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    What Is Considered Abuse in Assisted Living?

    How do you know if one of your parents or some other older loved one is a victim of abuse in an assisted living facility? We’ve all seen those viral clips of shocking abuse where an employee hits or pushes a resident. 

    Those cases are horrible, to be sure, and they do exist. However, not every case of assisted living abuse involves swinging fists or pushing someone down the stairs. 

    Assisted living abuse, unfortunately, happens every day to people across the country. It happens in a variety of ways. Elders experience assault, neglect, and other forms of social and emotional abuse. 

    Discovering elder abuse can shatter the façade of thinking that the person you love is in a positive environment where people go above and beyond to meet their needs. That’s what all of us hope for our friends and relatives as they age. 

    How can you tell if your loved one is experiencing abuse in an assisted living facility? Some telltale signs can help you spot abuse, and working with an experienced elder abuse attorney will help you protect your family member and make sure no one else has to deal with something like that ever again. 

    Looking for Signs of Assisted Living Abuse

    It’s true, sometimes people discover bruises, scratches, and other wounds when they go to visit their mother or someone else they know in an assisted living facility. 

    When they ask what happened, it’s brushed off as a “fall” or a clumsy accident because they are so old. A caregiver may say that it happens sometimes, and they’re not sure what exactly the cause was. 

    You should know, though, that even a close relative may be evasive or outright deny abuse occurred. They may fear repercussions after your visit. If they tell you, what’s going to happen to them once you leave again?

    Identifying and pursuing instances of assisted living abuse must be proactive and will take some digging. 

    Here are some other common forms of elder abuse in nursing homes and assisted living facilities:

    Financial Abuse 

    This happens more than you would think. Older people in assisted living homes are frequently victims of identity theft and other fraud. Maybe it’s someone buying things with their credit card, or it could be signing up for recurring services and other expenses. You could even see strange withdrawals on their banking statements. 

    Proving that someone you love is the victim of financial abuse can be complicated, especially if they are dealing with something like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other conditions that affect memory and cognition. 

    Depending on what type of relationship you have, you should do your best to monitor their finances and follow up on anything questionable. 

    Personal Hygiene Neglect

    Hitting and pushing aren’t the only forms of physical abuse. Neglect in assisted living facilities is a big issue. 

    Nursing homes and other facilities need to provide basic care for patients and residents. If someone can not do things like take a shower, brush their teeth, or use the restroom themselves, they should receive additional care or move to a facility that can meet their needs. 

    However, not doing anything for someone who needs help is not the answer. 

    Poor personal hygiene could be a sign of assisted living abuse. Look to see whether they’re well-kept, clean, and wearing clothes in good condition. Follow up on anything that doesn’t look right. 

    Medical Neglect

    How can you be sure that your loved one is receiving all of the medical attention they deserve? 

    For most people, assisted living spaces bridge the gap between living alone or with family and full-time care. Most assisted living leases include some form of medical care like access to nurses and doctors. 

    If someone falls, they need help fast to prevent serious injuries. Additionally, a lot of residents will need specialized care due to conditions related to their age. 

    Sometimes facilities cut corners on medical resources to save money. Remember, these are for-profit businesses. Don’t fool yourself into thinking they are completely altruistic. The first place to cut costs for most facilities is in staffing.  If you add more patients for a staff member, each one is neglected a little more.  There are legal minimum staffing requirements, but often facilities fail to comply with them.

    Ask regularly about whether your loved one is getting their prescription medications. Make sure they are seeing a doctor or some other medical professional whenever they need care. 

    Physical Abuse

    We’ve already covered some parts of physical abuse, but not everything has to be some major assault that causes significant injuries. 

    The people who abuse elders in assisted living facilities aren’t dumb. It’s also unlikely that it’s the first time they’re abusing a resident. 

    They know how to avoid causing bruises or scrapes, so the signs of physical abuse can be hard to see. 

    Physical abuse may also involve the threat of physical harm. There could be a lot of intimidation or bullying going on that makes someone living there feel threatened or scared. 

