these facilities are promising vs. what they’re actually delivering. Residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia require staff members who can provide this specialized care, as well as those trained to be sensitive and respectful of the physical and emotional needs of these patients.

Last month, The New York Times, citing a Kaiser Health News (KHN) investigation, revealed that 3 of the largest states have a troubling number of dementia-care violations in assisted living facilities. Here is what KHN found based on data from the last 5 years:

  • Nearly HALF of assisted living centers in California have been found in violation of at least 1 state dementia law.
  • 1 in 11 assisted living centers in Florida has been cited for violating state rules put in place to prevent wandering, an elevated risk for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
  • Nearly 25% of assisted living facilities that admit Alzheimer’s and dementia patients have been cited for violating at least 1 state dementia law.

 

Assisted Living Facilities in Illinois
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), there are 492 assisted living facilities in the state as of June 2017. The department is responsible for licensing these facilities, requiring an annual renewal application and an annual renewal fee.

291 of these assisted living centers are identified by IDPH as able to provide care to those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Two of these facilities are Brookdale Senior Living Centers (Brookdale Orland Park and Brookdale Urbana), the largest owner and operator of senior living facilities in the country. There is no clear language on IDPH’s website as to what allows a facility to be licensed as an assisted living center that provides Alzheimer’s or dementia care.

Brookdale’s presence in Illinois is significant, as it was the focus of the New York Times feature on assisted living facilities and dementia and Alzheimer’s care. In 2016, a 90-year-old resident with dementia wandered out of Brookdale Charleston in South Carolina and was found lying near a pond behind the facility. She had been attacked by an alligator. The resident died as a result of her injuries.

Brookdale called the situation “unfortunate” and within a year was fined for 11 violations, including incomplete overnight resident checks and failure to maintain appropriate staffing ratios. They were fined less than $7,000.


Illinois Assisted Living Attorneys 

While nursing home citations and violations are a bit easier to find thanks to Nursing Home Compare, the CMS-run nursing home quality database, the same data is harder to come by for assisted living facilities. However, any member of the public can request citation and violation information from the Illinois Department of Public Health by filing a records request under the Freedom of Information Act.  If someone you love is a resident at an assisted living facility and you have concerns about the quality of care, it is well worth the time to investigate the citations and violations levied on their facility.

If you suspect any form of maltreatment, abuse, or neglect at a senior living facility, Levin & Perconti wants to help you. For nearly 30 years our attorneys have focused on protecting and fighting for the rights of seniors in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. With over half a billion dollars recovered for our clients, our attorneys are dedicated to bringing justice to families whose loved ones have been harmed by careless nursing homes and staff.

Please, contact us now for a FREE consultation at 312-332-2872 in Chicago, toll-free at 1-877-374-1417, or by completing our online case evaluation form.