Assisted Living Neglect and Abuse: What It Is,
and When to Get an Attorney Involved

When we admit a loved one into an assisted living facility, we do so in order to maximize their care and comfort. However, most assisted living facilities in the United States are for-profit corporations, and unfortunately stories of neglect and abuse are common.

When a facility loses sight of its purpose, and fails to provide our vulnerable elderly with the quality care they need and deserve, it falls to the resident’s loved ones to try to hold the facility accountable.

It’s hard to imagine that someone who chooses to go into elder care can end up neglecting or abusing their patient. But, whether as a result of negligence, burnout, understaffing, poor training, or actual malice, the elderly suffer injury and harm in these facilities too often.

Sometimes, a caretaker strikes a patient out of anger, denies them pain medication, or fails to help them get to a bathroom. Whatever form neglect takes, our vulnerable loved ones will always need the advocacy of those with only their best interests in mind.

This guide will help you determine what to do if your loved one suffers neglect or abuse.

Is an Assisted Living Facility the Same Thing as a Nursing Home?

No. In an assisted living facility, residents can live in their own apartments with their own possessions, while enjoying communal activities and getting help with “activities of daily living” from on-site staff. Assisted living staff help adults who need help with their daily routines, including personal hygiene, getting dressed, going to the bathroom, eating, and getting from place to place.

A nursing home, on the other hand, is for residents who need more around-the-clock monitoring and nursing care, often after a surgery and during rehabilitation.

James Scott Farrin attorney Kaitlyn Fudge breaks down the differences between assisted living and skilled nursing facilities:

How Assisted Living Facilities Are Regulated: The DHSR

The North Carolina Division of Health Service Regulation (DHSR) has a section dedicated to the licensing of long-term care facilities like assisted living. The section conducts annual inspections of licensed adult care homes to determine whether a facility is meeting the legal requirements for quality of care. They also conduct inspections in response to complaints received from residents and their family members.

Violations discovered during the course of an inspection may result in fines. Violations include actions or inactions that result or were likely to result in serious harm to a resident, like administering the wrong medication. DHSR maintains a list of facilities and the penalties they’ve received, and you can file complaints by phone, fax, or mail.

Filing a Complaint With the DHSR

If you have a concern or complaint about a facility, the DHSR operates a Complaint Intake Unit. The quickest way to reach them is by phone at (919) 855-4500. Caller information is kept confidential.

The local county Department of Social Services investigates complaints with DHSR oversight. You can request direct DHSR involvement if repeat allegations are not satisfactorily resolved by the local department.

Raising Your Concerns: The Long-Term Care Ombudsman

Advocacy for current residents of long-term care facilities like assisted living is mainly provided by the long-term care ombudsman. The ombudsman, part of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), tries to help long-term care residents preserve and exercise their rights. The office of the ombudsman also seeks to resolve disputes between residents, their families, and long-term care facilities.

Among its most important responsibilities, the office of the ombudsman investigates concerns and complaints from residents of long-term care facilities. Common complaints to the DHHS include:

  • Inadequate medical services, such as insufficient nutrition
  • Inadequate personal services, such as personal hygiene
  • Human dignity concerns, such as honoring residents’ individual preferences
  • Administrative concerns, such as admissions or discharge decisions

North Carolina Adult Protective Services

If you suspect abuse, neglect, or exploitation in an assisted living facility, you can report it to North Carolina Adult Protective Services. Protective services are available to those who need them, regardless of income.

Being Your Loved One’s Champion

When things go wrong at an assisted living facility, they can go very wrong. Even a simple fall can be catastrophic – and may have been easily prevented. Fixable problems can spiral quickly when understaffing and/or undertraining are present in a facility.

If you have concerns about the care being offered at an assisted living facility, try to resolve matters by looping in the resident’s doctor and communicating with the facility’s Director of Nursing and Medical Director. If that doesn’t work, you’ll have to get state agencies like the DHSR and the DHHS involved. Your loved one is counting on you.

When Should I Speak With a Lawyer?

Unfortunately, even those with advocates can still be abused and neglected. Even visiting the facility every day or summoning the ombudsman doesn’t guarantee that the staff is taking care of your loved one when you’re not around.

If you’re trying to enhance the experience or level of care for your loved one currently in an assisted living facility, utilize the resources discussed above to file a complaint. If you are seeking justice after the fact for the neglect and abuse your loved one suffered at a facility, an attorney can help you understand your options.

Did your loved one experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect while in assisted living? Depending on your circumstances, we may be able to help you try to hold them accountable.

We fight against abuse and neglect in assisted living facilities every day because this kind of treatment is unacceptable. These are some of the most vulnerable members of our society, and they deserve better. If we are able to take your case, there are no up-front costs, and you don’t pay an attorney’s fee unless we recover compensation for you.2 If you think you have a claim, contact us at 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation.

Text UsText Us

Read More: How Does Assisted Living Work and How Is It Different Than a Nursing Home?