Like other forms of abuse, assisted living abuse often goes unreported. In some cases, the victim is reluctant to — or sometimes even physically or cognitively incapable of — reporting the abuse or negligence they have suffered at the hands of staff or other residents.
In many other cases, staff and others have simply not been trained or educated about detecting and reporting abuse. In situations like these, friends and family members may discover the signs of abuse or negligence and not know what to do.
Contact the attorneys at Perry Charnoff PLLC. We are familiar with the law surrounding assisted living abuse, and we offer free consultations so we can listen to your story and provide you with candid advice about your best course of action moving forward. Call us today at (703) 291-6650 or fill out our convenient contact form.
Below, we have provided some more detailed information about assisted living abuse and negligence as well as signs to look for if you suspect a friend or family member has suffered abuse at an assisted living facility.
What Is Assisted Living Abuse?
Assisted living abuse can take many forms and can occur between staff and residents or among residents themselves, in which case staff may neglect to implement positive interventions to prevent future incidents. Examples of abuse include the following:
- Emotional or psychological abuse can involve intimidation, threats, harassment, or other verbal abuse; however, it may also include giving the victim “the silent treatment” or other forms of nonphysical punishment that negatively affect the emotional state of the victim.
- Physical abuse involves an individual harming or injuring another person, but it can also include activities such as staff at an assisted living facility forcing a victim to eat certain foods.
- Sexual abuse includes a wide range of actions from unwanted touching to other sexual activity that can occur when the victim may be confused about what is happening, incapable of providing consent, or even forced into participating.
- Neglect takes many forms and often includes staff at an assisted living facility failing to provide a victim with basic necessities, such as food or even medical care, or not providing a safe and hospitable environment.
- Financial exploitation can also take many forms, from directly stealing money or assets from a victim to not providing services that were paid for; any misuse of a victim’s resources can be considered financial exploitation.
How Prevalent Is Assisted Living Abuse?
Estimates for the prevalence of assisted living abuse are difficult to ascertain because of how often it goes unreported. For example, one study from Cornell University determined that for every case of elder abuse known to programs and agencies, 24 remained unknown. Even still, it is estimated that one in ten adults over the age of 60 have suffered from some form of elder abuse.
Furthermore, certain risk factors may increase the likelihood of suffering from abuse in an assisted living facility:
- A lack of social support
- Suffering from dementia or other cognitive impairments
- Suffering from reduced physical capabilities or poor physical health
What is the Difference Between Assisted Living Abuse and Negligence?
Abuse and neglect aren’t the only actions that can result in a valid claim against an assisted living facility. In Virginia, where our law firm is based, licensees who operate a licensed assisted living facility are charged with “protecting the health and mental well-being of residents,” conducting background checks on job applicants and staff members as required, and keeping records, among other responsibilities (you can view the full state regulations for Virginia assisted living facilities here). Many other states have similar regulations.
When assisted living facilities default on their obligations toward the safety of senior residents — for example, by failing to conduct required background checks on staff or residents, to adequately observe and secure residents who are experiencing distress or dementia, or to address violent or dangerous behavior from residents with behavioral and mental health issues — and harm results, the residents whose lives are affected and their loved ones may have a valid assisted living negligence claim.
What Are the Signs of Assisted Living Abuse and Negligence?
Unfortunately, some of the signs of elder abuse in an assisted living setting can also be attributed to the symptoms of aging. Dementia, for example, can cause people to misunderstand or misrepresent the events that are going on around them, and a gentle suggestion can be exaggerated into a threat or even an assault. Similarly, aging brings with it increased risk for injury, especially slips and falls, the effects of which (bruising, welts, etc.) can also be mistaken for signs of abuse.
Thus, it’s crucial for the caregivers, friends, and family of elderly assisted living residents to be on the lookout for patterns that indicate abuse and to follow up on them. Below, we have outlined a few of the major signs to watch out for:
- Frequent disagreements or noticeable tension between the elderly individual and a caregiver
- A sudden change in the behavior or personality of the potential victim
- Unexplained evidence of injury, which can sometimes be obvious, like a bruise, but can also be less obvious, like broken glasses, signs of being restrained, or even damage or staining to clothing
- Sudden weight loss or worsening physical conditions like rashes or sores
- Too many or too few pills in medication bottles based on dosage
- Suspicious financial activity, such as name changes on accounts or credit cards, unpaid bills despite having enough funds in accounts, or the sudden purchase of unnecessary services, subscriptions, etc.
Contact Perry Charnoff PLLC — We Help Assisted Living Abuse Victims
If you or a loved one has suffered abuse as a resident at an assisted living facility, the attorneys at Perry Charnoff are here to help. Again, we offer free consultations so you can get your questions answered and get advice about what your best course of action is moving forward. Contact our offices today at (703) 291-6650 or fill out our convenient contact form.