California Elder Abuse Lawyer

slip-and-fallOne of the most common dangers that the elderly encounter in nursing home settings is the potential for falls. According to the CDC, approximately 1,800 elderly adults die each year from fall-related injuries, while those that suffer from injuries as the result of a fall experience a long-term reduction in their quality of life or lasting handicaps and disabilities.

While 2% to 6% of elderly nursing home residents suffer fractures as the result of a fall, 10% to 20% of all elderly falls result in injuries more serious in nature–from cognitive disabilities and post-injury anxiety to an overall decline in both physical and mental health.

One way to prevent a tragic fall from occurring is to arm your self with vital information regarding the common causes that elders fall, and ways to prevent a fall from occurring altogether.

What causes elderly falls?

• About 24% of falls experienced by seniors in nursing homes are the result of larger problems with mobility and muscle weakness.

• Nursing home environmental hazards are often to blame for an elder resident’s fall, including: insufficient lighting, wet floors, bed height that has not been properly adjusted, faulty or poorly maintained wheelchair or walking instruments, and/or disabled residents left unattended for long periods of time.

• Certain medications may also increase the potential for a serious fall to occur. Certain sedatives, muscle relaxants, anti-depressants, and anti-anxiety medications may affect an elder resident’s ability to safely navigate their surroundings, significantly increasing the risk of a fall.

• Improper footwear or injury to the legs, ankles, or feet may also result in a fall if an elder resident is not properly outfitted and trained with the appropriate walking assistance tools, or if they are not adequately assisted by nursing home staff.

How do we prevent elders from falling in nursing homes?

• Addressing any underlying medical conditions, like muscle weakness, dementia, immobility, or other injuries or cognitive impairments may prevent falls and ensuing injury from occurring.

• Ensuring that nursing home staff is properly trained to recognize reduced physical and cognitive ability in residents, and are equipped to assist in residents’ mobility may reduce the risk of falls and related injuries.

• Hip pads are an effective tool that reduce the chances of a fracture should a fall occur.

• Instituting monitored, appropriate exercise regimens can improve the overall health and mobility of nursing home residents, building muscle strength and improving overall mobility.

If you or an elderly loved one has suffered a fall while residing in a nursing home, contact a knowledgeable and experienced elder abuse attorney in San Diego who can advise you of your rights and options.

If you are concerned that a friend, family member, or loved one has been suffering from nursing home abuse or negligence, or has been injured as a result of a fall, contact an experienced California elder abuse lawyer to evaluate your case and advise you on your next steps. San Diego Elder Abuse Lawyer, Christopher Walton, has built a reputation for providing compassionate and strong advocacy for victims of elder abuse and their families. Call (619) 233-0011 for a confidential consultation.

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA) “financial scams targeting seniors have become so prevalent that they’re now considered the crime of the 21st century.” There are all types of financial fraud including, investment schemes, lottery scams, funeral scams, and telemarketing fraud. Telemarketing fraudsters often try to sell low-cost vitamins, health care products, cheap vacations, and “free” prizes. Trying to scam an elderly person over the phone, gives the perpetrator the advantage of anonymity as well as the element of surprise.

Elder-on-phone-300x238-386x386Although anyone can be a victim of telemarketing fraud, the senior citizen community is especially vulnerable. What makes them susceptible and why are they being targeted?

• They may make poor witnesses – an elderly person may not remember the details of the conversation clearly.

• They are reluctant to report – often times crimes go completely unreported, due to embarrassment of the situation or because the victim isn’t aware of any resources to seek help.

• They have a retirement savings and great credit – a retiree usually has very little debt and a sizeable nest egg, making them prime candidates for financial elder abuse.

• They are polite and trusting – a senior may not want to appear rude to the caller, hesitating to hang up or say no, especially if the caller is adamant.

• They have hope – fraudsters feed on an elderly person’s desire to be healthy and stay young, offering anti-aging products or “miracle drugs.”

What can be done to avoid fraud?

• Never, ever send money to “pay the taxes” on a free prize. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, “if a caller tells you the payment is for taxes, he or she is violating federal law.”

