Common Causes of Neglect in Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly

Posted on August 16, 2013 by bermanstaff

A Residential Care Facility for the Elderly (RCFE) is a wonderful option for individuals who do not want to live alone or who need minimal assistance with their daily lives. For millions of Americans across the country, living in an RCFE can be an incredible experience as they are able to be involved in an active adult community with other seniors while being cared for in a safe environment.

The State of California currently has over 8,000 licensed RCFEs where thousands of seniors are enjoying their golden years amongst other older adults. While most residents have positive experiences, there are some common causes of neglect which occur in RCFEs for which everyone should be on the lookout.


Falls are the leading cause of accidental deaths among people over the age of 75, and the second leading cause for those aged 45 to 75, according to the National Safety Council.  Due to a variety of factors including slowed reflexes and senses, stiffened joints, and improperly-maintained living conditions such as faulty handrails on stairs and slippery hallways, even the most active of seniors are susceptible to a host of injures which can occur from slip and falls.  Accordingly, it is imperative that RCFE staff maintain an environment which is free from fall hazards, and this includes being on the lookout for elder residents who are showing signs that they need a little extra help moving around.  Additionally, RCFE staff must not only immediately respond when a slip hazard is reported, but they must constantly be aware of the environment and look for potential areas where an elderly resident can suffer injury.  The most common slip and fall injuries are caused by:

  • poorly maintained common areas such as hallways, dining rooms and entryways;
  • shaky handrails or a lack of handrails where there should be some available;
  • inadequate lighting in areas where seniors frequently walk.

Also, the facility should regularly asses any individual who has had even one incident of falling in their past to determine whether a fall protocol should be issued specific to the care of that resident.


In the State of California, RCFEs must meet care and safety standards set by the State, and each facility is licensed and inspected by the Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing (CCL).  Each resident in an RCFE has numerous rights, including the rights to have their basic needs met, to be treated with dignity, and to make health care decisions on their own or in accordance with a legal guardian, as well as many privacy and confidentiality rights.  For a concise list of Resident’s Rights, please visit the website of the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform at

BE AWARE: Senior housing complexes, retirement villages and retirement hotels which provide ONLY housing, housekeeping and meals are not required to be licensed as RCFEs and therefore are not held to the State-mandated standards of RCFEs.  Many active older adults with minimal or no care needs reside in these facilities, but if you or your loved one have more specific or advanced care needs you may need to consider other options, such as an RCFE or nursing home.

Some important questions to ask the RCFE: Is the facility licensed by the State of California? How often does the license come under review? How is the staff trained? Have there been any citations against the facility for failure to meet any basic standard of care? Can we meet with some of the current residents to hear their experiences while living at the facility?


In rare instances, an RCFE resident may be injured by another resident.  One of the main reasons why this occurs is that the offending resident is not properly suited for the RCFE environment, such as a resident who has diminished mental capacity.  You need to determine if the RCFE can help your loved one meet the medical needs he/she has, including transportation to and from doctors’ appointments, a reliable system of distribution of medication, and a written plan of care where appropriate. Communication is key, and if you believe that you or your loved one cannot communicate effectively about your loved one’s medication needs then it may be time to consider placing the resident in a different RCFE who can meet those needs.


Unfortunately, there are times when an RCFE will not release a resident from his/her contractual obligations even though it is clear that the resident is either unsatisfied with the living arrangements at the facility or, even worse, the resident clearly needs more substantial medical care than the RCFE is prepared or authorized to provide.  If you believe that your loved one is being improperly or unlawfully retained at a Residential Care Facility for the Elderly, you should immediately contact your Community Care Licensing Senior Care Program Office.

Assisted living in a well-run and socially active RCFE can help many seniors live a healthier, happier life.  You can protect yourself and your loved ones by meeting with the administrative staff of the facility to help determine if that RCFE will serve your needs.  Also, ask to speak with others living at the facility to hear their about their experience living there.  And though there are no public records regarding RCFEs online, you can visit to find your local district licensing office which has a complete file on each facility.

Berman & Riedel, LLP is one of San Diego’s premier law firms, practicing throughout the State of California.  Our firm represents victims of elder abuse and neglect, including patients at skilled nursing facilities and residential care facilities for the elderly in Southern California.  If you have any concerns regarding the care of a loved one in a California nursing home or other type of care facility, please call our office today at (858) 350-8855.  An initial consultation is free, our legal team can meet with you to discuss the rights you may have under California and federal law. Browse our website to learn more about our attorneys, paralegals and staff as well as our experience with neglect related claims by visiting our past Verdicts and Settlements page.

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About Berman & Riedel, LLP firm managing partner attorney William M. Berman:

Attorney William M. Berman focuses his practice in the areas of catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death and elder abuse and neglect. Strictly a plaintiffs’ dedicated firm, he never represents insurance companies in the defense of claims. Mr. Berman’s firm remains staunchly committed to helping those who have suffered serious injury or loss due the negligence, intentional misconduct or wrongful acts of others. Mr. Berman has grown his firm to what is considered one of the largest and most successful elder abuse/neglect practices within California. Through his continued successes in handling claims involving nursing home and elder abuse and neglect, Mr. Berman remains a prominent figure in advocating on behalf of this vulnerable class of citizens.
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