California Elder Abuse Lawyer

Each year, more than one in three seniors in San Diego sustain falls and serious injuries. In some instances, falls are the result of elder or nursing home abuse and/or neglect. But in other instances, falls are purely accidental.

More and more elders (defined by California statute as those over the age of 65) are choosing to reside in their own home versus living in an assisted living facility or with relatives. Although there are wonderful reasons to live in your own home as long as possible, it’s important to note that elders are at risk of suffering injuries from a fall, which often times could have been prevented.

Typically, falls are responsible for 60% of in-home injuries. However, statistics show that programs to help prevent falls in the home are effective.

A diet made up of healthy foods is necessary to maintain health and well-being. It can also help reduce factors that can contribute to falls.

Some common conditions, which may lead to elders falling in a Southern California nursing home include:

  • Dehydration

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-300x238-386x386.jpgAlthough 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.
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elder-abuse-surveillanceRecently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) jointly introduced a publication regarding Elder Abuse. The publication states, “[it] is intended to serve as a starting point for advancing surveillance, research, and practice aimed at preventing” Elder Abuse.

What This Means

The report, titled Elder Abuse Surveillance: Uniform Definitions and Recommended Core Data Elements, does several things for defining Elder Abuse, including:

senior-walletA recent study that appeared in the latest edition of the Public Policy & Aging Report (PP&AR)—a publication of the National Academy on an Aging Society—has concluded that major financial institutions, like banks and insurance companies, can do much more to help prevent senior financial abuse.

In its coverage of the new study, ConsumerAffairs.com reports that both the financial abuse of seniors, as well as cognitive decline in the elderly, cause a negative and serious impact on the economy. Inaction on the part of banks and insurance companies, the study concludes, poses a serious threat to the health of the U.S. financial sector. According to Editor-in-Chief of PP&AR Robert Hudson, the problems of senior financial abuse and age-related impairment are “assuming remarkably large personal, monetary, and social dimensions. Elder abuse involves millions of individuals and billions of dollars. It damages health, harms wellbeing, and arguably costs lives.”

A different set of findings, authored by The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse, estimates the monetary loses that result from senior abuse—as documented in 2010 alone—could amount to a staggering figure of at least $2.9 billion dollars. “Ironically, the age group that has amassed the most wealth over the longest period of accumulation is simultaneously at the greatest risk of financial self-impoverishment and exploitation by others,” Daniel Marson of PP&AR commented.

In June 2015, the Alameda County Courthouse ruled on a case involving Health and Safety Code §1418.8. As of January 2016, a final judgment was ordered calling the outdated health code “unconstitutional.”

The Advocates

The case, brought by statewide, non-profit advocates CANHR (California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform), is a critical first step toward nursing home reform. CANHR, through advocacy, education, and legislation (and litigation when necessary) fights to “create a unified voice for long term care reform and humane alternatives to institutionalization.”

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2010 nearly 6 million cases of elder abuse were reported in the United States. That means that nearly 10% of the elderly population reported being physically, financially or emotionally abused. Unfortunately, these statistics probably only represent a fraction of the actual cases of elder abuse, as the NCEA estimates that only 1 of 14 cases of elder abuse is ever reported.

According to the same study, neglect accounts for almost 60% of reported elder abuse cases. Neglect is a form of abuse wherein a caregiver fails to provide an elderly resident with basic needs including food, water, medical assistance, shelter, personal hygiene products and so on. While some forms of neglect such as bed sores may be obvious (and life threatening); other symptoms of neglect may be more difficult to detect.

Here is a partial list of warning signs or symptoms that an elder you love may be suffering from neglect in a nursing home.

Drinking Water.jpg

While it would seem to require little effort to avoid these conditions, malnutrition and dehydration are alarmingly prevalent in California long-term care facilities. They often occur together, and if left untreated can result in serious physical harm to the individual, including debilitating weakness and significant weight loss, both of which can lead to death. Malnutrition and dehydration can also indirectly lead to other conditions, such as bed sores and renal failure.

Malnutrition

Malnutrition among the elderly is on the rise. According to one report, roughly 60% of hospitalized elderly persons, and anywhere from 35% to 85% of those in nursing homes, are suffering from malnutrition. A recent study found that 97% of elderly patients surveyed were malnourished, or were at risk of becoming malnourished, but only 19% were diagnosed, and of these a mere 7% were referred to a dietician.

While in some cases malnutrition results from a caregiver’s intentional malicious act, in many instances nursing homes are so dangerously understaffed that nurses are unable to complete daily tasks such as delivering meals to their residents’ bedsides. In many nursing homes, staff and other health care professionals are not sufficiently trained to identify the symptoms.

The risk of malnutrition is especially acute for residents who are incapable of feeding themselves. In an understaffed nursing home, the time required to feed these patients is too costly, and trays of food are sometimes delivered to a patient’s bedside, only to remain untouched because a staff member is unable to personally feed the patient.

