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Assisted Living Abuse and Neglect: A Comprehensive Guide

Assisted Living Abuse and Neglect: A Comprehensive Guide

Article Overview

Assisted Living Abuse is on the rise. Fortunately, in recent years, there has been increased awareness about the mistreatment of the elderly.

By learning the signs and symptoms of assisted living abuse we can help prevent this unfortunate event from happening to ourselves and others in the future.

Table of Contents:

What is Assisted Living Abuse and Neglect?

Assisted living is a housing facility for individuals with disabilities or for those that are unable to live on their own.

The setting of an assisted living home is similar to that of a retirement home with a group environment.

There are five major categories of elder abuse that occur in assisted living homes. These forms of abuse include physical abuse, psychological/emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation.

Assisted living abuse can have devastating consequences for victims. The abuse may result in permanent disabilities or could even lead to death.

Elderly man holding a cane after being a victim of abuse at an assisted living facility

Signs and Symptoms of Assisted Living Abuse

There are many different types of assisted living abuse. Recognizing the signs and symptoms early on can mean the difference between life and death.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse occurs when someone intentionally causes another person physical pain or injury. Instances of physical abuse can include restraining, slapping, kicking, shoving, or even shaking a person to the point of injury.

Signs of physical abuse may include:

  • Burns
  • Scrapes and bruises
  • Dislocations
  • Bone fractures or breaks
  • Abrasions and cuts
  • Internal injuries

Psychological and Emotional Abuse

Psychological and emotional abuse occurring in an assisted living facility may be hard to detect.

This type of abuse can include things like humiliation, bullying, isolation, yelling, harassment, coercion, and intimidation.

Abusers frequently use psychological and emotional abuse tactics to take control of the victim. Verbal and non-verbal acts may be performed to cause psychological pain, anguish, or distress to the victim.

Some of the common signs of psychological and emotional abuse include:

  • Depression
  • Acting withdrawn
  • Unusual changes in personality
  • Fearfulness
  • Agitation
  • Inhibited speech
  • PTSD symptoms

If you notice that a loved one is suddenly experiencing one or more of these symptoms, this may be a sign of emotional abuse.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse in an assisted living setting includes any form of sexual contact that occurs without the victim’s consent. This can include situations in which the victim does not have the mental capacity to give consent.

It may not always be obvious that sexual abuse is taking place. Fortunately there are signs and symptoms of abuse that you can watch for including:

  • Trouble walking or sitting
  • Unexplained bleeding or pelvic pain
  • STDs
  • Recurring urinary tract infections
  • Symptoms of PTSD
  • Unexplained bruising
  • Fearfulness
  • Emotional withdrawal
  • Skin irritation in the genital or buttock area

Assisted living resident’s family members should take note of any unexplained or sudden changes in personality as this may indicate that they were sexually abused. The sooner you can spot abuse the sooner you can stop it.

Old man in wheelchair facing the wall, neglected by caretaker


In assisted living home settings, there are two main forms of neglect that may occur, general neglect and medical neglect.

General Neglect

General neglect includes neglecting the basic needs of an individual.

In assisted living homes, general neglect involves caregivers and staff failing to provide for the victim’s basic needs.

Acts or omissions that may be considered general neglect include denying the elderly individual water, food, comfort, safety, shelter, clean clothing, and other basic forms of care.

Some signs of general neglect may include poor hygiene, dehydration, malnutrition, and dirty clothing or bedding.

Medical Neglect

Medical neglect is the failure to provide necessary care and treatment to an elderly person with known conditions or special requirements.

Some common signs of medical neglect include untreated illnesses, undiagnosed illnesses, bedsores, issuing the wrong medication or dosage of medication, and secondary infections.

Financial Exploitation

Financial exploitation involves the illegal or improper use of the victim’s assets, valuable personal property, or monetary resources.

There are some common signs of financial exploitation that should be watched out for including:

  • Forged checks
  • Fraudulent billing for services
  • Missing possessions such as cash, jewelry, or other valuables
  • Identity theft
  • Unexplained bank withdrawals
  • Unexplained credit card purchases

If you have a loved one living in an assisted living home, you should make sure that a trusted individual is watching their credit and bank accounts. This way, you will notice any suspicious or irregular activity right away.

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What Type of Environment Creates the Highest Risk for Elder Abuse?

Past research studies have shown that there are significant correlations between the number of nurses and nurse aides, rate of staff turnover, number of beds at a facility, and the total incidents involving patient mistreatment.

Moreover, these studies confirm that abuse and neglect is much more likely to happen when there isn’t enough staff to take care of the assisted living home residents.

