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Death at Assisted Living Facility Points to Desperate Need for Better Regulations from the State
Date:6/22/2009

PHILADELPHIA, June 22 /PRNewswire/ -- With yet another tragedy in the headlines, Pennsylvania residents can wait no longer for strong regulations to protect residents of our state's assisted living facilities.

Such regulations would prevent outrageous and dangerous practices such as those that forced the Department of Public Welfare to close the Cambridge Brightfield assisted living facility.

Earlier this month, an aide at the center in Hatfield, PA., was indicted for involuntary manslaughter in the death of a 79-year-old resident, Ronald Myers, there last October 9. She had fed Mr. Myers hot cereal, which severely scalded his lips, tongue, and mouth. He could not speak and was left untreated for nearly a day and died several days later as a result of his burns. The employee was fired and the facility was soon prohibited from taking in new residents, but it was far too late to save Mr. Myers.

"Pennsylvania must regulate assisted living facilities so that they provide quality care for a wide range of residents in an environment that supports their independence, choice and health," said Alissa Halperin, Senior Attorney and Deputy Director of Policy Advocacy at the Pennsylvania Health Law Project and director of the PA Assisted Living Consumer Alliance. "This is not the first time when medical care has been urgently needed but not immediately provided in a personal care or assisted living facility. And, this is not the first time reportable incidents have gone unreported to the state licensing agency."

While Pennsylvania has stringent minimum training hours and testing requirements before one can become a hairdresser, make-up artist, land surveyor, barber or auctioneer, Pennsylvania does not yet have any minimum hours of training with testing that one must undergo to be a direct care worker in an assisted living facility. There was even a bill pending in the legislature last session that would have made it mandatory for a pet-groomer to have several hundred hours of supervised training before being able to cut a dog's hair. Yet the Commonwealth has yet to require staff providing direct care at an assisted-living facility to have basic first-aid training. Therein, those working at Cambridge would have been taught what to do with someone having first-, second- or third-degree burns.

Mr. Myers life can no longer be saved, but his tragedy must bring into focus what needs to be done, especially as the baby boomers ages and more and more assisted-living facilities will no doubt be coming on line quickly.

"The days of denial about abuse and neglect that so many of our loved ones endure in assisted-living facilities in Pennsylvania must stop now," said Halperin. "Too many Pennsylvanians have suffered needlessly and died prematurely because our state lacks adequate protections for residents of assisted-living facilities."

Pennsylvania needs strong regulations that clearly establish residents rights and assurances that they can be exercised without retaliation, that clearly define what services will be provided to each resident based on his or her individualized care needs, that assure residents are cared for by adequate amounts of well trained staff, and that set life and fire safety standards at the national levels recommended for assisted living.

This issue could not be more timely. This summer Pennsylvania is finalizing its first ever regulations for assisted living. The final regulations will either go far enough to ensure that our loved ones can be safely served in a facility that is capable of supporting their needs and choices or they are weak enough to guarantee that tragedies like the Ron Myer's scalding will continue in perpetuity.

PA Assisted Living Consumer Alliance (PALCA) urges all residents - and certainly all legislators and officials - to visit its Website (www.paassistedlivingconsumeralliance.org.) to study all the specific proposals PALCA is calling for, as quickly as possible, to avert ever more tragedies like that of Mr. Myers and the too many others that have not quite made headlines.

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SOURCE PA Assisted Living Consumer Alliance
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