Assisted Living Facility Probe Reveals Subpar Medical Care

An investigation of assisted living facilities on Long Island has found widespread problems with the way medical care is delivered to assisted living residents with dementia.

For a special report on the care received by assisted living facility residents, the newspaper Newsday combed through thousands of pages of New York State inspection reports and spoke to medical experts and residents' relatives. The publication says its findings raise "questions about the qualifications of those delivering the care and concerns about whether some residents are too sick to be living there in the first place."

The findings have relevance to assisted living facility residents elsewhere in the country. Assisted living facilities are an emerging industry and not all states regulate such centers to protect residents from substandard care or questionable business practices.

Although many assisted living facility residents suffer from dementia, Newsday found that their primary caregivers at the facilities are often low-paid aides. Unlike in nursing homes, there is no requirement that nurses be on site. While some assisted living facilities boast that they offer round-the-clock medical care, this sometimes amounts to little more than having an off-premises nurse on call.

Tragedies such as the following are allegedly linked to the deficient care:

  • A 75-year-old grandmother with Alzheimer's repeatedly missed taking her medication for a heart condition, and later died.
  • An 84-year-old former entrepreneur had his colon cancer and sepsis go undiagnosed for months.
  • A 76-year-old retired tailor, who had lost his dentures, choked on pot roast one night during dinner. Ten days later, he was served the same meal, when he choked again and died.

Many aides who care for patients are "people who don't have any background in medicine at all - except for maybe getting people in and out of bed, and giving them a bath," says one nurse. "I wouldn't take my medication that way. It's scary."

Learn more about assisted living facilities.