One of the hardest decisions made by adult children is to place a beloved parent in a care facility. Those who have Alzheimer’s or dementia will need the addition of security features to prevent them from wandering away from the property. Assisted living facilities, also called ALFs, originated as a transitional step between an elders home and a nursing care facility.

With the burgeoning population of baby boomers reaching retirement age and beyond, ALFs have become the placement of choice. They are less expensive than a medically equipped nursing care treatment facility, yet unethical owners accept many residents who need higher care levels than an ALF can provide.

ALF and nursing home violations often result from poor staff-to-patient ratios. Injuries are common in elders left for long periods alone. Shift workers report frustration due to the lack of coverage needed. Some observe complete shift gaps where elders are alone in the facility over an hour or more; the total lack of coverage is dangerous for residents.

State inspections and violations

Many states do an excellent job of regulating their elder population’s living options; unfortunately, too many states schedule infrequent official inspections. ALF inspections in Illinois happen once every five years. Many states conduct inspections several times a year.

Nursing homes, because of their government funding, are generally more transparent. It is useful for an Illinois family considering a nursing home placement to scan an online list of Illinois nursing home violations. The easiest way to make an evaluation is to watch for nursing home facility names (or parent organizations that own them) that appear frequently; the fine amounts are also a clue that the facility did not implement the state-ordered improvements from a prior inspection.

Personal inspections

Adult children considering the placement of parents in ALFs or nursing homes should visit a prospective facility at various times of the day and night, noting the ratio of staff to patients, the cleanliness of the facility, any odors indicating lack of care, and whether residents who appear physically unstable are ambulating without walkers or canes. Many injuries occur due to preventable falls.

If a family member notices bedsores, soiled clothing, bruising or other signs of falls, broken bones, breathing difficulties, no walker or call device within reach, lacerations, emaciation, fear on the part of the resident when touched, or other signs of neglect or abusive treatment, a family may want to file an immediate complaint against the facility with the state of Illinois.

Families should check nearby hospitals and ambulance facilities to see if their relative has had recent treatment; some state laws do not require facilities to notify family members when a loved one receives urgent care. Depending on the condition of their parent, adult children may want to rehome their loved one immediately and obtain professional help in seeking personal injury compensation against the facility.