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Planning for Our Golden Years Can Be a Challenge


For many of our elderly, there comes a time when they can no longer care for themselves.  If that person purchased a long-term care policy, is wealthy or is indigent, his/her care should not be a problem.

Unfortunately many of our elderly fall into “the gap” – they make too much money to qualify for Medicaid and do not have enough money to privately pay for their care.  Oftentimes, if they have children, their children cannot care for them.  Most of our elderly have worked their entire lives, contributed to society and paid into the system.  When the time comes that an elderly person can no longer care for themselves, we should have a structure, which will provide long-term care regardless of their financial status.

Florida is certainly a state where we sadly see examples regularly of nursing and assisted living facilities that are understaffed, have poorly trained staff, and have a level of housekeeping that is less than any of us would accept for ourselves. We owe it to our elderly citizens. They have earned our obligation to keep them safe and cared for in facilities in which any one of us would not mind living.

We should, as family members and as citizens of this state, be vigilante that systems exist to protect our elderly citizens.

Nursing Homes and long-term care facilities should be inspected on a regular basis to ensure that their residents get quality care.  There is no justifiable reason for a resident of a nursing home or assisted living facility to suffer from bed sores, neglect or poor care. We have state agencies charged with the duty to assure that facilities are kept clean, are well staffed and are safe.

We can be vigilante as well. If we have loved ones or friends in facilities, we should be involved in making sure they get appropriate care. We should insist that nursing home staffs are reasonably responsive to the person’s needs and that their dignity is preserved.

The State of Florida provides a service of which many people are unaware: the Florida Ombudsman for the Department of Elder Affairs:

“An ombudsman is an advocate for people who live in nursing homes,
assisted living facilities and adult family care homes. All services are confidential and free of charge.”

Residents of nursing homes in Florida have certain rights granted to them by Florida statute and they include:

  • Civil and religious liberties.
  • Private and uncensored communication.
  • Visitation by any individual providing health, social, legal, or other services and the right to deny or withdraw consent at any time.
  • Present grievances and recommend changes in policies and services free from restraint, interference, coercion, discrimination, or reprisal. Includes the right to have access to the ombudsmen and other advocacy groups.
  • Organize and participate in resident groups.
  • Participate in social, religious, and community activities that do not interfere with the rights of others.
  • Examine results of recent facility inspections by federal and state agencies including the plan of correction if applicable.
  • Manage his/her own financial affairs. A quarterly accounting will be furnished to resident or legal representative.
  • Be fully informed, in writing and orally, of services available at the facility and of related charges for such services.
  • Refuse medication and treatment and to know the consequences.
  • Receive adequate and appropriate health care, protective and support services within established and recognized standards.
  • Privacy in treatment and in caring for personal needs.
  • Be informed of medical condition and proposed treatment and be allowed participation in planning.
  • Be treated courteously, fairly, and with the fullest measure of dignity.
  • Be free from mental and physical abuse, corporal punishment, extended involuntary seclusion, and from physical and chemical restraints except those ordered by resident’s physician.
  • Be transferred or discharged only for medical reasons, the welfare of other residents or nonpayment of a bill.
  • Receive a thirty (30) day written notice of discharge or relocation, and challenge such notice.
  • Choose physician and pharmacy.
  • Retain and use personal clothing and possessions.
  • Have copies of rules and regulations of the facility.
  • Notification prior to room change.
  • Information concerning bed-hold policy for hospitalization.

If you suspect a nursing home or assisted living facility of providing sub-standard care there are remedies. You can file a complaint with the state ombudsman, through the Dept. of Elder Affairs or by calling 1-888-831-0404 or any of the other agencies included on the Ombudsman website, including:

Long Term Care Ombudsman Program

Florida Abuse Hotline

Agency for Health Care Administration

Elder Helpline

Medicaid Fraud

Division of Medical Quality Assurance (Dept. of Health)

We should all take a moment and ask ourselves, “when the time comes and I can no longer care for myself, do I have a plan in place?”

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