Care for dementia patients lag in some assisted care facilities

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/ Source: Kaiser Health News

They found Bonnie Walker’s body floating in a pond behind her assisted living facility in South Carolina. There were puncture wounds on her ear, her temple, her jaw and her cheeks.

Her right forearm and her pacemaker were inside one of the alligators that lived in the pond.

Like 4 in 10 residents in assisted living facilities, Walker, 90, had dementia. Shortly after midnight one day in July 2016, she slipped out of her facility, Brookdale Charleston, as she had done a few days before. This time, no one noticed her missing for seven hours.

“No one should have to pass away that way,” her granddaughter Stephanie Weaver said.

Stephanie Weaver holds a photo of her grandmother, Bonnie Walker. Weaver is suing Brookdale Charleston for emotional distress following Walker’s death.Leigh Webber for KHN

Assisted living facilities were originally designed for people who were largely independent but required help bathing, eating or with other daily tasks. Unlike nursing homes, the facilities generally do not provide skilled medical care or therapy, and stays are not paid for by Medicare or Medicaid.

Dementia care is the fastest-growing segment of assisted living. As these residences market themselves to people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, facilities across the country are straining to deliver on their promises of security and attentive care, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis of inspection records in the three most populous states.

In California, 45 percent of assisted living facilities have violated one or more state dementia regulations during the past five years. Three of the 12 most common California citations in 2017 were related to dementia care.

In Florida, 1 in 11 assisted living facilities have been cited since 2013 for not meeting state rules designedto prevent residents from wandering away.

And in Texas, nearly a quarter of the facilities that accept residents with Alzheimer’s have violated one or more state rules related to dementia care, such as tailoring a plan for each resident upon admission or ensuring that staff members have completed special training, according to nearly six years of records.

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