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are required by law to have a certain ratio of staff to residents. However, even with the laws and regulations in place, these facilities may still cut corners to save money.

To be safe, be sure to research the assisted living home before moving in and check in throughout the duration of your loved one’s stay.

Empty classroom for assisted living learning in California.

Assisted Living Home Abuse and Neglect Prevention

The prevention of assisted living home abuse and neglect is incredibly important. Fortunately there is more research on the topic now then ever before.

Assisted living facilities now have many different options to help them prevent elder abuse and neglect from happening including:

  • Training: Assisted living homes can help prevent elder abuse is by providing comprehensive training for their staff members. Part of this training should focus on identifying and preventing elder abuse and neglect.
  • Policies and Procedures: These facilities may also review their current policies and procedures regarding patient care each year. This will help them stay up to date on the latest laws and regulations in their state and ensure that they continue to meet their residents needs.
  • Monitoring Systems: Using effective monitoring systems can go a long way in the prevention of elder abuse in assisted living homes. These monitoring systems can allow instances of neglect and abuse to be quickly identified and addressed.
  • On-Going Education: Assisted living homes can provide education and guidance to their staff members on the issue of durable power of attorney. This can help improve the life of a person that may otherwise be unfit to make the best decisions for their wellbeing.
  • Visitation: Staff members can encourage and arrange regular visitors for residents. Visitors do not need to be limited to family members; they can also include social workers and volunteers.

File folder for reporting assisted living abuse and neglect

Assisted Living Abuse and Neglect Often Goes Unreported

Unfortunately, it is common for instances of elder abuse and neglect to go unreported. One of the reasons this occurs is because the instances of abuse are unnoticed or difficult to uncover.

Moreover, elderly individuals often have medical conditions that can make it difficult for them to properly report the incident.

  • In some cases, a victim may want to make a report, but they fear retribution if they go forward with it.
  • The victim may feel feel ashamed and responsible for allowing the abuse to occur even though it is not their fault.
  • Elderly individuals who suffered from abuse may be unwilling to view themselves as victims as a protective mechanism.
  • It is not uncommon for a victim to be reluctant to report abuse because of manipulation by the perpetrator.

How Do I Report Assisted Living Abuse and Neglect?

It is important to report any instances of elder abuse and neglect that you become aware of.

Reporting the abuse may save your loved one’s life and the lives of others.

If you have reason to believe that an elderly adult is in life-threatening and immediate danger, call 911 right away.

Adult Protective Services

You can contact your local Adult Protective Services Office if you fear that an elderly person is suffering from any form of abuse.

Adult protective services helps investigate instances of abuse or neglect and is available by phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Please note, however, that Adult Protective Services can be slow to act and ineffective at times.

Long-Term Care Ombudsman’s Office

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman’s Office agency is administered by the California Department of Aging.

This agency investigates reports of abuse and neglect in assisted living facilities and similar locations.

Judge's gavel for helping protect senior's rights on elder abuse and neglect in California

Taking Legal Action for Assisted Living Abuse and Neglect

Once the immediate danger has been reported and resolved, you may consider taking legal action.

In addition to bringing those responsible to justice, this route can be very effective at preventing repeat-offences from happening to others in the future.


A victim of elder abuse may be eligible to receive compensation for the medical bills they incurred during treatment for their injuries. Additionally, they may be able to collect compensation for the pain and suffering that they endured.

In some unique cases, other damages may also be available as legal compensation. These types cases involve extreme mistreatment, malice, and recklessness. A large amount of money may be awarded to punish the at-fault party to deter such behavior in the future.

California Assisted Living Abuse and Neglect Attorneys at The Peck Law Group

If you have reason to believe that your loved one has been a victim of abuse at an assisted living facility, contact us at the Peck Law Group today at (866) 999-9085.

The lawyers at the Peck Law Group have decades of experience successfully handling assisted living abuse and neglect cases on behalf of the victims of abuse and their families. Our attorneys know what it takes to aggressively fight for your legal rights.

The Peck Law Group has multiple law offices throughout the state of California so that we can assist a greater portion of the state.

Speak with an attorney today to learn more about how you and your family can get the compensation and justice you deserve.

Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect Attorney Steven Peck

About the Author

Attorney Steven Peck has been practicing law since 1981. A former successful business owner, Mr. Peck initially focused his legal career on business law. Within the first three years, after some colleagues and friend’s parents endured nursing home neglect and elder abuse, he continued his education to begin practicing elder law and nursing home abuse law.

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