Seniors bust dishonest business, assisted living staff member buries patient behind facility, abuse & neglect in nursing homes, and checkered pasts

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Next on “CSI: Adult daycare,” a senior busts adult daycare operators who falsify documents!

Creepiest thing I’ve heard in a long time: An assisted living staff member was arresting for burying a resident behind the facility.

85% of nursing homes reported abuse or neglect in 2012.

Assisted living operators sometimes have a checkered past.  That’s why it’s always good to check with your local nursing home ombudsman or check your state’s assisted living complaints database.

Whom to Call when things go Wrong


I hope that no one ever has to use the information in this post.  However, senior caregivers are in a unique position to either help people in their most vulnerable hour or inflict serious injury on them.   While the industry has been working (somewhat unsuccessfully) to improve its safety record, there are a few things that you can do if you notice a facility isn’t properly caring for its residents:

First of all, if it’s an emergency, call 911. I sometimes forget to mention this because it seems really obvious, but not everyone thinks about it.  If you see someone who is in serious danger, you can (and should) call the police.  It may turn out to be something that is best handled by another agency, but, frankly, why not let the management sort that out? Your job is to keep your loved one safe.

Also, don’t hesitate to remove your loved one from the situation.  There are probably other nursing homes in your area that meet your criteria and can provide good-quality care.  If something “just doesn’t seem right,” then feel free to take your business (and your loved one) elsewhere.

If it’s not an emergency, but you suspect that there are problems or if you feel that your loved one is being unfairly treated, then you have a few things that you can do to help the situation:

1) Document everything.  Whatever the situation, you will have a much stronger case if you keep a detailed record of your findings. Take pictures.  Write down notes if you notice unusual behavior, bruising, marks, treatment, or other problems with dates, times, and other pertinent details.  In some cases, police have even used hidden cameras to catch nursing home abuse.  (Note: Check with authorities before placing hidden cameras or wires, since recording without someone’s consent can be a crime in some areas.)

2) Call the nursing home ombudsman in your area. You may not know it, but there is an individual (called an “ombudsman”) who is designated as a consumer advocate in your area.  The nursing home ombudsman program is completely free for you to use, and the ombudsman in your area will be able to help you get your grievances resolved.  Click here for information about locating an ombudsman in your area.

3) Call the state health department, aging, or human services. States regulate nursing home and assisted living facilities.  Often, the state will handle certification and bed licensure, which means that a ding on the state’s database can prevent bad communities from having their licenses renewed.  Formally submitting a claim can help open investigations into nursing home abuse and cement the case against operators.  You should note two things about state oversight: 1) The department that regulates nursing homes differs from state to state, so you’ll have to do some research online to find the right person. 2) State regulatory oversight can be a slow and steady process, so you cannot count on the state to fix problems in a short time period.  If your loved one is in danger, remove them from the facility immediately.

4) Call the county health department.  Often times, the county will have some oversight in local nursing homes, especially when it comes to how the kitchen is handled.  If you encounter a problem with sanitation, county health department employees may be able to help intervene to fix the problem.

Again, I hope that you never have to use the information in this post.  Unfortunately, some residents of assisted living and nursing facilities experience abuse or neglect.  It’s up to family members, friends, and concerned staff members to do something to prevent this type of treatment from continuing.

Want to learn more about senior housing?  Check out some of these articles:

The naked truth about CCRC entrance fee refunds.

Understanding a CCRCs permanent transfer policy.

Who owns CCRCs?

Should a retirement community be run like a McDonald’s?


Thoughts on the Frontline Documentary on Assisted Living

Daughter holding her mother hand in hospital

For those of you who missed it, Frontline did a documentary on assisted living communities.  It hit the industry pretty hard, but not hard enough to cause the offending company’s stock to drop.  I’m ashamed and embarrassed that fellow humans could be treated so poorly.

I’ve been trying to collect my thoughts for the last few weeks and offer my readers some bits of advice, but I keep coming up short.  However, I don’t think anyone who writes about the senior housing industry can ignore it.  So, this is my best advice on how to handle assisted living, memory care, and nursing home decision-making:

Don’t leave your loved ones anywhere that you feel is unsafe.  Period.  There is a reason that we have intuition, and we should all exercise it a bit more.  If a place makes your skin crawl, then don’t let your loved one stay there.  If you smell strong odors, don’t let your loved one stay there.  If you don’t feel comfortable around the staff, don’t stay there.  You’re not being rude; you’re simply protecting your loved one.

Check state and national sites for information related to safety and care violations.  Nursing Home Compare is the big one for skilled nursing ratings.  Since assisted living and memory care don’t accept Medicare or Medicaid, you’ll need to find your state’s inspection and complaint site for those facilities.  There is usually information on safety violations and complaints.  You can also call the state ombudsman for aging to get additional information.

Don’t just choose the most expensive facility.  I can’t stress this enough.  I’ve heard of some places that were $6,500 a month and never brushed the residents’ teeth.  I’ve heard of others that were $1,500 where they treated residents like family.  Make your decision based on what you observe and what your investigations uncover.

Visit your loved one often, even if you trust the facility staff.  Just being on the site is your biggest defense against abuse.  You’ll be surprised the things you see if you just hang around for a few hours.  Plus, the more you’re there, the deeper relationships you’ll form with caregivers.

Check your loved one for sores, wounds, and other signs of abuse or neglect.  In the video, the biggest regret that everyone had was not checking under grandma’s nightgown for evidence of trauma.  Even if you think that things are fine, you don’t want to take any chances.  If you do discover abuse, document everything and contact authorities immediately.

Unfortunately, abuse and neglect are all too common in senior housing. I shouldn’t have to tell you to check your loved ones for sores and abuse.  I shouldn’t have to give you the “insider scoop” on finding dirt on these communities.

But, I guess this is reality in the industry.

If we lived in an ideal world, we wouldn’t get sick near the end of our life.  Even if we did, we would live quietly at home, where we were happy and content.  We’d have loving family members who had the time and energy to care for us.  Since that doesn’t exist in the real world, then we have to deal with the reality.

I don’t think that everyone should take their parents or grandparents into their own home for care (if anything, the Frontline documentary highlights the difficulties of dealing with dementia patients, even in professional settings).  Assisted living facilities do fill a valuable role in society.  However, consumers have to be careful about how they choose a community.  They also have to have a watchful eye.  It’s unfortunate, but it’s reality.