Reality Check: Abuse in Assisted Living

Elder abuse and neglect is a serious issue affecting thousands of older adults yearly. Assisted living facilities, also known as residential care homes, are designed to provide support and assistance to seniors who may need help with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and medication management. However, these facilities are not always able to provide the necessary level of care, and instances of Nursing abuse and neglect can occur.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), elder abuse is any intentional or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. Elder abuse can take many forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse, and neglect. Neglect, in particular, is a common problem in assisted living facilities and refers to the failure of a caregiver to provide basic needs, such as food, water, shelter, medical care, and personal hygiene. Physical abuse refers to the intentional use of physical force that causes injury or pain to an older adult. Emotional abuse is the intentional infliction of emotional distress through verbal or nonverbal actions. Sexual abuse involves any non-consensual sexual contact or exploitation of an older adult. Financial abuse is the unauthorized or improper use of an older adult’s funds, property, or assets.

       Infographic made by Yasmin Mohammad

Nursing home abuse and neglect in assisted living facilities is a complex issue that can be difficult to identify and address. Many older adults who experience abuse or neglect may be unable to speak up for themselves or may be afraid to do so. They may also be unaware that they are being mistreated or may not understand what is happening to them. In addition, many older adults who live in assisted living facilities may have cognitive impairments or disabilities that make it difficult for them to communicate their needs or report abuse.

The prevalence of elder abuse and neglect in assisted living facilities is difficult to determine, as many cases go unreported. However, studies suggest that the problem is more common than many people realize. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that nearly one-third of assisted living facilities in the United States had at least one substantiated claim of abuse or neglect between 2012 and 2016. The study also found that the number of substantiated claims was higher in facilities with a more significant number of residents and in facilities that received lower ratings from state regulators. Another study published in the Journal of Gerontological Social Work found that nearly half of all reported cases of elder abuse and neglect in assisted living facilities involved neglect, with physical abuse and emotional abuse being the subsequent most common forms of abuse.  The following graph by The American Journal of Psychiatric shows that percentage of reported elderly abuse before and during COVID-19 Pandemic.

 Chart by The American Journal of Psychiatric

 Graph by Dietrich Law Firm

There are several factors that can increase the risk of elder abuse and neglect in assisted living facilities. One factor is inadequate staffing levels, which can lead to overworked and stressed caregivers who may be more prone to making mistakes or engaging in abusive behavior. Another factor is inadequate training and supervision of staff, which can result in caregivers who are not equipped to care for older adults properly. Other risk factors include a lack of appropriate policies and procedures to prevent and respond to abuse and a lack of oversight and accountability. Many caregivers may not have the necessary training to provide the high level of care that older adults need, and they may not be adequately supervised to ensure that they are providing appropriate care. In addition, some assisted living facilities may not have adequate policies and procedures in place to prevent and respond to elder abuse and neglect.

There are several signs that may indicate that an older adult is experiencing abuse or neglect in an assisted living facility. These signs may include physical injuries, such as bruises, cuts, or fractures; changes in the older adult’s behavior, such as becoming withdrawn or agitated; and unexplained changes in the older adult’s financial situation. Other signs of abuse or neglect may include the older adult being left dirty or unkempt or not being given necessary medications.

It is important to note that these signs may not always be indicative of abuse or neglect, but if one notices any of these signs in a loved one who is living in an assisted living facility, it is worth investigating further and potentially seeking help.

If one suspects that an older adult is being abused or neglected in an assisted living facility, it is crucial to report the situation to the appropriate authorities. In the United States, one can report suspected elder abuse or neglect to Adult Protective Services or the local long-term care ombudsperson. One can also report the situation to the facility itself or to other agencies or organizations that provide support and assistance to older adults, such as the National Council on Aging or the Administration on Aging. Contact your local adult protective services agency. Each state has an agency that is responsible for investigating reports of elder abuse and neglect. One can find the contact information for your state’s agency by visiting the website of the Administration on Aging. One may also call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116.

There are steps that individuals and families can take to prevent elder abuse and neglect in assisted living facilities. One step is to carefully research and choose a facility with a good track record of providing quality care to older adults. This may involve visiting the facility, speaking with staff and residents, and reviewing the facility’s policies and procedures. It is also essential to stay involved in the older adult’s care and to visit regularly to ensure that the facility is meeting their needs. One crucial step is to ensure that facilities have adequate staffing and resources to provide the necessary care and support to residents. This may involve increasing funding for assisted living facilities or implementing policies that require a certain number of staff members to be present at all times. Another critical step is to improve training and oversight for caregivers. This may involve implementing mandatory training programs for caregivers, as well as providing ongoing support and education to ensure that caregivers have the skills and knowledge they need to provide appropriate care. It may also involve implementing policies that require caregivers to be supervised by a more experienced staff member or manager to ensure that they are providing appropriate care.

Ultimately, educating oneself about elder abuse and neglect is paramount, as is being aware of the signs and symptoms. This can help one to identify any potential issues and take action to address them. It is also critical to encourage older adults to speak up for themselves and advocate for their own needs.

Works Cited

NCEA – Home, Accessed 29 December 2022.

AMA Journal of Ethics, 1 December 2022, Accessed 29 December 2022.

The National Council on Aging (NCOA), Accessed 29 December 2022.

“Administration on Aging | ACL Administration for Community Living.” Administration for Community Living, 20 June 2017, Accessed 29 December 2022.

“Adult Protective Services.” North Central Health Care, Accessed 29 December 2022.

“Elder Abuse Awareness | FTAAAD.” ftaaad, Accessed 29 December 2022.

“The shorter side of =.” YouTube, 25 October 2021, Accessed 29 December 2022.

“Signs of Elder Abuse – Know Warning Signs of Elderly Abuse.” Nursing Home Abuse Center, 8 January 2020, Accessed 29 December 2022.

“The shorter side of =.” YouTube, 25 October 2021, Accessed 29 December 2022.

“Nursing Home Abuse | Buffalo Elder Abuse Lawyers Dietrich Law Firm.” Dietrich Law Firm, Accessed 30 December 2022.

“The shorter side of =.” YouTube, 25 October 2021, Accessed 30 December 2022.

Related Articles

Back to top button