California Elder Abuse Lawyer

Articles Posted in Reporting Elder Abuse

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Dementia 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 that 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 lostdementia-1.jpg
*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’s important to take action, though it’s advisable to tread lightly, per the helpful website DementiaToday.com, 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.
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If you have a loved elder in your life who doesn’t live near you, it can prove challenging to keep an eye on the care they are receiving in a nursing home, from an in-home caregiver, or even from another family member. For example, if you live in San Diego and your elderly mother or father lives in Northern California, you may find yourself worrying about their wellbeing because you can’t physically be there to check up on them as often as you’d like.

distance.jpgYour frustrations and/or concerns are warranted. Elder abuse in California is an epidemic, making it a harsh reality to face. However, there are a few things that you can do that may help calm your fears from the long distance.

First, stay in touch via phone. You can often pick up a lot about a person’s wellbeing via their tone. You may be able to detect tones of stress, or tell if they are sick. It’s not a bad idea to take notes during your call so you will be able to track any deterioration in cognition, or mood which may indicate a medical condition, neglect, or elder abuse.

It is also wise to learn as much as you can about your loved elder’s medical history, including any history of illness, current treatments they are receiving, and medications they are taking so that you can monitor recovery, and notify proper authorities if a loved elder residing in a California nursing home appears to be having difficulty recovering, or takes a noticeable turn for the worse.

You should consider trying to schedule doctor’s appointments, with your loved one, during the times that you are able to visit. If you are able to do so, bring any questions you have for the physician with you to the appointment. These may include questions about medications, drug interactions, possible side effects, dosages, and medication schedules.

You may even be able to obtain permission via consent from your loved elder to speak with their physician when necessary. A release form will need to be filled out, but this way you will be able to contact that physician with any concerns about your loved one, or to see if they have been seen for any unexplained injuries, bruising, or signs of neglect, including malnutrition or dehydration.

It is important to note that even if you live far away from your loved elder, you should always report any suspicions of mistreatment, neglect, physical abuse, mental or emotional abuse that you suspect. You should report suspicions or signs of abuse in San Diego to:

• 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.
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According to The National Center on Elder Abuse it is estimated that between two to five million elderly Americans suffer from some form of elder abuse each year. Elder abuse occurs in many forms including physical, emotional, psychological, financial abuse, neglect, abandonment or sexual abuse.

max_2536021b.jpgIn truly disturbing news, it is believed that 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%.

In the United States, a separate study found that caregivers abused and or neglected elders with dementia at the alarming rate of more than 47%. The type of abuse that elders suffering from dementia are most likely to experience include verbal abuse, physical abuse and neglect.

We are clearly in the midst of an epidemic, when it comes to elder abuse, meaning that it is vital that we all pay attention, watch for warning signs, and speak up if we believe that any elder is being abused in any regard. Whether an elder is residing in a nursing home, skilled nursing facility, assisted living, or even within his or her own home, if you suspect an elder in San Diego County is being victimized, it is your duty to speak up.

If you suspect any form of abuse, report it immediately to:
• 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, or the Eldercare Locator help line at 1-800-677-1116.

All elders in California nursing homes have the right to quality care and attention, regardless of their age or health status. If those rights are denied, abuse must be reported. For tips on reporting suspected neglect and/or abuse in a California nursing home, the Justice Department has a helpful citizen’s guide that can be found at the following by clicking here.
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