Assisted living facilities (ALF) are different from nursing homes. Generally speaking, nursing homes provide more focused physical and medical care. Assisted living facilities are better for those with more autonomy, and who only need minimal assistance with mobility or with their daily grooming requirements. Depending on the state in question, it may not be legal for assisted living facilities to provide care for patients with long-term bedridden periods. However, despite their differences, assisted living facilities can be home to the same types of abuse as nursing homes.
What Is Assisted Living Abuse?
Assisted living abuse is essentially the same thing as elder abuse within a nursing home. The only real difference is the venue. Rather than taking place in a nursing home, these instances take place within an assisted living facility. These instances can include a broad range of abuse types, including the following:
Physical Abuse – Physical abuse is one of the most common types of both assisted living facilities and nursing homes. It is also one of the most easily recognized, and can be noted by bruises, cuts, abrasions, broken bones and marks left by physical restraints.
Financial Abuse – Financial abuse is harder to spot than physical abuse, although that does not mean it doesn’t happen. This type of assisted living abuse is becoming more common, with caregivers stealing cash, credit cards and forging signatures, and even intimidating residents into signing papers.
Sexual Abuse – Sexual abuse is rising across the country. This can include obvious crimes, such as rape and assault, but can also include coerced nudity and nude photography, and inappropriate touching, as well as sexual assault of individuals without the cognitive ability or capacity to consent to any sexual act.
Emotional/Psychological Abuse – Emotional abuse is the most common type in both assisted living facilities and nursing homes. This type of abuse can range from name-calling and intimidation to bullying, degradation and much more.
Neglect – Neglect is a type of assisted living abuse that can take many different forms. It can range from not providing needed medications to not addressing medical issues to much more. This is most common in understaffed assisted living facilities, but can occur just about anywhere.
How to Identify Assisted Living Abuse
It can be a challenge to identify some types of assisted living abuse, but the following signs can help ensure that you’re able to protect your loved one from these threats:
Rapid Weight Loss: Rapid weight loss not ascribed to any particular reason can be a sign of neglect, malnutrition, and even physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
- Change in Financial Status: If your loved one experiences a change of financial status for an unknown reason, it could be due to assisted living abuse.
- Restraint Marks: Particularly in an assisted living facility, any signs that your loved one was physically restrained should be considered potential abuse.
- Change of Attitude: If your loved one has experienced a drastic change of attitude or demeanor, particularly if they’ve become withdrawn or fearful, it may be due to abuse.
- Rapid Deterioration: If your loved one has suffered from rapid health or mental decline, it could be the result of some types of abuse (physical, emotional, neglect, etc.).
Is There Help for Assisted Living Abuse?
While most resources are focused on nursing home abuse, there is help available for those suffering from assisted living abuse. Your state should have a hotline for just this purpose. Reporting the situation should result in the government providing a caseworker/caregiver for your loved one who will investigate the situation and determine if there is any underlying abuse occurring. Your loved one will also likely be moved out of the assisted living facility during the interim, particularly if physical or emotional abuse are suspected. If you suspect financial abuse, you should also contact the police.
Do You Need an Attorney?
In any case of assisted living abuse, it is wise to consult with an experienced elder abuse attorney who has handled both assisted living and nursing home cases previously. After a consultation with an attorney, you will have the knowledge needed to determine whether you should move forward with a lawsuit.