PBS has launched a segment called “The Watch List,” which recently featured an investigation into care facilities in private residences. The segment examined the increasing popularity of these residences, which are marketed as homey alternatives to nursing homes. Unlike nursing homes, residential care or “assisted living” facilities are not federally regulated.
The segment featured the stories of two residents: one died of advanced pressure sores and the other suffered extensive burns after a caregiver handed her a lit cigarette while she was hooked up to oxygen.
A November 2009 report by The Program on Aging & Long-Term Care Policy at Texas A&M University, also featured in the segment, concluded:
“[t]he universal lack of resources, the enormous variation across jurisdictions, and the low priority given to elder abuse and neglect make it difficult to see how significant progress can be made without some federal standards and financial support for investigating, detecting, resolving and preventing elder abuse in residential care.”
Of particular interest to me was the segment’s take on a recent Seattle Times investigation, “Seniors for Sale,” which exposed hundreds of injuries and deaths in adult homes in Washington and explored the marketing of adult residential facilities as good money-making ventures.
The idea that our elderly are commodities is unfortunately not unique to the residential care industry, but is uniquely disturbing because of the lack of oversight and regulation. In my experience representing the victims of abuse and their families, this lack of regulation has led to a lack of knowledge by the owners and caregivers of how to provide proper care and a dangerous situation for the residents.
WARNING: the video segment contains images which some might find upsetting.