(WSVN) - She only understands English, but no health care aide who comes to her home speaks English. Do the state-regulated agencies have to provide aides who speak English? It’s why one family called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Patrice Collier is a physical therapist who specializes in, well, just about everyone.

Patrice Collier: “I see young kids, I see athletes, I see senior citizens. The oldest person as of now is 103.”

One person brings her special joy to work with: her mother Mary.

Patrice Collier: “Good job.”

Mary: “Thank you, Lord.”

Patrice Collier: “We started doing this many years ago to try to give her the best quality of life.”

Patrice Collier (to Mary): “So you had a peaceful day, and you were able to say prayers today?”

Today, Mary, like many elderly people, needs assistance caring for herself. To help when Patrice can’t be there, she applied to get a home health care aide for her mother.

Patrice Collier: “Things such as stand up, sit down, brush your teeth, ‘how do you feel?'”

It took Patrice a year, weaving through five different departments, to get the aide approved.

The problem was clear on the first day.

Patrice Collier: “They could not find anyone who spoke English.”

Patrice asked the agency why they sent a Spanish-speaking person when her mother only understands English.

Patrice Collier: “And the primary reason provided was, ‘Well, you’re in Miami-Dade County. We can’t find any English-speaking home health aides.'”

The aide tried to work with Mary as she brushed her teeth.

Patrice Collier: “The way that it was expressed to her by one of the aides was SB. They’re asking you to spit. She didn’t understand any of it, so she’s standing and looking around and not knowing what to do.”

Patrice tried other agencies. Each said they didn’t have an English-speaking aide available. One even gave Patrice the breakdown.

Patrice Collier: “Her answer was ‘I have 90, nine-zero, 90 members I’m responsible for. Only four of them are English speaking.”

When Patrice complained, one manager told her to move to Broward, where they have English speakers. Another accused her of being prejudiced.

Patrice Collier: ‘”What does she want? Someone blond and blue-eyed also? Is that what she’s looking for?'”

Through her rehabilitation center, Patrice helps many elderly English-speaking patients who just give up letting the aide in their home because they can’t understand them.

Patrice Collier: “They’re not taking the medication properly when they’re supposed to. What happens to those people who don’t get the care they should?”

It’s certainly not good, especially, Patrice says, when the solution is so clear.

Patrice Collier: “You have to have English-speaking home health agencies and aides. You have to have that, period, point blank.”

Or legally, do you, Howard?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Yes. If you are entitled to a health care worker, you are entitled to one you can communicate with. If you cannot understand Spanish, they have to speak English. If they do not, complain to Medicare, Medicaid, the insurance company, whoever approved and pays your health care agency.”

We contacted ACHA, which oversees Florida’s Medicaid program.

They replied, “There are nearly 2,500 licensed home health agencies in Florida that must be able to communicate with the patient.”

A few days later, Mary got a new aide that spoke her language.

Patrice Collier: “They’re speaking English, but it’s a strong accent.”

Patrice got her mother the help she needed, but she says she knows of so many elderly people who are not getting what they need from a health care agency.

Patrice Collier: “Well, I would say, don’t do what so many have already told me they’ve done, which is given up. The bottom line is speak up. Don’t suffer in silence.”

And I heard from a person in Broward, who can’t find a health care aide that speaks English, so its not just a Dade problem.

The state of Florida said, if you think your rights are being violated by a health care agency, let them know.

To file a complaint with Agency for Health Care Administration (ACHA), call 1-888-419-3456 or complete the health care facility complaint form.

A problem sickening to you? Need aid? Contact us. We speak the language of solutions.

With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

To file a complaint with Agency for Health Care Administration (ACHA)
Call 1-888-419-3456
Or complete the health care facility complaint form

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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