When Elder Abuse in Assisted Living Happens

I’ve always learned to write what I know best. I think that’s why I talk so much about self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-perseverance. I’ve touched on the subjects of bullying, anxiety, depression, and other issues that we all face at various points in our lives. But for today’s blog, I want to talk about something that hits too close to home. My father was a nursing home administrator for several years while keeping his ordination status as a pastor. The stories that he recalled about elder abuse still ring in my mind. I went to see some folks I know recently, after the ban for COVID was lifted enough for assisted living facilities to let close friends and families in, but I was taken aback by what I saw.

If you’ve never been to an assisted living facility, you may not be prepared for what I’m about to divulge. Some assisted living facilities are exceptional. But others should be shut down for the way the elderly are treated. One of the facilities was in the triad area, and when I was escorted into the lounge area, my eyes quickly zeroed in on the residents. Instead of playing games, those residents sat there, glossy-eyed, looking forlorn, and entirely out of their bodies. It was almost like seeing the shell of their souls entombed into their bodies while they are still living. Many of their families don’t visit. It’s like they are left there to die and discarded for society not to have to deal with them. They truly lost their passions and will to exist. Many of them are waiting to die.

A friend of mine worked in one of those facilities as a supervisor. She told me that the residents were sleeping in soiled linens for days when she first arrived. Urinary Tract Infections were common among the residents because the staff spent more time on their phones than doing their jobs. Unfortunately, I saw that to be accurate more times than I care to admit. I saw bruises on quite a few of the residents when I was in there visiting. The staff implied that the residents fell out of their wheelchairs when being helped into their beds. I know that the facility in question has been under investigation in the past for abuse, but until there is enough concrete evidence, they won’t enforce closing.

So what can people do to help find the right facilities to help assist our loved ones? Here are seven tips that I’ve found helpful. I hope they help you as well.

If you are looking to find an assisted living or private care assistance, be on the lookout for facilities or programs that fit your needs best. Here are some helpful hints for assisted living seeking. 

  1. The current residents don’t look well-cared for with their appearance. 

Pay attention to the residents. Are they wearing clean clothes? Are they well-groomed with their hair done and beards trimmed? Have they dressed appropriately for the weather? If the answer to any of these is no, it could be a warning sign the residents aren’t cared for as well as they should be. Some facilities dealt with 100% of their residents and staff fighting COVID. Does the facility smell clean? Does it look clean? Do you see habits out of the staff and residents that are cause for concern? If the answer is uncomfortable for you, move on.

2.The staff is rude or unable to help you. 

Question the staff because the staff is a key to a great place or the nightmare from hell. Ask a fundamental question like, “What time do you serve breakfast?” Or, “Where are the laundry facilities?” You can learn a lot from the way they answer you. If the staff member is friendly and knowledgeable, it’s a good sign. If the staff member is harried or not polite, it could be a sign that they are overworked or hassled. If the staff member can’t answer basic questions, look elsewhere. The main reason is that the staff has the inside 4-1-1. It’s a lot like the gossiping network; you can find many clues by asking the staff questions.

Check the staff turnover rate as well. If staff members are constantly leaving, it could indicate a problem. 

3. The facility looks empty.

Look around. When touring the facility, observe closely how many residents participate in group activities or use the common areas. If you see few residents in group activities or closed doors and empty rooms, it could be a sign the facility isn’t complete. I’ve learned that when there isn’t much participation from residents, that usually means that the facility doesn’t have the appropriate programs or leaders. If the residents aren’t engaging in any activity, that tells me that the focus isn’t on helping the residents get better. That’s not always the cause, but it could mean the facility has financial issues or is not a popular choice because it has problems. 

4. There is a clutter and poor lighting. 

Are you tripping over clutter or wires from lamps and televisions? Are the pathways clear? This item is a critical observation. If the lighting isn’t good, that doesn’t bode well. That tells me that it’s easy for visitors to trip, and it leaves a lot to be desired for the residents. Most people have decent vision, but the residents are generally older, and their reflexes are not as sharp. Observing the lighting, clutter, and setup of rooms can help you decide if your loved one or yourself is entering a fun place or a portal to doom. One in three adults age 65 and older falls each year, and falls can cause serious injuries. If you see clutter, poor lighting, and sketchy security measures, you might want to run. 

5. The facility has violations or complaints. 

No matter where you live in the United States, there is a way to post complaints or possible violations. If the inquiries found have merit, regular inspections and issuing citations are standard if those violations are found accurate. You can view these reports and records for the facility you’re considering. One way to do this is online. Go to AssistedLivingFacilities.org to find your state and enter the name of the facility. If a facility has several violations, it could be a red flag. You also can check with the Better Business Bureau to see whether people have filed complaints. I would also recommend looking at online reviews for the facility because many of the businesses listed with the Better Business Bureau are not always current.

6. It’s challenging to get the necessary paperwork. 

Some of the facilities I’ve seen have paperwork readily available. This item is essential because when touring the facility, ask for a copy of its admissions contract. Also, ask for its rules for residents. Does the tour guide seem reluctant to share this information with you? If so, it could be a red flag. There might be a reason why the facility doesn’t want to share this information in writing. My dad always said, “if it isn’t in writing, it doesn’t exist.”

7.The administration hesitates to discuss fees. 

Discuss finances and billing. This item is a touchy subject for many folks because it’s necessary to determine if it’s the right fit for you or your loved one. Your tour guide should be open and upfront about fees. Ask what the price includes and what’s extra. Also, ask what cost increases you can expect. If the representative balks or gives vague answers, it may be a warning sign something is off. This information should be transparent. Also, don’t assume the most expensive facility offers the best care. Higher-than-average prices for your area also could be a sign something’s amiss. I’ve found that when facilities are top dollar, they aren’t always the best for the consumer.

I hope that none of you ever find yourself dealing with elder abuse for yourself or loved ones, but please make the necessary reports if you suspect that it’s happening. If you aren’t dealing with assisted living and see this happen with private care, don’t let it continue. All of us will deal with elder issues in our lives, even if we don’t make it to senior status. So many loved ones are facing difficult life choices in regards to their care. The last thing they need is to deal with abuse.

As you start the workday, remember that knowledge of various topics helps us make better decisions. I hope that this information helps you if you are facing these choices. Have a great day, everyone.

3 thoughts on “When Elder Abuse in Assisted Living Happens

  1. Reading this made me so sad. I have an elderly parent that I help take of at home and I often times threaten to put him in an elderly care facility because this can be so overwhelming at times. But there is no need to mistreat or improperly care for these seniors who can barely help themselves. Doing this is as a full time job or for a parent or relative is truly a labor of love and requires lots of patients and HEART. Most of all, we have to remember, that we are ALL going to get OLD and we don’t know what conditions we will be in. Karma is always watching – what goes around comes around!

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  2. i couldn’t agree more. It breaks my heart to see the elderly abused because no one deserves to be abused and they are in general slower than younger folks. Their defenses are not always as sharp. There are always exceptions to this rule, but people have to remember that they were once young and wouldn’t have tolerated this behavior. No one should have to live with any type of abuse. If anyone discovers that it’s happening, they need to report it immediately so that others don’t have to suffer from neglectful folks.

    Liked by 1 person

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