Florida was one of the first of the United States to begin legislating assisted living facilities (ALFs). Assisted living facilities differ from nursing homes. In an assisted living facility, patients can handle most daily activities and do not require constant care. On the other hand, nursing home patients typically have significant mental or physical deficiencies that cause them to require constant care. Florida assisted living laws state that an assisted living facility may not tend to any residents who must be bedridden for longer than seven consecutive days.
The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) is the entity responsible for ALF licensing. The Florida Department of Health (DOH) is responsible for conducting physical plant inspections to ensure that environmental health and food service standards are being met within facilities.
Florida ALF Resident Care Standards
Florida assisted living laws state that the facilities must offer residents supervision or assistance during daily living activities as needed. However, residents should be encouraged to perform these activities as independently as possible. Residents should receive convenient telephone access to facilitate their rights to private and unrestricted communication.
Florida assisted living laws require that residents are encouraged to participate in recreational, social, educational, and other facility and community activities. These activities should be available for at least six days a week and no less than 12 hours.
Florida ALF Food Service Standards
When food services are provided by the facility, Florida assisted living laws state that the facility must provide residents with regular meals that meet nutritional needs. These needs are established by the Food and Nutrition board based on sex, age, and activity level of residents. Special therapeutic diets required by a resident’s physician must also be met. These therapeutic diets must be prepared and served as ordered by the resident’s physician.
No more than 14 hours may pass between the evening meal containing protein and breakfast in facilities that serve three or more meals per day. Meal intervals must be distributed throughout the day. No less than two hours and no more than six hours should pass between these meals. ALFs must offer snacks at least once a day to patients who do not have kitchen access.
Florida ALF Physical Plant Standards
Florida assisted living laws require that residents are provided with a safe and clean living environment. The facility must be free of hazards. Mechanical, architectural, structural, and electrical systems must be properly maintained and in good working order. As space permits, ALF residents have the option to use their own belongings.
Facility-supplied bedroom or sleeping areas must include:
- A comfortable and clean mattress at least 36 inches wide and 72 inches long
- A mattress top surface that is high enough to ensure easy resident access
- A wardrobe or closet space to hang clothes
- A chest, dresser, or other furniture to store personal effects
- A table, waste basket, and floor or bedside lamp
- A comfortable chair, per resident request
Increasing ALF Regulation
The AHCA, Senate’s Health Regulation committee, and Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committees have recently received pressure to enforce stricter Florida assisted living laws. This controversy surfaced after evidence showed that neglect and abuse cases in ALFs have double since 2005. However, Florida dropped inspections by roughly 33 percent.
Proposed Florida assisted living laws aim to:
- Strip ALF licensing from any home in which death occurs from abuse or neglect
- Issue maximum fines on ALFs caught neglecting or abusing residents to death
- Dramatically increase required administrator qualifications from a high school degree to a college degree that includes health field coursework or two years of resident care experience
- Impose criminal penalties on administrators and caregivers who falsify ALF records such as medical records
- Allow resident families to install cameras in ALF rooms as long as privacy agreements are signed by relatives
- Allow residents to appeal when ALFs attempt to force them out so that residents can remain in the facility until a hearing
Filing an ALF Complaint
If patients or patient family members wish to file a complaint regarding food or environmental conditions, the local county health department should be contacted. The health department will then investigate the complaint. When filing a complaint, the party should have complaint details readily available. These include the date of the observation or incidence, location or room in which it occurred, facility address, and other pertinent details.
“ASSISTED LIVING FACILITIES.” Florida Administrative Resgister & Florida Administrative Code. Florida Department of State. Web. 18 May 2013. https://www.flrules.org/gateway/ChapterHome.asp?Chapter=58A-5
Sallah, Michael, and Carol Marbin Miller. “Florida lawmakers consider tough law to protect assisted living facilities.” Tampa Bay Times. Tampa Bay Times, 19 Jan 2012. Web. 18 May 2013. http://www.tampabay.com/news/health/medicine/florida-lawmakers-consider-tough-law-to-protect-assisted-living-facilities/1211331