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Miami Herald

Letter: ALF residents lack protection

Monday, April 02, 2012
By reader submitted

The 2012 legislative session has concluded and unfortunately no legislation was passed addressing the protection against arbitrary eviction for residents in Assisted Living Facilities (ALFs). The Governor's Assisted Living Facility Workgroup recommended enacting eviction protections and several legislators proposed bills. However, lack of protections for ALF residents remains a reality.

The law currently allows an ALF administrator to relocate or terminate a resident for almost any reason, as long as the administrator provides a 45-day notice and documents the reason.
Florida ALF residents, numbering almost 80,000, cannot challenge their eviction in court even though they rent a unit just like an apartment dweller. Some of them have advanced care needs similar to residents of nursing homes, but don't have basic due process protections.
Administrators may decide to relocate a resident for making what may be legitimate complaints to state agencies involving things like poor care or lack of food. For example, a resident was recently evicted after filing a complaint with the Ombudsman Program. The reason given for eviction was, "The resident was not happy here."

The Ombudsman Program investigated 75 inappropriate ALF eviction complaints and 72 fear of retaliation complaints during 2010-11. An even greater number of arbitrary discharges may have occurred, but were not reported. When a resident is relocated from an ALF, the facility isn't obligated to report its action to any governmental entity, no matter the circumstances or the frailty of the resident.

We need to pass legislation providing basic due process including the ability to challenge a proposed relocation in a neutral forum and the requirement that a 45-day written notice be handed to the resident and documented as being given. Establish standards for the appropriate relocation of residents, such as changes in medical condition, failure to pay and behavioral changes necessitating a different setting. Require the ALF to notify the Ombudsman Program of any notice issued and permit a representative of the local ombudsman council to meet with the resident and work with the administrator to resolve the issue, if possible and appropriate.

These recommendations will protect ALF residents from inappropriate evictions, allowing residents to seek redress of any concerns about their care and quality of life without fear of retaliation.

To work with us to better the lives of all long-term-care facility residents, call 1-888-831-0404 or visit ombudsman.myflorida.com to find out how you can volunteer. If you do not have the time to commit to the program, urge your legislators to support positive changes for ALF residents, including protection from arbitrary evictions.

Jim Crochet, state ombudsman, Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, Tallahassee