Dehydration

Dehydration results when the body loses more water than it takes in. An eight percent reduction in fluid levels can cause illness, whereas a ten percent reduction can be fatal. The elderly are extremely susceptible to dehydration due to the incremental decrease in bodily fluids that accompanies aging. Compounding the problem is the fact that the aging body can make the symptoms difficult to discern. So even in those cases where a nursing home is properly staffed, dehydration may still go undetected because a nurse may not be sufficiently trained to notice the condition.

It does not take much for an elderly person to become dehydrated. Brief periods with no water, rooms with slightly elevated temperatures, and increases in body temperature can lead to dehydration. Additionally, elderly patients are often prescribed diuretic medications, such as those for heart disease, kidney disease, and liver disease, requiring that more fluids be added to their daily intake to prevent dehydration. The elderly also sometimes lose their ability to identify when they are thirsty, and thus are unable to alert a nurse of their need for water.

As with food, water is in many cases delivered to the elderly patient’s bedside, only to go untouched because the staff is too busy to administer it to patients who need assistance with drinking. In other cases, patients are left in warm rooms, causing elevated body temperatures.
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grandmother.jpgAs more and more Californians reach their Golden Years, many face the horror of dealing with neglect in their long term care facilities such as nursing homes. According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the growth of the elderly (age 60 and over) in California is expected to be twice as fast as the total population and the oldest group (age 85 and over) is projected to increase faster than that. This means increasing numbers of the elderly will end up being placed in nursing homes.

While many long term care facilities provide excellent care, others subject their patients to some form of neglect or elder abuse. Some of the most common signs of neglect or elder abuse are dehydration, loss of appetite, pressure (bed) sores, bruises, broken bones and markings from restraints, among other things. The California Welfare & Institutions Code, Section 15610.57, addresses “neglect” in part by saying that it is the negligent failure to exercise the degree of care a reasonable person would have exercised had they had the care and custody of an elderly person. This would include the failure to protect that person from dehydration, bed sores, falls, other injuries caused by safety or health hazards and any type of injury that does not fit the explanation provided by the staff.

Under California law, many are charged with the duty to report indications of elder abuse to the Adult Protective Service Agency (APS) in every county, including doctors and other medical professionals, employees of nursing homes and others who care for the elderly. Unfortunately, this law is not apt to be followed by the nursing home staff or physicians whose neglect might have led to the injuries. For example, bed sores are caused by pressure against the skin that reduces the blood supply causing ulcers and ultimately death of the tissue. These usually are found on the back area, the tailbone, shoulders, hips, elbows and heels but are preventable by providing padding with pillows or foam support pads, frequent changing of the patient’s position, sheepskin and powdered sheets. Likewise, falls and other preventable injuries are often covered up by writing an incident report and doctoring records. Since elders in nursing homes are essentially isolated from the outside world and often have reduced mental capacity, they are easily manipulated to believe what they are told. Therefore, it is of utmost importance for family members, relatives, visitors and others to make note of any warning signs of neglect or abuse of their friends or loved ones in nursing homes.
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945156_wheelchair.jpgAs we age and certain everyday tasks become more difficult, we become more dependent upon the care of other people. These may be members of the family, in-home caregivers, or caregivers at a nursing facility. While many caregivers are skilled and dedicated, too often there are those who mistreat the people in their care. The result is that elder abuse is one of the most widespread forms of abuse.

Elder abuse generally falls into three categories that frequently overlap: physical, emotional, and financial abuse. Physical abuse can range from active harm by the caregiver to physical neglect. Emotional abuse may include intimidation through threats or yelling, routine humiliation, blaming or scapegoating, ignoring the elderly person, or terrorizing that person. Financial abuse can range from stealing the person’s money outright to misusing his or her credit cards and personal checks. Elderly people are especially vulnerable to telemarketing scams and identity theft. A lonely elderly person might crave attention, even from a stranger over the phone — leading him or her to give out personal information that the thief uses to steal credit card numbers and wipe out savings accounts.

Why is elder abuse so widespread? In many cases, unscrupulous people look to take advantage of those who are vulnerable. In other cases, care facilities may lack staff that is properly trained. Many family members also lack proper training and are generally overwhelmed by having to care for someone with significant physical and mental needs. Nonetheless, elder abuse is a crime and should be reported as quickly as possible. If you suspect an elderly neighbor of being abused, you can also find a California elder law attorney to obtain relief in a physical or financial abuse situation.

Here are the top 10 signs of elder abuse:

1. The person shows signs of physical trauma, such as burn marks, unexplained bruises and welts, and injuries that often don’t match the explanation.

2. The person acts withdrawn, depressed, and fearful to talk openly.

3. You cannot get in touch with the person because he or she is being isolated from the community, especially family or friends.

4. The person shows signs of poor personal hygiene, such as bad odor or dirty, matted hair.

5. The person shows signs of being malnourished, dehydrated, or of having an untreated medical condition.

6. The person’s living conditions are unsanitary.

7. The person’s bank account shows signs of withdrawals when the person cannot access the bank.

8. The person’s signature on checks and other financial statements does not match the person’s signature on other recent documents.

9. The person’s spending patterns change, resulting in the purchase of items the person does not need or normally would not buy.

10. The person’s will undergoes suspicious changes, such as changing the primary beneficiary to a caregiver who is not part of the family.
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