The decision to move an elderly family member into an assisted living facility is not an easy one for caregivers. This difficult choice, combined with the overwhelming amount of options to choose from, is often a big source of stress for many families, and the potential new caregivers need to be adequately equipped to prepare for whatever the resident’s needs may be.

Assisted living facilities are designed to enable their patients to live in the much-needed comfort and familiarity of a home environment, while providing them with the necessary services they require. Even though many assisted living patients can go about their daily lives fairly independently, some patients may be a little more unpredictable. Patients with conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and other forms of dementia can become risks for facilities if their needs are not properly met.

Risks for Assisted Living Facilities

Any assisted living facility is vulnerable to the risk of litigation resulting from patient and employee behaviors, policies and procedures,  facility maintenance and more. These risks can be minimized and addressed through comprehensive insurance and risk management programs, as well as through policy and procedure updates and staff training. Assisted living facilities are most frequently penalized with lawsuits resulting from:

  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Patient elopement
  • Abuse
  • Neglect
  • Wrongful death
  • Improper medication administration
  • Accidents while transporting patients

Managing Risks in Assisted Living Facilities

The above-mentioned risks, while common, can be effectively managed through developing and implementing a series of best practices including but not limited to:

  • Service plans: Every resident, upon move-in, should undergo health, cognitive and psychological assessments and have an individual service plan created for their care. This plan should include all of a patient’s medical orders, guardianship papers, wills and other legal documents and any other resident preferences or requests. The resident and/or their guardian should be involved in creating the service plan, and it should be routinely assessed and updated if necessary.
  • Contracts: Resident contracts should clearly outline all of the facility’s practices and procedures, from admission criteria to payment provisions. The resident or their guardian should fully understand the terms of the contract before care begins.
  • Risk agreement: A risk agreement is necessary when a patient willingly participates in any risky behavior, such as declining services or remaining in a facility that no longer offers the type of services the resident requires. Family members should also be involved in the negotiation, and all parties made aware of the consequences of the resident’s choice. A risk agreement doesn’t automatically take all liability off of a facility in the event of an incident, but it can lessen the blame placed on it.
  • Staff accountability: Staff members should be properly trained and, when necessary, certified. The hiring process should include criminal background checks, reference checks and medical screenings to ensure staff members are of the highest quality. The facility should also have policies and procedures in place for their staff to help keep them accountable for their actions at all times.
  • Incident response: Regardless of how prepared a facility is, incidents, emergencies and disasters will happen. The facility should have an Incident Command System in place, similar to the system used by hospitals and FEMA. This should involve additional training for staff members in how to respond to specific incidents, and can also sometimes include drills for the residents as well, to ensure everyone is on the same page when the inevitable happens.

About Highland Risk Services

At Highland Risk, we use our expertise and experience to provide insurance information and programs to those who serve long-term care and senior living facilities. Since 2007, we’ve been offering insurance and risk management plans designed to help our agents give their clients the ability to achieve continued growth while simultaneously protecting against loss, containing costs and increasing profitability. With offices to serve you in Chicago, Illinois and Phoenix, Arizona, we do everything we can to make your experience with us as professional and transparent as possible. To learn more, contact us at (877) 890-9301.

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