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Choosing a Nursing Home or an Assisted Living Facility: 3 Questions You Need To Ask

Choosing a long-term care facility for a loved one is a scary decision to make. Feel more confident during the decision-making process by asking the facility administrator 3 key questions.

Ownership

Who am I dealing with? Ownership is a clue to management. Is the nursing home or assisted living facility an asset held by a large corporation that owns hundreds or is it family-owned business? Who hired its administrator? Who does the administrator answer to? You may be surprised by the answers you get. Some owners hire management companies to oversee operations instead of doing it themselves. Management agreements essentially create a middleman between the owner and the administrator, which may cause substandard care.

Arbitration

Am I signing away my right to sue in court? Arbitration is a private system without a judge, jury, or right to a meaningful appeal. Is there a forced arbitration clause buried in the agreement? Many attorneys will not accept cases they cannot try in front of a jury. Arbitration is often touted as a cheaper alternative to litigation, but it is not. The cost to initiate arbitration can be as high as $10,000 versus a few hundred dollars to file a complaint in any of Florida’s circuit courts. This is because arbitration is a creature of contract whereas the right to a trial by jury is a special constitutional right. This right needs to be preserved when selecting a nursing home or an assisted living facility.

Insurance

Is there adequate insurance coverage? Most nursing homes and assisted living facilities are set up defensively such that the corporate entity holding the license has no assets to pay a resident who has obtained a judgment against it. So, adequate insurance coverage is very important. First, professional (not general) liability insurance covers residents who are injured or killed due to negligent care (general liability insurance pertains to visitors). Unfortunately, Florida law does not require nursing homes and assisted living facilities to maintain anything more than minimum coverage limits (Fla. Stat. §400.141(q); Fla. Stat. §429.275(3)), which means that most facilities cannot fairly compensate residents or their families for the injuries or deaths they’ve wrongfully caused. Adding insult to injury, many bare-bones policies include “wasting limits clauses,” which means that defense costs are paid out of the coverage amount. By the time you get to trial there might not be any money left to fight for, literally. Ask to see a copy of the facility’s insurance declarations page, which will list the policy limits. You may be disgusted by what you see. Make sure you choose a facility that has at least $1,000,000.00 in professional liability coverage.

If you’ve had a positive or negative experience with a long-term care facility (as a resident, family member, caregiver or employee), we’d like to hear about it and add your input to our database. Please drop us a line.