• Avoid dealing with unfamiliar companies, and if you do, check with organizations like the Better Business Bureau.

• Never give out unsolicited personal information over the phone like social security numbers, credit card numbers, or bank account information.

• Be cautious when considering donations to charity. Many organizations are legitimate, but many are not. A little bit of research now could save a lot of trouble later.

• Be informed! Gather as much information as possible about the company or person you’re considering doing business with.

• Don’t be afraid to say, “No, thank you,” and hang up. It’s okay to tell the caller “No,” even if he/she doesn’t want to take no for an answer.

It’s important to be diligent and discerning when handling telemarketing calls; awareness of fraudulent activity is the best protection against it. Also, reporting potential fraud in a timely manner can minimize the damage and help prevent someone else from becoming a victim.

If you suspect that a friend, family member, or loved one has been the victim of financial elder abuse, contact an experienced California elder abuse lawyer to help evaluate your case and advise you how to proceed. Award winning, and peer recognized elder abuse attorney Christopher Walton has years of experience providing caring, compassionate representation to victims of elder abuse and their families. Call (619) 233-0011 for a confidential consultation.

Elderly woman in pain

Psychological abuse, also referred to as emotional abuse, can be difficult to notice at first glance. The damage often reveals itself in the form of changed behavior, as opposed to physical bruises and marks. It’s important to know that abuse can happen anywhere the elderly person resides, even in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, and can be sustained by any type of caregiver (paid, unpaid; professional, amateur). The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), directed by the U.S. Administration on Aging, states, “most cases of elder abuse are perpetrated by known and trusted others, particularly family members (including children, spouses, and others).”

Examples of psychological abuse by caregivers, friends, or even family:

• Screaming or yelling;
• Intimidation via threat of punishment;
• Isolation from family, friends, or other social activities;
• Verbal abuse such as harassment, name-calling, embarrassment, and cursing; and
• Punishment, or threat of punishment, using terror or confinement (tied to a bed/chair for long periods of time or locked in a closet).

What are some signs that an abused elderly person might display?

• Changes in sleeping or eating habits;
• Low self esteem;
• Feelings of defeat, hopelessness, or fear;
• Unusual mood swings;
• Isolation from usual groups and activities;
• Expressions of self-inflicted hurt or attempted suicide;
• Avoiding eye contact; and
• Avoiding talking about possible abuse or the abusive caregiver.

Elder abuse and elder neglect often go hand in hand. Neglect can be both physical and psychological, both of which are incredibly emotionally damaging to the elderly adult. For example, an abusive caregiver might refuse to respond to calls for help, or provide routine physical care, leaving the senior feeling fearful, helpless, and abandoned. Seniors are especially vulnerable to this type of abuse and neglect due to their deteriorated mental and/or physical state, total dependence on a caregiver, fear of abandonment and the perception of a lack of resources needed to seek help. It’s this vulnerability that makes it so important for suspected psychological abuse to be reported immediately.

If you suspect that a friend, family member or loved one is the victim of psychological abuse, contact an experienced California elder abuse lawyer to help evaluate your case and advise you how to proceed. Award winning, and peer recognized elder abuse attorney Christopher Walton has years of experience providing caring, compassionate representation to victims of elder abuse and their families. Call (619) 233-0011 for a confidential consultation.

Orlando-Nursing-Home-Abuse-Attorney.jpgAccording to a recent study conducted by Cornell University, 1 in 5 nursing home residents suffer abuse at the hands of their fellow residents. The study is the first of its kind in collecting data on resident-to-resident abuse. The behaviors observed in the study include physical and sexual violence, verbal aggression and hostility, invasions of privacy, and other negative and inappropriate interactions.

Using data gathered from more than 2000 nursing home residents across ten different facilities, researchers determined that those that perpetrated these abusive behaviors were often cognitively impaired, but more mobile than their fellow residents. Over a four-week period, Cornell researchers observed and interviewed elder residents, and distilled statistical data from reports and questionnaires completed by staff:

• 16% of nursing home residents have been victims of verbal abuse from other residents, including instances of swearing and yelling.
• 10.5% of elderly nursing home patients report invasive behavior from other residents, such as un-permitted room entry and rifling through the personal possessions of others.
• 6% have suffered from physical abuse, like hitting, kicking, and/or biting.
• 1.3% reported sexual abuse, including indecent exposure, inappropriate contact, and efforts to exact sexual favors.

