What Are the Obligations of an Assisted Living Facility to Prevent Resident Injury Onsite

An assisted living facility has a legal duty to maintain a reasonably safe environment for residents. The operators of an assisted living community do not have a legal obligation to prevent any possible accident or mishap that might occur on the premises. Legally speaking, perfection is an impossibility, but taking appropriate steps to keep residents reasonably safe is considered achievable.

In fulfilling its legal obligation to keep residents reasonably safe, there are some areas of particular concern for an assisted living community. We discuss these areas individually to provide you with a better idea of the obligations of an assisted living community:

  • Protect residents from slip and fall accidents
  • Protect residents from resident-on-resident violence
  • Protect residents from all types of elder abuse
  • Protect residents from all types of criminal victimization
  • Protect residents from food-borne illnesses
  • Protect residents from fire and smoke injuries
  • Protect residents from medication mismanagement

We stress again that when it comes to these seven areas in which an assisted living facility has an obligation to protect residents, the applicable term to keep in mind is reasonable. An assisted living facility is legally responsible for protecting residents from these different types of potentially injuring-causing situations. From a legal standpoint, proper care is the type of care similarly situated assisted living community would exercise in the same or similar circumstances. You will see a reference to “reasonable” included throughout this discussion.

Slip and Fall Accidents

The most common way a person 65 years of age or older is injured is in a slip and fall accident. Unfortunately, when a senior suffers a slip and fall accident, the odds of sustaining what can prove to be a severe injury are significant. These include broken hips, which are types of injuries that result in fatalities with alarming regularity among the senior population. Remember that about 25 percent of people 65 and older fall each year.

A primary obligation an assisted living community has to its residents is taking affirmative steps to reasonably protect against slip and fall accidents onsite. Examples of reasonable steps to protect against slip and fall accidents are ensuring that flooring materials do not present any injury risk and that spills onto floors are promptly cleaned up.

Resident-On-Resident Abuse

One of the unspoken realities of, like in any long-term care community for seniors, is the prospect of resident-on-resident abuse. This is more likely to occur in more extensive facilities than in smaller assisted living communities.

An assisted living community is legally obligated to protect residents from abuse perpetrated by fellow residents. Indeed, states have regulations requiring an assisted living community to take action regarding a resident who has demonstrated a propensity for abusing fellow residents. If a resident engages in this abusive conduct, that individual no longer meets the requirements for continued residency in an assisted living community.

Elder Abuse

On a related note, an assisted living community has the legal duty to reasonably protect residents from elder abuse. Elder abuse comes in several different forms that include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional or mental abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Financial abuse

In addition, an assisted living community has a legal obligation to protect residents from neglect.

Criminal Victimization

One of the primary reasons why many seniors move into an assisted living community is because of enhanced safety and security features that might not otherwise be available to them. One of the key obligations of an assisted living facility is to keep a community reasonably secure and safe in a manner that protects residents from criminal victimization.

This means keeping a facility and its grounds reasonably protected from criminal activity. It also means assisting residents and their families in a sufficiently appropriate manner in guarding against scams. For example, a typical assisted living community guards against unknown solicitors entering the premises.

Food-Borne Illnesses

Meals are another key aspect of living in an assisted living. Typically, an assisted living community makes three nutritious meals and snacks available to residents. In this regard, an assisted living facility has to employ best culinary practices designed to reasonably protect residents from contaminated food items that can potentially cause some food-borne illnesses.

Fire and Smoke Injuries

Proper protocols and fire suppression equipment (as may be required by law, depending on the size of an assisted living community) must be utilized to reasonably protect residents against fire and smoke inhalation harm. A key point to bear in mind in this regard: if an assisted living community legally is required to have fire suppression equipment in place and fails to do so, that alone can be enough evidence of a breach of its duty of care owed to residents if a fire occurs in the premises and residents are injured.

Medication Mismanagement

One of the primary types of services provided to residents of an assisted living community is medication management. In this regard, an assisted living community has the legal responsibility to follow state-mandated guidelines. An assisted living community needs to exercise reasonable care to protect its residents from harm that could arise from medication mismanagement.

An example of medication mismanagement that could have legal consequences is when an assisted living community fails to properly make a resident’s medication available. As a result of that failure, a resident of an assisted living community ends up suffering some negative health consequences.

Suppose a resident of an assisted living community believes that he or she has been injured due to the negligence of that community and its staff. In that case, a wise course is to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer. A personal injury attorney can explain a senior’s rights in the aftermath of an accident that resulted in injuries, damages, or losses to that individual.