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Rape of elderly woman draw attention to assisted living issues

"Assisted living" is supposed to be a better alternative than a regular nursing home for senior citizens who cannot live alone. However, an analysis by the Plain Dealer determined that regulations in Ohio that govern assisted living facility seem to be poorly designed, outdated and not up to the task of keeping residents safe.

The rape of a 95-year-old woman with dementia in a Middleton assisted living facility by another resident has drawn attention to the problem. The other resident, a 75-year-old man, also has cognitive issues. The woman's relatives say she seemed to withdraw after the attack and lose the will to live. She contracted pneumonia, and her organs failed a couple of months later. Her family believes that the attack caused her immense suffering and hastened her demise.

The family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming that the facility didn't take proper steps to protect its residents. They say that facility was constantly understaffed "to maximize profits at the expense of its residents care."

That's a common complaint about many assisted living facilities in the state. Unlike regular nursing homes, the rules about staffing levels for assisted living centers are not regulated by the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The difference comes down to what's profitable and who is paying for the care.

Nursing homes typically rely on Medicaid, while assisted living is generally paid for privately. The governing law in Ohio is also vague about how much staff is required at any given point, saying only that a facility must have a "sufficient number" of people on duty to meet the needs of its residents.

That means that the owners and operators of a facility are typically free to decide how many aides need to be around. Many of the caregivers hired for these facilities only have the minimum 20 hours of training that the state requires. This can be woefully inadequate when they're dealing with patients with major cognitive impairments like dementia.

If your loved one has suffered from neglect or abuse in a nursing home or assisted living facility, the consequences can be serious and even fatal. Talk to an attorney to learn more about your legal rights and to find out how to hold the facility accountable.

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