As 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.