Preventing Elder Abuse
When you consider assisted living as an option for a family member, you naturally want to ensure that he or she will be safe and protected from abuse by staff or other residents. It is important to know what safeguards are in place to ensure the safety and security of residents.
Assisted living facilities offer protection against abuse, neglect or financial exploitation in a number of ways:
- Residents are assisted with activities of daily living, which prevents self-neglect.
- Staff is well trained and supervised, so employees are prepared to interact respectfully with residents and to handle difficult behaviors without resorting to abusive practices.
- The Resident Agreement clearly states the resident's financial responsibilities and the services that will be provided. This agreement reduces the risk that the resident will be financially exploited.
All assisted living facilities are required by law to develop and implement policies and procedures that prohibit abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of residents and to investigate all allegations that residents have been mistreated. Ask to see a copy of these procedures.
Even in a well-run facility, the residents who receive the best care are often those whose families remain involved. Once your relative moves in, visit the facility often. Some visits may be scheduled in advance, but also drop in. Get to know the staff and other residents. Volunteer in the facility, if possible, either on a regular basis or for special events. If the facility has a support group for families try to attend and get to know the relatives of the other residents. Become familiar with the Resident's Rights, which are defined in the Code of Maryland Regulations. This list of rights will help you to know what you should expect from the facility.
There are many signs and symptoms of elder abuse and prevention strategies. Be alert for the following signs that may indicate your older relative is not receiving the appropriate care:
- Your relative is dirty, poorly groomed, or unshaven
- His or her clothing is dirty or inappropriate for the weather
- There is a noticeable decrease in his or her weight
- Your relative has become quiet, withdrawn or fearful
- The resident has unexplained bruises or other injuries
Assisted living facilities are required to report suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation of residents within 24 hours to the local Department of Social Services as well as to local law enforcement or state regulatory agencies.
Reporting Suspected Abuse
If you become aware that your relative, or someone else in the facility, shows symptoms of abuse or neglect, address the issue with the manager right away. If it is not resolved promptly, or if you believe that the manager will not handle it properly, make an Adult Protective Services report by calling the local office of the Department of Social Services and asking to speak to Adult Services. You may also contact the Office of Health Care Quality at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 410-402-8200 or 1-877-402-8221. If you prefer, you may make a complaint anonymously.