Presenting at the Gerontological Society of America’s Annual Scientific Meeting in 2014, Dr. Karl Pillemer noted that resident-on-resident abuse is “widespread and common in everyday nursing home life,” and that elderly residents suffering from conditions like dementia may act out with “verbally or physically aggressive behavior,” resulting in “arguments, shouting matches, and pushing and shoving, particularly in such close, crowded quarters.”

A particularly troubling aspect of this study is the lack of action on the part of nursing home staff. Across the country, including in San Diego and the surrounding Southern California area, elders suffer frequent abuse of all kinds from their fellow nursing home residents, and staff reports only a fraction of these altercations. Police are sometimes called to handle instances of theft or assault between residents, but many elderly nursing home residents lack a personal advocate to ensure that justice is delivered and their best interests are served.

If you suspect that your loved one in the San Diego or Southern California area is suffering from elder abuse, either from fellow residents in his/her nursing home or from nursing home staff, take action. Get in contact with a trusted professional who can assess your case and ensure that no abuse is ever repeated. Have your concerns addressed and resolved by a knowledgeable and experienced San Diego nursing home abuse attorney.
Continue reading

takemedicine.jpgSociety erroneously assumes prescription medication is only abused by the younger generations. Studies show, however, prescription drug abuse plagues men and women of all ages, including the elderly.

According to an article in the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Persons aged 65 years and older comprise only 13 percent of the population, yet account for more than one-third of total outpatient spending on prescription medications in the United States.” The article goes on to suggest that there are several ways in which an elderly person can abuse prescribed medication, such as:

• Abusing medication prescribed to a friend or family member in order to save money.
• Alternatively, the elder person has his/her medication taken by a friend or family member and running out of his/her supply early.
• Taking the incorrect dosage or type of medication to do mental decline.

Awareness is everyone’s responsibility, so be vigilant. There are cues that family, friends, and caregivers can recognize in order to intervene and get help as early as possible.

What should we be looking for?

• A loved one is showing signs of an unhealthy relationship with their medication, such as:

– Frequently talking about medicine

– A fear of running out or not having enough medication

– Taking a defensive stance after you ask about the medication

– Taking more than the prescribed amount or taking more often than prescribed

– Hiding or hoarding pills

• A loved one’s behavior and mood is changing, even if it seems associated with “old age” or illness. This could be a sign of chemical dependency.

• A past history of drug/alcohol abuse can make a person more susceptible.

If you suspect a loved one is abusing prescription medication, take action and talk to someone about it. A good first step is to contact the doctor prescribing the medication. He or she can help verify and/or validate your concerns, allowing you to take further action, if necessary.
Continue reading

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, 27% of the 1.5 million Baby Boomers who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender worry about discrimination as they age. Unfortunately, research from the National Center on Elder Abuse shows that LGBT elders do suffer from higher rates of abuse and neglect compared to their non-LGBT elderly peers.

In surveying nearly 500 lesbian, gay, or lesbian nursing home residents aged 60 years and older, the National Center on Elder Abuse determined, “prejudice and hostility encountered by LGBT elder persons in institutional care facilities create difficult environments” and may result in physical and verbal abuse from other residents and nursing home staff.
th-thumb-300x199-96247Statistical data from the study reveals that:

• 65% of respondents experienced victimization because of their sexual orientation, including verbal abuse, threats of violence, physical and sexual assault, and threats of their orientation being disclosed to others.

• 29% of respondents had been physically assaulted, with men three times more likely to be the victim of a physical assault.

These verbal, sexual, physical, and discriminatory attacks often cause elderly victims to experience significant declines in mental health and quality of life. The study also revealed caregivers of the elderly might not be accepting of their charge’s sexual orientation and then respond with abusive behavior.