    You need to check in regularly with your loved one and observe how they interact with the facility employees who they spend time with. 

    Emotional Abuse

    Look, we all know that working in an assisted living facility can be stressful. You’re dealing with people who have unique medical challenges, and they have mental and physical limitations. It’s easy to lose a temper or make a mistake. 

    If, however, that stress becomes too great and they lash out or purposefully spite a resident, then that can constitute assisted living abuse. 

    Sometimes residents are left out of group activities, denied phone calls to family and friends, or have their mail withheld to, “teach them a lesson”. This is incredibly inappropriate and is against the law. 

    These are just some of the types of abuse that can happen in an assisted living facility. While you can’t be there every day, you can learn to spot signs of abuse and how to deal with them. Doing this will protect your loved one who is living there. 

    How a Lawyer Can Help with Assisted Living Abuse

    Anytime you’re dealing with a personal injury case, the details matter. You can suspect your loved one is neglected or is the victim of abuse, but suspicions don’t hold up in court. You’ll be hard-pressed to find an insurance company or an opposing legal team to offer any sort of compensation or respond in a meaningful way to accusations only.

    When someone hears or sees elder abuse, it’s very disturbing. The thought of someone harming a person less capable of defending themselves is despicable, and especially so if it’s someone you know closely. 

    Hiring an attorney is the best thing you can do when you suspect or come across any sort of abuse.

    The right legal support can help you build a case to stop the abuse and hold people accountable.

    A lawyer with elder abuse case experience can look for evidence of:


    Did the assisted living facility have too few people on staff when the abuse occurred? Is there a pattern of understaffing as a means to save money? Your lawyer can look at where else the facility may have cut corners to save money at the expense of residents.

    Negligent Hiring Practices

    Was the assisted living facility following acceptable hiring practices? Were they doing background checks? Too many people simply assume that the employees in a facility are trained and can fulfill their responsibilities. 

    This, however, is not always the case. 

    If a nursing home fails to find red flags or ignores them in the hiring process, it’s a major piece of evidence in your case. 

    Poor Staff Training

    An experienced attorney will also look at what type of training systems are in place at the facility to make sure employees are giving the required care. Hiring staff without the proper qualifications can be a problem. 

    Building an Assisted Living Abuse Case

    With the right legal team working with you, you can start to gather evidence and build your case. Your lawyers will know where to look and what questions to ask. 

    They’ll also represent you in discussions with lawyers, insurance companies, and the facility, so you don’t have to deal with the stress. 

    Whether you go to court or negotiate a settlement out of court, an experienced attorney will know what’s fair and how to account for any long-term medical costs as well as pain and suffering. 

    Remember, assisted living abuse cases can be extreme, but this is the exception, not the rule. Most abuse happens discreetly and can be difficult for the untrained eye to notice. 

    That’s why it’s so important to follow your hunch and speak to an attorney about what may or may not be happening. At the very least, you’ll have peace of mind knowing about where your family member or friend is living. 

    Better safe than sorry. 

    At Leighton Law, we’ve spent decades working for clients to win justice and hold people accountable for wrongdoing. We specialize in assisted living abuse and can help you if you suspect something’s going on with your relative. 

    Call us for a free, no-obligation consultation to find out whether you have a case and what to do next. 


    Article by:

    John Leighton

    A nationally-recognized trial lawyer who handles catastrophic injury and death cases. He manages Leighton Law, P.A. trial lawyers, with offices in Miami and Orlando, Florida. He is President of The National Crime Victim Bar Association, author of the 2-volume textbook,Litigating Premises Security Cases, and past Chairman of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America’s Motor Vehicle, Highway & Premises Liability Section. Having won some of the largest verdicts in Florida history, Mr. Leighton is listed inThe Best Lawyers in America (14 years), “Top Lawyers” in the South Florida Legal Guide (15 years), Top 100 Florida SuperLawyer™ and Florida SuperLawyers (14 years), “Orlando Legal Elite” by Orlando Style magazine, and FloridaTrend magazine “Florida Legal Elite


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