A resident, friend, family member, or other advocate who finds the care or services at an assisted living facility lacking, negligent, or abusive should take action to right the wrong. There are a number of possible solutions, but finding the right help often requires some patience and perseverance.
Contact the Facility Management
Before turning to outside sources for help, try to resolve minor complaints directly within the facility. Staff should be willing to talk over problems that affect their residents. But if that seems unhelpful or impossible, you can underscore how serious you are by getting and following the facility’s written policies that explain how to file a complaint or grievance. Put specific complaints in writing to the facility’s executive director, president, or onsite owner and ask for a written response within a limited time, allowing a fair chance to address the concerns.
Consult the Ombudsman
In keeping with the law, the California Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program assigns an ombudsman — a trained advocate not associated with the ownership or management of the facility — to investigate problems and resolve complaints made by, or on behalf of, residents who live there.
Complaints can be filed directly with the local ombudsman’s office or by calling the statewide crisis line at 800.231.4024, which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Ombudsman services are free and confidential and may include:
- Dealing with concerns about quality of care
- Answering questions about proper care
- Investigating suspected physical, mental, or emotional abuse of residents
- Attending meetings to discuss a resident’s care plan or concerns about treatment
Attend or Arrange a Resident or Family Council Meeting
Residents and concerned family members have the right to form councils to address concerns about care and housing at the assisted living facility and to help come up with viable alternatives. Management must provide a private meeting space and designate at least one employee to act as a liaison with the group. Such gatherings often prove the adage about strength in numbers. If several family members or concerned caregivers voice the same complaint, it becomes more difficult for management to ignore — and few will want to risk having unhappy residents transfer to other facilities.
Reach Out to an Advocacy Organization
Several organizations offer expert and impartial assessments of whether a particular complaint needs action, along with guidance on how to get it, including:
- California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, at 800.474.1116
- The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care at 202.332.2275
- The Senior Legal Hotline at 800.222.1753, for complaints about care of people who are over 60
Contact State Regulatory Agencies
For persistent problems with quality of care, violations of residents’ rights, staffing inadequacies, and other serious problems, contact the state regulating agency.
Depending on how a particular assisted living facility is classified, it may be licensed and regulated either by the California Department of Social Services or the California Department of Public Health. Begin an inquiry at the local Licensing and Certification District Office or call 916.552.8700 or 800.236.9747. It will investigate, possibly issue citations and fines, and make a report of the investigation.
If you suspect someone in the facility has been abusive, pursue one of these avenues:
- Report it to the local office of the California Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program
- Call the Office of the Attorney General, Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse at 800-722-0432
- Consult an attorney experienced in elder abuse law for help