Neglect in Assisted Living Facilities in OklahomaNeglect in Assisted Living Facilities in Oklahoma

Neglect in Assisted Living Facilities in Oklahoma

According to the American Healthcare Association's National Center for Assisted Living, there are more than 30,000 assisted living communities throughout the U.S., and 28% of these facilities are in the South, which includes Oklahoma. The demand for long-term elder care is booming, and the industry sometimes struggles to keep up. Unfortunately, some facilities accept residents who require more care than they can provide, leading to neglect in assisted living facilities. Read on to learn what this is and how you can help prevent it.

What Is an Assisted Living Facility?

Assisted living facilities are for senior adults who need help with some daily activities, but are still generally active and healthy. Assisted living facilities may provide services like:

  • Restaurant- or buffet-style meals
  • Laundry and housekeeping
  • Transportation to places off site
  • Help with bathing and dressing
  • Managing and dispensing medications
  • Organizing social activities and outings

Nursing Homes vs. Assisted Living Facilities

While assisted living facilities help residents with basic needs, nursing homes provide full-time care and medical support. Nursing homes typically provide 24-hour supervision, round-the-clock skilled nursing care, behavioral and cognitive expertise, and access to rehabilitation services. Nursing homes also provide specialized diets and more advanced medication administration, like injections. If an older person requires any of these services, a nursing home is likely the right place for them.

What Is Considered Neglect in an Assisted Living Facility?

Neglect in assisted living facilities has the same definition as it does in other settings, like nursing homes or hospitals. According to the CDC, elder neglect is “Failure by a caregiver or other person in a trust relationship to protect an elder from harm; or the failure to meet needs for

essential medical care, nutrition, hydration, hygiene, clothing, basic activities of daily living or shelter, which results in a serious risk of compromised health and/or safety, relative to age, health status, and cultural norms.”

Assisted living residents are typically more self-sufficient than those in nursing homes, but they do still need help with some day-to-day tasks. Some examples of neglect in assisted living facilities might include:

  • Failing to provide sufficient food or water
  • Failing to provide care ordered by physician
  • Limiting access to essential items like eyeglasses or hearing aids
  • Unclean clothing or living quarters
  • Ignoring injuries or emergencies
  • Failing to provide routine care, like dental services
  • Failing to provide assistance when a resident calls for help
  • Unsafe conditions leading to falls

Neglect is different from abuse because it does not have to be intentional. In fact, neglect often happens as a result of an assisted living facility being understaffed, rather than employees willfully harming residents. Abuse, on the other hand, must be intentional and directly cause harm. While the intent differs, neglect in assisted living facilities is just as serious of a charge as abuse.

What Are Oklahoma’s Laws on Assisted Living Abuse and Neglect?

Oklahoma has regulations specific to assisted living facilities, including admission criteria for residents and staffing requirements, which includes:

  • Assisted living centers must only admit and keep residents whose care and safety needs the assisted living center can meet
  • Each assisted living center shall have a written policy statement that expressly prohibits the abuse or neglect of residents or misappropriation of resident property it serves. The policy shall include the facility's investigative procedures and actions to be taken when incidents of abuse or neglect of residents or misappropriation of resident's property occur.
  • The administrator of the assisted living center who becomes aware of abuse or neglect of a resident or misappropriation of a resident's property shall immediately act to rectify the problem and shall make a report of the incident and its correction to the Department.
  • The assisted living center shall provide staff, within ninety (90) days of employment, training in the identification of abuse and neglect of residents and misappropriation of resident property and the facility's policies and procedures concerning the same. Verification of the provision of training shall be written, signed by staff attending and retained in the personnel files.

The state also has a process for investigating neglect complaints against both nurse aides and facilities, including assisted living facilities. It maintains a registry of certified nurse aids and requires all elder care facilities to check the list and refuse to hire individuals with a history of neglect or abuse.

How to Spot Neglect in Assisted Living Facilities

The signs of abuse and neglect are similar in any elder care setting, from assisted living to nursing homes. It's important for loved ones to keep an eye out for even subtle signs of neglect. Spotting and reporting these red flags can have a big impact on your loved one’s quality of life:

  • Falls, especially repeated falls
  • Frequent and/or worsening infections
  • Poor hygiene, like dirty clothes or hair
  • Unsanitary conditions, like dirty bed sheets
  • Weight loss, hair loss, or signs of malnutrition
  • Injuries that don’t heal
  • Unnecessary restraints, like bed rails
  • Anxiety around staff
  • Lack of alone time with your loved one (staff is always around)

The Oklahoma State Department of Health inspects assisted living communities once a year. If a facility has had complaints or been cited for violations, they may have random inspections as well. The Department of Health also has the power to shut down facilities they think are unsafe. Still, neglect in assisted living facilities continues.

What to Do If You Suspect Neglect in an Assisted Living Facility

Reporting neglect is an important way to keep quality of life high for Oklahoma's assisted living residents. If you see neglect, you should file a complaint with the Oklahoma Department of Health. They’ll investigate and if they find any wrongdoing, the facility will get a citation and a chance to correct the violation. If they don't, or if the department gets a lot of complaints about the same facility, they may take further action.

If you bring a lawsuit for neglect or wrongful death, the facility’s ownership, management, and employees could be held liable and ordered to pay compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, and more. GT Law can help you find out if you have a case and guide you through the process. We have over 30 years of experience handling these types of cases, and we're ready to put it to work for you.

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