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Assisted Living Laws in Florida

Florida senior citizens who can handle most day-to-day activities and are looking for retirement living options might benefit from living in an assisted living facility rather than a nursing home. Assisted living facilities (ALFs) in Florida are licensed by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). The department responsible for ensuring an assisted living facility is living up to the required food and health safety standards is the Florida Department of Health (DOH).

The main difference between an assisted living facility and a nursing home is that assisted living residents do not need constant care from a nurse or caregiver. In other words, the elderly person living in an assisted living facility might need basic support but not intensive care that a nursing home would provide. Assisted living facilities offer many opportunities for residents to enjoy social and recreational activities. By law, these activities must be available for 12 hours per day or more, six days a week.

Florida law states that ALF residents need to have assistance whenever needed on a daily basis, even though residents are encouraged to be as independent as possible. Residents must also have access to phone service and regular nutritional meals.

Requirements of a Florida Assisted Living Facility

There are laws that regulate assisted living facilities in Florida to ensure all appropriate standards are being met. Some of the most important requirements are:

Florida ALF Staff Requirements

  • ALF administrators and staff members must meet minimum training provided by the Department of Elderly Affairs. This education is to ensure the residents are cared for properly and the facility meets licensure requirements.
  • Staff members must go through competency tests and pass with a minimum required score. The test must include:
    • ALF state laws and regulations
    • Proper response to abuse and resident rights
    • Caring for senior citizens with disabilities and mental challenges
    • Fire safety requirements
  • Continuing education programs for staff members every 2 years for at least 12 hours
  • Qualified individuals registered with DOH must lead training.

Florida ALF Physical Facility Statutes

Assisted living facilities in Florida must provide a safe and clean environment for their residents, making sure all structural, mechanical, and architectural systems are regularly maintained and in good condition. ALF residents are also allowed to bring their own belongings, as long as the physical space allows it. Some of the legal requirements for ALF bedrooms include:

  • Sleeping areas must have a mattress with the minimum dimensions of 36” x 72”.
  • Mattresses must have a high enough surface.
  • All bedrooms must have a wardrobe or space to hang clothes, a dresser or another piece of furniture to store personal belongings, a table, trashcan, and a lamp.

ALF Food Standards

In order to avoid food-borne illness, Florida assisted living facilities must live up to certain sanitation standards to control the spread of bacteria. Some of the requirements for food safety are:

  • Proper food storage and refrigeration
  • Washing of hands and fingernails
  • Pest control

All facilities in which food will be served must apply for a sanitation certificate in Florida. In addition to food safety standards, assisted living facilities are expected to fulfill the nutritional needs of their residents. Food requirements are based on the resident’s sex, age and activity level, and are set by the Food Nutrition Board.

Reporting an ALF Complaint

If you or a loved one resides in a Florida ALF and you notice the facility is not living up to the established requirements in regard to food and safety standards you may have to contact the county’s health department for further investigation. Be sure to provide as many details as possible of your observations.

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