Many Americans have no idea how prevalent Elder Abuse and Neglect are in our society today. Elder and vulnerable/dependent adult abuse affect millions of people in the U.S. It occurs regularly in long-term care settings such as skilled nursing homes and assisted living facilities. It has been reported that our senior population is plagued by a vast reservoir of undetected and unreported incidents of elder abuse and neglect, and seemingly no one is immune from this societal malady.
Elder abuse and neglect will someday affect either yourself or someone you know. Research indicates that more than 40% of people over the age of 65 will enter a nursing home before they die. (Murtaugh, Kember, Spillman, & Carlson, 1997.) Nearly 1 in 3 U.S. nursing homes were cited for violations of federal standards that had the potential to cause harm or actually did cause harm to a resident. Nearly 1 out of 10 homes had violations that caused residents harm, serious injury, or placed them in jeopardy of death. (2001 U.S. House of Representatives Report).
In a study of 2,000 nursing home residents, 44% said they had been abused and 95% said they had been neglected or seen another resident neglected during their residency at a long-term care facility. But we need not take the resident’s word for it. Over 50% of nursing home staff admitted to mistreating elder patients within one year prior to the study. Two-thirds of those incidents involved neglect. (Ben Natan, 2010).
There is little doubt that more protections for long-term care residents are needed. “The universal lack of resources, the enormous variation across jurisdictions, and the low priority given to elder abuse and neglect make it difficult to see how significant progress can be made without some federal standards and financial support for investigating, detecting, resolving, and preventing elder abuse in residential care.” (Hawes, C. & Kimbell, A., 2010).
Further government intervention seems highly unlikely amidst draconian budget cuts and an ailing economy. Thus, the only bulwark against elder abuse and neglect is for the family members of our seniors to be actively engaged in the care and treatment received by our seniors while residents at long-term care facilities. While the only deterrent against elder abuse and neglect remains the threat of civil litigation.
There are a series of different entities referred to generally as Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly, or RCFEs. If your loved one resides in one of these facilities, be aware of assisted living neglect. These types of entities include board and care facilities and assisted living facilities. Assisted living neglect occurs frequently in this environment. Many of the board and care facilities are single-family residences placed in a residential community. Again, be on the lookout for assisted living neglect. This type of facility will typically shelter 4-6 elderly persons who need assistance with activities of daily living, “ADLs”, but generally the facility does not employ enough adequately trained staff, which leads to assisted living neglect.
RCFEs are different from nursing homes in that they do not provide a 24-7 killed nursing staff needed for more sick and dependent individuals. Although the assisted living industry is not as thoroughly regulated as skilled nursing facilities, all RCFEs are governed by the California Residential Cal Facilities for the Elderly Act (Health & Safety Code § 1569-1569.87). The governing regulations are in 22 Cal. Code Regs. §87100-87731.4.
An RCFE must provide a resident with a broad array of “basic services”, including at a minimum the following:
Every facility required to be licensed under this chapter shall provide at least the following basic services:
California Health and Safety Code Section 1569.312
- Care and supervision as defined in Section 1569.2.
- Assistance with instrumental activities of daily living in the combinations which meet the needs of residents.
- Helping residents gain access to appropriate support services, as defined, in the community.
- Being aware of the resident’s general whereabouts, although the resident may travel independently in the community.
- Monitoring the activities of the residents while they are under the supervision of the facility to ensure their general health, safety, and well-being.
- Encouraging the residents to maintain and develop their maximum functional ability through participation in planned activities.
If these services are not provided, then assisted living neglect has occurred. Even if one elderly resident needs care and supervision, the facility must obtain a license. The operation of an unlicensed RCFE is a misdemeanor and an unfair business practice. Before placing your loved one in an assisted living community, request proof of licensure to make sure that the entity is being regulated by the Department of Social Services to promote the safety and well-being of its residents.
Residents should be regularly observed for changes in physical, mental, emotional, and social functioning and that appropriate assistance is provided when such observation reveals unmet needs, which leads to assisted living neglect. Changes should be documented and brought to the attention of the resident’s physician and the resident’s responsible person, if any, otherwise your loved one has experienced assisted living neglect. The duty to notify the physician is placed on the licensee itself, not just the staff.
Finally, it is recommended that you ask for proof of insurance prior to placing your loved one in an assisted living community. The elderly who experience assisted living neglect are frequently injured at these facilities and are often left with no recourse because the facility fails to maintain liability insurance.
If your loved one is a victim of assisted living neglect, contact a Los Angeles Elder Abuse attorney or an Orange County Elder Abuse attorney.