Based on a survey of 3,500 LGBT elders 55 and older, the National Center on Elder Abuse discovered that:

• 8.3% of LGBT elders were abused or purposefully neglected because of homophobia by caregivers.

• 8.9% of LGBT elders were threatened with or experienced blackmail or financial exploitation as a result of homophobia by caregivers.

• Sometimes nursing home staff goes so far as to deny visitors for an elderly LGBT resident, or bar partners from sharing a room and/or participating in medical decision making.

The National Academy on an Aging Society reports, “many LGBT older adults are at high risk for elder abuse, neglect, and various forms of exploitation because [they are] living in isolation and fear of the discrimination they could encounter in aging setting.”

If you reside in the San Diego or surrounding Southern California area and suspect that your loved one is suffering from abuse, discrimination, or other negative treatment by nursing home staff or fellow residents, take action. You may consider contacting an Ombudsman or the Department of Public Health.
Continue reading

Counting Money.jpgAccording to a recent article by Wells Fargo Advisors, “Older Americans are losing about $2.9 billion every year to people who take advantage of their vulnerabilities – and that’s only for the cases that are actually reported…it’s occurring more frequently every year.” Additionally, it is reported that 34% of the perpetrators are family, friends, and neighbors of the elderly person.

That’s a scary statistic, and it’s our responsibility to try to protect our elderly parents and grandparents from becoming victims of financial elder abuse. The abuse often times starts out small, infrequent, and can happen over a long period of time. The culprit is attempting to go under the radar. Other times, the abuse is out of the blue, quick, wiping the victim’s account clean. Both methods are devastating.

Does that mean we should suspect all friends and family? Not necessarily, but there are some warning signs to be on the look out for:

• Your loved one’s caregiver or friend is taking a special interest in their financial paperwork, including accessing bank statements, insurance policies, and passwords.
• Increased account activity like large or unusual cash withdrawals, transfers, or loans.
• Changes in trusts, wills, or fiduciary accounts, including transferring title or assets to another person.
• Your loved one’s sudden increase, or decrease, in desire to spend time with family and friends.
• A reluctance to talk about finances at all or a fear regarding his/her finances.
• The elderly person starts having valuable personal items come up “missing”.
• Negative changes in your loved one’s behavior, mood, appearance, or mental and/or physical ability.

Many people are able to manage their finances themselves without outside help from a fiduciary or another person acting on their behalf. Sometimes appointing a fiduciary is necessary when a person becomes unable to financially take care of him/herself. The fiduciary can be anyone from a trusted family member or friend to a neutral, knowledgeable party like an attorney or other expert.
Continue reading

According to multiple sources, including the Center for Medicare Advocacy, for-profit nursing homes are far more likely to provide insufficient quality of care for residents than non-profit nursing homes.

The Center for Medicare Advocacy’s website, which sites numerous studies, showed:

“Extensive research finds that the type of nursing home ownership and sponsorship affects the quality of care that facilities provide to their residents.”

More specifically, the research concluded in 2011, via the first-ever analysis of the ten largest for-profit nursing home chains, reported between 2003 and 2008, “facilities owned by the top ten for-profit chains had:

• The lowest staffing levels;
• The highest number of deficiencies identified by public regulatory agencies; and
• The highest number of deficiencies causing harm or jeopardy to residents.”

In fact, after more than 80 studies were reviewed and analyzed, comparing the quality of care in for-profit and not-for-profit nursing facilities. Results conclusively showed not-for-profit facilities had better outcomes on four key measures of quality:

• More or higher quality staffing;
• Lower prevalence of pressure ulcers;
• Lower prevalence of restraints; and
• Fewer government-cited deficiencies.

When it comes to choosing a California nursing home for your loved elder, it is vital that you research the facility thoroughly. Understaffing in nursing homes is incredibly dangerous to California elders residing in long-term care facilities. That is precisely why specific laws and regulations have been put in place which mandate proper staffing of long-term care facilities.

