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Assisted Living Abuse

Although elder abuse in nursing homes receives more attention from government and research institutions, elder abuse is also a risk in assisted living facilities. Recent research suggests that the risk of abuse in these facilities is less than the risk in nursing homes, however, caregivers and families must remain vigilant to protect the well being and dignity of their loved ones.

There are about 40,000 assisted living facilities in the United States and they take care of roughly 800,000 senior citizens. Though the rates of abuse are lower than other settings, the amount of abuse in these facilities can be further reduced and prevented.

Assisted Living Facilities and Nursing Homes

Assisted living facilities are similar to nursing homes, however, l assisted living facilities house senior citizens who require less medical attention and care than nursing home residents. Whereas nursing homes may care for individuals who require 24-hour attention from registered nurses and other medical professionals, many residents of assisted living facilities require limited daily medical help besides prescription reminders.

Residents of assisted living facilities are in general younger, healthier, and require fewer medications than nursing home residents. Individuals in assisted living facilities are able to take care of most of their needs by themselves such as eating, drinking, and going to the bathroom. Residents of assisted living facilities  have greater responsibility to take care of themselves and greater freedom to walk around the facility unsupervised.

Abuse in Assisted Living Facilities

While there have been fewer elder abuse studies conducted in assisted living facilities than in nursing homes, the few that have been completed suggest that abuse is a consistent problem, although less serious than other settings.

According to studies, most forms of elder abuse are very rare in assisted living facilities. However, emotional and verbal abuse are an exception. At least 20% of residents in these facilities suffer from regular verbal abuse. This abuse mostly consists of insults and humiliating comments said by staff and other residents. Some studies also suggest that fellow residents are more likely than staff to commit the emotional abuse in these facilities.

Less Abuse than Nursing Homes

Until new research proves otherwise, it seems that assisted living facilities are less abusive than nursing home environments. Whereas more than 33% of nursing home residents report that they have suffered abuse, a much lower proportion of residents in assisted living facilities have experienced the same abuse.

This disparity is actually quite predictable. Abuse is more likely when the elderly patient is older and more vulnerable. The elderly who live in assisted living facilities are generally younger and healthier than nursing home residents. They are  also stronger, more independent, and less likely to be suffering from dementia and cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Therefor, residents of assisted living facilities are less vulnerable and at a lower risk for elder abuse.

Preventing Elder Abuse in Assisted Living Facilities

Though there is lower risk in assisted living environments, elder abuse still occurs and has been reported to happen to 20% of residents. To prevent abuse, families of the elderly residents as well as physicians and caregivers must recognize the signs of abuse.

Elderly people who are suffering from elder abuse may exhibit physical injuries as well as psychological effects. If you notice that a resident is having recurring injuries or injuries that they cannot explain, it might be a sign that they are suffering from physical abuse. Changes in personality and behavior can also suggest that emotional abuse is occurring. If a loved one who is a resident in assisted living suddenly shows signs of depression, agitation, or withdrawal, family members and professionals should investigate.

If abuse is discovered, the resident should be relocated to a safer environment and the facility should be reported to authorities.


“Abuse & Neglect In Nursing Homes & Residential Care/Assisted Living Facilities.” CANHR. California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. Web. 28 May 2013. http://www.canhr.org/abuse

“What Is Abuse?.” NAPSA. National Adult Protective Services Association. Web. 31 May 2013. http://www.napsa-now.org/get-informed/what-is-abuse/

“What Is Neglect?.” NAPSA. National Adult Protective Services Association. Web. 28 May 2013. http://www.napsa-now.org/get-informed/what-is-neglect/


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