Criticism Levied At Assisted Living Facilities And Lax Regulation After Aide Jailed For Abuse

Experts say the horrific abuse that allegedly occurred last week at a $5,500-a-month assisted-living center is not uncommon among the vulnerable population in the loosely regulated industry.

One elder-abuse expert noted that assisted-living facilities, unlike nursing homes, receive no governmental subsidy, and therefore have little governmental oversight.

In the referenced case, four elderly women were allegedly assaulted by a certified nursing assistant at a facility which specializes in treating people with Alzheimer’s disease and other memory-loss conditions. The company took in $210 million in revenue in 2007.

Unlike registered nurses - who must complete two to five years of higher education, pass a national licensing exam and be approved by the state board - CNAs face far less stringent requirements: A six- to 12-week training course. In the state where the incidents occurred, most CNAs make between $10 and $16 an hour, according to labor statistics.

“Our hearts go out to the residents and to their families,” said the president of the assisted living facility, who emphasized the company will reinforce “with rigor its safety, security, and training procedures to ensure this will never happen again.”

“Nursing homes are more heavily regulated than nuclear power plants,” said an elder-abuse expert at Boston University. They are evaluated by agencies including the state and federal departments of Health and Human Services and the Joint Commission accrediting organization.

But free-standing assisted-living facilities, she said, “are virtually unregulated.”

At both types of facilities, low-paid certified nursing assistants bathe, dress and feed the fragile patients.

The aide who has been arrested was certified in June 2004 and hired that year, after a CORI and immigration check. There had been no complaints about her work until last week, when a co-worker’s report spurred an investigation.

Police arrested the aide on Thursday night. She is charged with seven counts of assault and battery and is under house arrest. For more, read the story.

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Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia. 


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