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Some medical malpractice cases may go overlooked in California

Millions of older Americans living in California and other states around the country require some level of care. And while many are admitted to full-service nursing home facilities, thousands of others choose assisted living facilities to meet their needs. There are increasing concerns, however, that fatal accident and malpractice rates may be on the rise in assisted living facilities everywhere, as a lack of federal regulation and oversight may allow questionable care practices to continue.

While nursing home facilities typically receive some level of federal funding, and are therefore subject to federal guidelines, many assisted living facilities operate independently and are monitored by state agencies. As a result, some industry insiders suggest that facilities can better tailor the type and level of services they offer to the needs of their communities. However, new research published by Frontline and ProPublica highlights concerns over the quality and consistency of care offered at many assisted living facilities in California and elsewhere.

One of the issues raised in the investigatory piece is that many assisted living facilities are overcrowded and ill-equipped to provide the level of care some patients require. Furthermore, assisted living facilities are not generally inspected as often as nursing homes and are typically not subject to the same standards or fines.

Those in favor of imposing federal regulations on the assisted living industry claim that such measures could help to enforce quality care standards by streamlining staffing requirements and increasing inspection practices, but efforts to implement such changes have largely failed.

As it is, researchers note that the state of California has around nine percent fewer inspectors on staff to monitor assisted living facilities, even as the number of facilities operating in the state has increased considerably in recent years.

Source: propublica.org, “Elderly, At Risk, and Haphazardly Protected,” A.C. Thompson, Jonathan Jones, Oct. 29, 2013

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