Politics and Protecting Florida’s Older Population

More than 17 percent of Florida’s population is over the age of 65. With frightening statistics regarding nursing home abuse and neglect, Florida needs a watchdog to protect these residents.

Unfortunately, politics have mired the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, a program sending volunteers into nursing homes and assisted living facilities (ALFs) to observe conditions and listen to resident complaints. For clearly political reasons, the vigilant leader of this program, Brian Lee, was forced out.

Earlier this year, Lee asked nursing homes and ALFs to provide information regarding who owned the facilities, information he was allowed to access under the new health care reform act. Soon after, the Governor’s Office ousted Lee. Federal investigators have found Florida to be in violation of the U.S. Older Americans Act because of the events surrounding Lee’s dismissal.

Older people have rights and deserve impartial protection, regardless of political interest in who owns these facilities. The ousting of Mr. Lee sends the wrong message: The ombudsman cannot operate independently to advocate for long-term care residents.

Residents of nursing homes and ALFs are often unable to advocate for themselves, and abuse and neglect occur far too often. The need is critical for the ombudsman program to remain independent of political whim.

To learn more about nursing home abuse, or if you think a loved one may be a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, please contact experienced Orlando, Florida attorney Michael Barszcz, M.D., J.D.