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Can assisted living facilities safely care for Alzheimer's patients?

August 19, 2009
by JRosenfeld
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Is it fair to expect assisted living facilities (ALFs)—loosely regulated entities that help residents with daily living activities—to care for a person with Alzheimer's? ALFs are intended to provide a semi-structured environment to a primarily elderly group. Meals are prepared and staff is intended to provide residents with daily living activities. Unlike nursing homes, ALFs are not intended to provide skilled nursing care.

When it comes to Alzheimer's patients, many ALFs have begun to accept these people despite the fact that many offer no specialized care program for them. Unfortunately, such patients may encounter many problems while living in an assisted living environment that may never have been designed with them in mind. Of course, depending on the individual facility, the levels of care may be different.

From a legal standpoint, if a facility is unable to provide the level of care required, the facility should advise the family. ALFs may never mention to the family that their loved one may be better off in a nursing home or alternative facility that specialized in Alzheimer's care.

Take the case of Ruby Larson, an Alzheimer's patient, who on July 23, 2007, wandered from Pheasant Pointe Retirement and Assisted Living Residence, never to be heard from again. Last year a judge declared Larson to be legally dead as the search for her was fruitless.

Larson, 75, was admitted to Pheasant Pointe in May, 2007, suffering from dementia, memory loss, and disorientation. During the three months Larson was a patient at Pheasant Pointe, she wandered from the facility on three separate occasions.

Larson's family filed a lawsuit against Pheasant Point and its parent company, Spectrum Retirement Communities of Oregon, claiming the staff failed to properly supervise Larson and that the companies should have known that she required care only a specialized Alzheimer's care unit could provide.

By accepting an Alzheimer’s patient for care, there is an implicit agreement that the ALF will provide the necessary care required. Like it or not, the facility exposes themselves to potential liability for problems that may arise in the course of their care.

Jonathan Rosenfeld is a lawyer who represents people injured in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Jonathan has represented victims of nursing home abuse and neglect throughout Illinois and across the country. Visit his personal blog at


Jonathan Rosenfeld...



I recently had a very negative experience with my parents at an unlicensed assisted living. At this facility, there is no such thing as aging in place. They were fully aware of their Alzheimer's diagnosis and more than happy to take them in (new facility) and start filling beds. When some symptoms came up, they did not want to work with the family to see if new medications or medication changes could resolve the issue. My father twice entered the wrong room by mistake and was accused of "breaking in." The decision to ask them to leave was abrupt and without opportunity for discussion. After over 20 years as a geriatric nurse, it was clear that this was not a health care relationship complete with empathy, problem solving and joint decision making, but landlord tenant. They were quick to evoke a 30 day notice to evict. If you parent (s) or loved one has Alzheimer's, a stroke or any other number of illnesses that may affect behavior, beware! You may be just one behavior or incident away from being ask to leave what you thought was your new home. Another issue that also requires further investigation is their relationship to a "preferred home care company" that in our case has an office and staff on site. I believe if we had been willing to add another $3000 in services from them, the decision to evict may have been very different. This is despite the fact that an episode of confusion could come and go within 30 minutes just prior to someone have spent time in the room and provided services.