Authorities in North Carolina have barred an assisted living community in Winston-Salem from admitting new residents after a video showed three staff members encouraging dementia patients to fight each other.
A state report on the incident—which many media outlets have termed a “dementia fight club”—describes videos that show residents at Danby House fighting while staff members could be heard “talking, laughing and commenting.”
According to the Winston-Salem Journal, the staff member who recorded the video told investigators that the woman who was assaulted was a “pain in the butt.” Three former staff members at the facility have been arrested and face charges of assaulting disabled persons.
Affinity Living Group, which owns Danby House, describes itself as the seventh largest provider of assisted living in the country and the fourth largest provider of Alzheimer’s and memory care.
“One of the effects of dementia can be aggressive behaviors and our staff is trained to de-escalate any acts of aggression in a safe manner,” Affinity Living Group said in a statement. “These employees did not follow through with this training and were subsequently terminated.”
It said it had a “zero tolerance policy for the mistreatment of those in our care” and added that additional staff training and “a more rigorous vetting process” has been implemented.
Experts said that the North Carolina incident is indicative of a national problem with staffing at long-term care facilities.
Christy Turner, a certified Dementia Care Practitioner who consults with families regarding Alzheimer’s and long-term living choices, said that far too many companies “hire staff simply because they have a pulse.”
Doing so, Turner added, “helps create a culture that treats people living with dementia as less than and unworthy of quality care.”
Ongoing concerns about conditions in long-term care facilities were the focus of a U.S. Senate hearing earlier this year. According to a lengthy report by CNN, the hearing was held after a number of reports of abuse and neglect in some nursing homes nationwide.
CNN cited David Stevenson, an assistant professor of health policy at the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, who said that there has been significant improvements in nursing home care in recent decades.
“But,” he added, “data have shown that poor-quality care has been kind of frustratingly persistent.”
Among concerns over abuse in nursing homes, reports of the misuse of antipsychotics in these long-term facilities have also surfaced.
Turner, who has managed memory care communities, said that quality care comes down to staffing. As the population of aging people with dementia rises, assisted living facilities having grown at a rapid pace yet fallen short when it comes to staffing.
“People who have the heart for caring for people living with neurodegenerative disorders are a joy to train,” she said. “Families often call them magicians and residents respond positively to them.”