Unlicensed Personal Care Homes: What You Should Know

Ombudsmen Program

The Ombudsman program has seen a sharp increase in complaints about unlicensed personal care homes. Newspaper articles regularly highlight the plight of frail elderly residents being abused, neglected, and financially exploited by “caretakers.” The motive for this crime is financial: operators are able to obtain residents’ benefits checks and other money.

Residents frequently are kept in horrific conditions, often being kept locked into basements in filthy conditions, with little or no access to food, running water, or toileting facilities. Georgia law enforcement agencies are aware of this increasing problem, and the legislature has passed laws to protect adults against abuse. The legislation toughened penalties for operating an unlicensed personal care home, raising a first offense involving abuse or neglect to a felony.

Since these homes frequently operate “under the radar”, raising public awareness about the growing problem is critical in identifying and reporting these situations. The Northeast Georgia Ombudsman program has a fact sheet (see below) about Unlicensed Personal Care Homes, including information about how to refer a suspected home for investigation:

The 1, 2, 3’s of Unlicensed Personal Care Homes

  1. According to the Rules of the Department of Community Health Chapter 111-8 Healthcare Facility Regulation; 111-8-62 Personal Care Homes:
    • “Personal Care Home” means any dwelling, whether operated for profit or not, which undertakes through its ownership or management to provide or arrange for the provision of housing, food service, and one or more personal services for two or more adults who are not related to the owner or administrator by blood or marriage;
    • “Personal Services” includes, but is not limited to, individual assistance with or supervision of self-administered medication, assistance with ambulation and transfer, and essential activities of daily living such as eating, bathing, grooming, dressing, and toileting;
  2. You can find a list of all licensed facilities in Georgia, by category, at the website for the Office of Regulatory Services;
    • Google Office of Regulatory Services: Facility Location and Information Guide
    • Then choose “Personal Care Homes” from the second list of options (under Nursing, Personal Care, and Community Living Arrangements)
    • Last, pick the county and hit “Search” at the bottom of the page.  If the PCH has a license, you should be able to find the name of the home on that list.
  3. If you believe that you know of an unlicensed Personal Care Home, please contact the complaint intake hotline at the Healthcare Facility Regulator’s (HFR) office by calling (800) 878-6442 or faxing to (404) 657-5731 or you can click here to find more information online.

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