Violence in Memory Care

Violence in Memory Care

Fists and violence in memory careA former cop moved into my mother-in-law’s memory care community. He was doing simulated punches to people including the administrator. The administrator was worried the punches might become real, because seniors with dementia do not have good depth perception. Then my sister-in-law witnessed him doing it to my mother-in-law, Amy. She was horrified.

My sister-in-law was sitting across from her mom. The former cop came up from behind my sister-in-law and then she saw a fist heading for Amy’s face. The fist stopped six inches away. Here is the weird part. A caregiver witnessed the whole thing, but showed no concern, never said a word, or redirected him. He did walk away and the caregiver accompanied him down the hall. My sister-in-law shouted, “That was not cool,” after them.

So the staff started locking residents’ rooms because they caught the former cop standing over sleeping residents. The doors were locked at night so residents could still wander out, but he could not wander in.

Something combative must have happened between the former cop and a staff person. They would not say what but my sister-in-law observed that he was gone over a day and then came back drugged.   All these situations have transpired over two weeks.

My sister-in-law is very worried about Amy. What if she gets up in the night and leaves her room? What if the former cop is out too? Amy will have nowhere to go because every door is locked. A few days ago my sister-in-law discovered the doors to the residents rooms were locked during the day. She shared her disapproval with the administrator. The administrator said it was because both residents were asleep in the room (which they were doing at the time). My sister-in-law said to the administrator, “You said you would only lock the doors at night.”

Who is protecting the residents? The community says they cannot provide one-on-one care for the former cop. They say he has rights too and just can’t make him leave. If another violent incident happens he will be thrown in jail because there is a 49-day wait for a geripsych hospital.

One caregiver shared that the former cop pointed to himself and then her. Then he made gestures of sexual intercourse. He tried to grab her behind, but she wouldn’t let him. Other caregivers do let him grab their behinds and laugh. This is very concerning to our family, because how can someone with dementia distinguish who is a caregiver and who is a resident? He should always be redirected on proper behavior. He is not. There is no redirecting consistency with the caregiving staff.

When my sister-in-law shared the above examples with the administrator she said, “The caregivers are burned out and fearful of him. I am glad you told me and I will talk to staff about consistency.”

The family called the omsbudman and the state. The state triggered a call back to the family from adult protective services. They wanted to know if Amy was afraid. The answer was yes!

Recently, Amy was watching the fish swim in the 100-gallon tank. The former cop came up behind her and grabbed both of her arms. She screamed. My sister-in-law heard the story from a caregiver. Here was Amy’s interpretation to her daughter: Amy said, “A drunk guy grabbed me and tried to beat me up.” She pointed to the former cop and said, “There is that bad man, I don’t like him.”

Is the facility doing all that they can and should? Should this guy be gone? How much violence is okay in a licensed assisted living community in Washington State?

Any answers would be much appreciated.

Diane Masson is a senior living expert who has authored two 5-star rated books. Her new book is an all-encompassing answer guide for seniors called, “Your Senior Housing Options,” designed to help seniors navigate choices quickly. The second book was written for senior living professionals called, “Senior Housing Marketing – How To Increase Your Occupancy and Stay Full.” Reach out to her through her website: and read the weekly blog.


  1. The facility is incorrect. This resident’s behavior likely constitutes assault. An assault is carried out by a threat of bodily harm coupled with an apparent, present ability to cause the harm.

    His behavior is inappropriate for any therapeutic venue short of a highly controlled environment. The family (if there is one) should be advised and the patient warned. If the behavior does not change, the former LEO should be barred from the facility. If actual harm is inflicted – which could include cardiac arrest from fear – the facility would likely be liable for failure to ensure the health and welfare of residents.

    • Thank you for replying we are having a care conference with an ombudsman this afternoon.

  2. Diane,
    I’m so sorry your family and especially, your mother-in-law, Amy, is going through this! It must be a terrible feeling not knowing whether or not your loved one is going to be safe! I also feel sorry for the offending resident, because he surely doesn’t fully understand what he’s doing. It seems to me that sadly, the former cop is not appropriate for that unit. Something needs to change before he hurts himself, another resident or staff member. As long as he’s fully ambulatory, which it sounds like he is, and can easily walk all around the unit, the situation sounds very dangerous. I know communities don’t like to discharge residents, but perhaps they could meet with the family and offer to help them find a more appropriate setting for the former cop. They could give them an appropriate amount of time to find a new place.

    • Thank you! It is stressful, not knowing if Amy is okay. He is very ambulatory. Yesterday, another resident was defending herself from the former cop. A med tech had to break them up. He is no longer docile.

  3. It become very sad when our seniors get to the point of possibly no return with behavior relating to Alzheimers or Dementia, staff needs to have more of a one on one for combative senior residents even If it means hiring more care givers, it’s less cost effective to hire more care givers than to have mounting medical bills because of injury from one resident to another. Hope all work out for all concerned.

    • What is interesting is this: according to the administrator, we signed an informed consent as part of the residency agreement. She claims that it alone allows for independence of all the residents. As long as this guy can be redirected, he can stay. Why is she not protecting the 28 residents versus one sexually aggressive resident?

  4. Pathological agitated behavior is a reoccurring issue with many with dementia. If you haven’t heard of humanitude yet, we actually are able to stop all aggressive behaviors of people with dementia with our techniques. Many of the aggressive behaviors are triggered by anxiety. Great article Diane, please let the nursing home know of our training for there staff. The results are immediate.

    • She is not in skilled nursing. She is in a memory care community which is a licensed assisted living community. Sounds like you do great work.


  1. Sexually Aggressive in Memory Care?!!? | Diane Masson | Author, Speaker, Blogger & Senior Housing Expert - […] How do you keep your mom or dad safe in a memory care community or assisted living? A retired…