Senior living facility violence: Is there a cause for concern?

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Caitlin McGlade, an investigative reporter at AZ Central, has written an investigative series looking at resident-on-resident harm in assisted living facilities.

One of the more egregious cases she reported on was the deaths of two female patients allegedly at the hands of another patient with aggressive dementia.

“We found out that there are resident-on-resident clashes all over the place in dementia wards. A lot of it goes under wraps because assisted living facilities don’t actually have to report to the Department of Health Services when residents get injured,” McGlade said.

Assisted living facilities, which are state-regulated, serve as long-term homes for people who don’t need constant medical attention but need varying levels of help. There are about 300 in Arizona, each serving more than 10 people, according to the Arizona Republic.

Conflicts between residents in senior care facilities are often blamed on dementia. But contrary to common stereotypes, most people with dementia are not inherently aggressive. Their condition causes them to misunderstand what’s happening inside and around them, so they may lash out if they’re in pain, need help, or are frightened or frustrated by their surroundings. 

Caregivers are also being undertrained especially when it comes to handling and taking care of patients with dementia.

“Caregivers are understaffed and undertrained even if they do get their caregiver license the state law only requires something around seven hours worth of training to be able to manage difficult behaviors associated with dementia. So, they’re going into these environments with not a ton of help,” McGlade said.

In her investigative series, McGlade argues that the system is made to protect corporations over seniors mainly due to assisted living facilities not having to report resident injuries to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

“I’m not sure to what degree assisted living facilities get investigated when there are complaints because things like Brookdale, where a woman moved into a facility after killing her roommate three weeks prior then there’s an incident there and the state found nothing wrong,” McGlade said.

Caitlin McGlade, Investigative Data Reporter, AZ Central

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