We have observed that some people mistakenly use the term “assisted living” to refer to any long-term care facility. However, there is an important difference between a nursing home and assisted living. A nursing home is primarily a care facility that also provides housing. Assisted living is the opposite: A housing facility that provides some level of care.
Assisted living facilities provide limited medical services, focusing more on helping residents with activities of daily living. They are less institutional and provide residents with more privacy. You may think that assisted living is a reasonable alternative to a nursing home for an aging loved one. However, AARP warns of lax provisions when it comes to reporting abuse against elderly residents in an assisted living facility.
Different levels of government
Residents of nursing homes are under federal protections that provide a certain time frame in which management must report incidents of abuse to law enforcement. However, such federal protections do not extend to assisted living facilities. Rather, ALFs are under the onus of state government.
While every state has an office of Adult Protective Services, the rules for reporting abuse of assisted living residents varies by jurisdiction. A government study last year found that some states do not keep records of APS referrals, while others fail to monitor unexplained or unexpected deaths in assisted living facilities.
Changing needs of residents
The reported lack of oversight is particularly alarming because residents of assisted living today require more care than ever. Rather than just requiring help with day-to-day tasks, ALF residents are now more likely to have cognitive disorders, making them medically needier.