Unfortunately, elder abuse is a serious and relatively wide-spread problem in assisted living facilities in the U.S. Research on elder abuse has been very limited although there is evidence suggesting that it could be as widespread as child abuse.
Interest in this area has grown somewhat in recent years but the bulk of studies have only focused on incidence and risk factors in the community. Older adults living in setting other than their homes have received less attention from researchers and policy makers.
This is problematic when we consider the fact that elderly people residing in assisted living facilities are particularly vulnerable since many of them suffer from chronic diseases resulting in physical and cognitive limitations and have to rely on other for assistance.
Assisted living facilities are currently the fastest-growing sector of elderly residential care and promise a new model which combines community based-care with nursing homes in order to preserve independence, privacy and dignity among their clients.
Yet they may also be creating an environment that puts their residents at higher risk of neglect and abuse when we consider the minimal regulations, lack of oversight and low staff ratios that receive insufficient training.
Risk of Negligence
Cases of physical and emotional abuse tend to be more obvious and well defined: the intentional infliction of injury, punishments that harm the individual physically or emotionally and the use of intimidation or unreasonable confinement.
The definition of negligence, on the other hand, tends to be more prone to debate, particularly when legal action is taken.
In assisted living facilities, negligence can occur in many forms: the facility may not be handling the hiring and supervision of staff member adequately, the staff, in turn, could fail to provide residents with appropriate assistance in maintaining a healthy diet, getting the medication they need and other matters of personal care.
In this case, considering the contractual relationship between the elderly residents and the assisted living facility, failure to provide the goods and services needed to prevent bodily harm, emotional distress and mental illness in considered negligence.
When elder abuse or negligence takes place, family member can and should make the necessary steps to hold the facility accountable.
According to the experts at Nagel Rice LLP this process starts with an investigation in which the law firm gathers evidence to build the case.
There are four essential elements that lead to a successful negligence claim:
- Duty of Care – The assisted living facility is legally obligated to provide the residents with adequate care as per their contract.
- Breach of Duty – Evidence has to be gathered to prove that the facility and its staff members failed to provide reasonable care. To do this, experts are brought to testify as to what would have been the expected actions in similar situations and how the defendants did not meet those expectations.
- Damages – Damages can be in the form of physical or emotional harm or financial loss.
- Causation – The evidence gathered has to prove that there is a relationship of causation between the breach of duty and the damages.
If it can be proven that the assisted living facility is guilty of abuse or negligence, then your loved one is entitled to compensation for their medical bills, physical injuries, emotional distress and any other damages.