August 16, 2013
MANAGING RISK AND THE ASSISTED LIVING FACILITY
Here at Cambridge Realty Capital, we try to do more than your average financial lender. One service includes helping our customers stay in the black after receiving a loan. A common situation that can lead to disaster -by way of a lawsuit- is a poor risk management policy. There are some known judicial rulings that provide the Assisted Living owner or operator insight on how to prevent a devastating lawsuit.
The most frequently brought suits involve claims of falls, abuse (sexual and physical), elopement/wandering, failure to supervise, wrongful death, wrong medication, and wound issues. Additionally, there are some common procedural mistakes that courts look at with disfavor. First, “rubber stamping” physician orders shows a lack of care and attention to detail. Second, residents often need to be transported from the Assisted Living Facility to the hospital or to a nursing home. A lack of communication between the Assisted Living Facility, the driver, and the place of destination communicates to the Court a “slack” operating system that is permeable to failure. Third, managing resident files with care and consideration is always important. Courts will often use the resident’s facility to determine whether or not the Assisted Living facility was or should have been aware of any problem the resident was suffering from. Therefore, it is crucial to document all conversations that take place between staff and physicians, residents and family members, and all lab results received by the facility or should be known by the facility. Fourth, in regard to the resident’s file, make certain that it is being documented correctly. That is, that staff and physicians are noting the correct information in the correct places in the chart or file.
Another relatively simple, but often overlooked factor in regard to reducing legal risk pertains to a more discriminate screening process. Naturally, as an Assisted Living Facility owner your bottom-line is everything. However, by taking on residents that are not fit to live within the style of assisted living, you open yourself up to unwanted liability. The resident that most often should, but is not turned away from the facility is the resident who suffers from mild dementia. As a quick aside, the screener should be asking him or herself: why is this potential resident’s family looking to put them in assisted living? People with dementia present an unreasonable risk of liability because the disease will only progress in the future and therefore, they belong in a nursing home. Furthermore, people with dementia need to be in “locked-in” units so they will not wander. As a dependent feature, the assisted living facility then must hire “wander guards” to ensure that they do not stray from the facility. People with dementia also require a lifestyle with artificially created cognitive stimulation that an average resident would not.