Under California law, “The facility shall employ an adequate number of qualified personnel to carry out all of the functions of the facility,” Health & Safety Code § 1599.1(a). Moreover, Health & Safety Code §1276.5-1276.65 mandates nursing homes must provide a minimum of 3.2 nursing hours per patient per day.

Unfortunately, many facilities choose to ignore this California law. Even worse, understaffing at nursing homes have been directly correlated to abuse, neglect, and substandard care of elders. Before selecting a nursing home for your loved elder ask plenty of questions, and conduct your due diligence. A checklist of questions you should ask about the Southern California nursing home you’re considering for your loved elder can be found here.

If you believe that someone you know has been abused while residing in a California Nursing Home, contact an award-winning elder abuse attorney today.
Continue reading

holding hands.pngDementia is described by the Alzheimer’s Association as “an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.” Indeed, there are a variety of types of dementia, depending upon the types of brain cells damaged, and where specifically that damage has occurred within the brain.

Regardless of the type of dementia an elder may have, it is important that symptoms are recognized as soon as possible in order to ensure the safety and wellbeing of your loved elder. Even if an elder is receiving care or assistance from a family member, in-home caregiver, or residing in a nursing home or skilled nursing facility, it is still vital to recognize symptoms of mental decline in elders. This is partly due to the fact that unfortunately, it is believed elders who suffer from some form of dementia are thought to be at greater risk for abuse or neglect than elders who do not have some form of dementia.

In fact, according to one research brief released by the NCEA, three different international studies have found that the rates of elder abuse for elders with dementia ranges from 34%-62%.

Symptoms that a loved elder in your life may be developing dementia include cognitive changes and psychological changes. Some of these changes may include:

*Memory loss/problems
*Trouble choosing the right words
*Disorientation or getting lost
*Challenges in planning/organizing
*Coordination or motor function difficulties
*Agitation or paranoia
*Inappropriate behavior
*Lack of proper personal care and poor nutrition/eating habits
*Difficulty sleeping
*Injuries/personal safety problems

If you believe that a loved elder in your life is beginning to show symptoms of dementia, it is important to take action, though it’s advisable to tread lightly, per the helpful website, which provides excellent tips for how to talk to a loved elder about your concerns.

If you have reason to believe that a loved elder with dementia is being abused physically, financially, psychologically, or sexually, it is important that you report your suspicions to the proper authorities:

• The local Law Enforcement, including the Police, Sheriff, and District Attorney’s office. The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department can be reached at (858) 565-5200. The San Diego County District Attorney may be reached at (619) 531-4040.
• Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program provide a 24/7 Crisis Complaint Hotline at (800) 231-4024.
• Adult Protective Services (APS), in San Diego County, you may contact: San Diego County Aging and Independent Services (858) 495-5660.

You may also want to seek the advice of an experienced San Diego elder abuse attorney who can inform you and your loved one of your rights.
Continue reading

An investigation by ABC 10 in Sacramento has unveiled that powerful tranquilizers are being over prescribed to nursing home residents who are diagnosed with dementia. In fact, studies by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in conjunction with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) show that 33% of elders in nursing homes, who are diagnosed with dementia are actually prescribed antipsychotic medication, in spite of the fact that the FDA has warned that certain types of these drugs can prove fatal to elders. Death is most often the result of heart failure/cardiac disorders.

All the same, the data from those studies shows that these powerful drugs are far too often prescribed when they are not warranted. This practice, known as chemical restraint, or over-drugging of elders in nursing homes in California is a form of abuse, and is illegal.
Chemical restraining of elders is most often done to sedate residents, but in worst cases has been utilized as a means of punishing and/or intentionally abusing elders.

pills.jpgSymptoms that an elder is being over-drugged, or prescribed an anti-psychotic inside a California nursing home include:

*Extreme lethargy, sleepiness, and/or confusion.

*Noticeable and extreme behavioral changes.

*Sudden unexplained changes in overall health.

Elder abuse in California is both a criminal and civil offense. Criminal elder abuse describes the willful infliction of physical or emotional suffering on an elder. Civil elder abuse includes any physical or financial abuse, neglect, or abandonment resulting in physical or mental harm.
Continue reading