Articles Posted in Defining Elder Abuse

One of the largest generations in American history is beginning to transition into the elderly stage of human life.  In this stage, many people become less independent and, as a result, require assisted living and clinical care.  As aging individuals become dependents, they tend to lose their mobility.  Pressure ulcers are a direct result of the inability of a person to reposition their body unassisted.  In nursing homes and hospitals, elderly people are too often neglected and the price they pay can be severe.

Pressure Ulcers and Their Stages

Pressure ulcers (often referred to as bedsores, decubitus ulcers, and pressure sores) are a form of breakdown of the skin caused by prolonged and unalleviated pressure, incontinence, dirty or untidy bedsheets, and more.  Typically, they form in areas such as the heels, hips, buttocks, tailbone, shoulder blades, and elbows.  They are categorized based on severity:

Financial abuse of elders is an unfortunate reality. In fact, elders are often specifically targeted by criminals looking to commit fraud and identity theft. There are many ways to prevent fraud and identity theft. It is important for elders, or their loved ones, to monitor their credit, and regularly review account statements to try to prevent or stop financial abuse.

All Californians are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. To get your free annual credit report visit www.annualcreditreport.com. This federal government approved website will enable you to pull your credit, or the credit of a loved senior, and receive a full report once each year.

While one free credit search is made available each year, elders would be smart to check their credit 2 or 3 times per year. Credit reports typically cost less than $20, and provide invaluable peace of mind by confirming that unauthorized accounts have not been opened, nor have illegitimate items been charged.

In addition to obtaining regular credit reports, it’s a good idea to have duplicate copies of monthly account statements sent not only to the elder, but to their trusted Financial Advisor, attorney, CPA, or a trusted family member. This will provide additional confirmation that all charges appear accurate, nobody has acquired the account number, and it is not being used without the consent of the elder.

Warning signs of fraud on bank statements may include:

*Withdrawals from outside of the elder’s primary area residence;
*Repeated withdrawals, particularly if the elder spends most of their time at home; and
*Checks written to unusual or unfamiliar people, organizations, or stores.

Keeping an eye on credit is important for Californians of all ages. However, it is especially important to monitor credit statements and account balances for elders who may have declining mental capacities, or medical conditions such as dementia that put them at greater risk for becoming a victim of financial elder abuse.

If you suspect, or confirm that your loved elder is the victim of financial abuse in California there are certain steps you should take. You may report any suspicion of abuse to the National Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-677-1116. In California, reports can be made to the local county Adult Protective Services Agency or to local law enforcement.
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It is no secret that many people have difficulty asking others for help. Elders living in Southern California are no different. Even though physical and mental capabilities may start to diminish with aging, it is still not easy for many seniors to let others know they are struggling.

That is why it is up to all of us to keep an eye on aging family members or friends. Here is a list of warning signs that a senior you love may need help from family members or professionals.

  1. Abnormal or repeated phone calls If your grandmother, mother, father, or other elder family members begin making phone calls to you repeatedly, or at peculiar times of day, it may indicate confusion. It may also be a sign of memory loss, or could indicate that the elder is feeling lonely or depressed. If you notice these types of calls, try scheduling set calls with your loved one every day to see if they stick to those times and calls. If they don’t, it may be indicative of cognitive decline.

Southern California elders – particularly those residing in nursing homes, or skilled nursing facilities – are unfortunately prone to developing life-threatening bedsores. Bedsores, which are also known as pressure ulcers, can lead to a host of health problems, particularly in elders whose health may already be compromised. Similarly, because many elders may be confined to a bed or wheelchair, their risk for developing these sores is increased.

According to the Mayo Clinic:

People are at risk of developing pressure sores if they have difficulty moving and are unable to easily change position while seated or in bed. Immobility may be due to:

In California, financial elder abuse is defined in Welfare and Institutions Code Section 15610.30. The code states: “Financial abuse of an elder or dependent adult occurs when a person or entity… takes, secrets, appropriates, obtains, or retains [or assists in doing any of these] real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult for a wrongful purpose or with intent to defraud or both.”

Although financial abuse is far too prevalent, the best defense against opportunists who would seek to defraud elders out of their money, property or belongings, is preventing the abuse in the first place. Although there is no surefire way to ensure that your loved one’s finances are protected at all times, there are warning signs to look for, which can indicate that financial abuse is taking place.

In an effort to best protect a loved elder from financial abuse including a loss of their property, assets or money, be on the lookout for these warning signs that a caregiver, a family member or even a staff member at a California nursing home is victimizing elders:

According to WebMD, “Clinical depression in the elderly is common. That doesn’t mean it’s normal. Late-life depression affects about 6 million Americans age 65 and older. But only 10% receive treatment for depression.”

Depression in elders can be particularly troubling, as it tends to increase the likelihood of prolonged illnesses, and/or the onset of disease. WebMD states: “Depression in the elderly often increases their risk of cardiac diseases. Depression doubles an elderly person’s risk of cardiac diseases and increases their risk of death from illness. At the same time, depression reduces an elderly person’s ability to rehabilitate. Studies of nursing home patients with physical illnesses have shown that the presence of depression substantially increases the likelihood of death from those illnesses. Depression also has been associated with increased risk of death following a heart attack. For that reason, making sure that an elderly person you are concerned about is evaluated and treated is important, even if the depression is mild.”

Signs and symptoms of depression in elders may include:

The Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services have released “The Elder Justice Roadmap” on their website: www.hhs.org:

Supported by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Elder Justice Roadmap was developed by harnessing the expertise of hundreds of public and private stakeholders from across the country and by gathering their input. The goal of these expert summits was to identify the most critical priorities and concrete opportunities for greater public and private investment and engagement in elder abuse issues. The Elder Justice Roadmap reflects the knowledge and perspectives of these experts in the field and will be considered by the Elder Justice Coordinating Council and others in developing their own strategic plans to prevent and combat elder abuse.

“The Roadmap Project is an important milestone for elder justice,” said Associate Attorney General Tony West. “Elder abuse is a problem that has gone on too long, but the Roadmap Report released today can change this trajectory by offering comprehensive and concrete action items for all of the stakeholders dedicated to combating the multi-faceted dimensions of elder abuse and financial exploitation,” he explained. West continued, “While we have taken some important steps in the right direction, we must do more to prevent elder abuse from occurring in the first place and face it head on when it occurs.”

Opportunists continue to seek occasions to defraud elders out of money, and one of the many ways they continue to try to do it is through phone scams. In fact, according to the National Consumers League nearly 1/3 of phone fraud victims are over the age of 60. In recent years one of the newest scams involves a caller claiming to be from the IRS.

The scam works like this:

A caller impersonating an IRS employee will call and notify the resident that they owe a substantial amount of money in back taxes. They often then threaten the victim with an arrest warrant, or seizure of property if they do not pay the taxes immediately, via a pre-paid debit card, bringing a check to a particular location, wiring the money, or paying through PayPal. They often state from the start that the “debt” cannot be paid with a credit card.

Understaffing nursing homes is incredibly dangerous to adults over 65 residing in long-term care facilities such as Southern California nursing homes. That’s precisely why specific laws and regulations are in place which mandate proper staffing at 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 that nursing homes must provide a minimum of 3.2 nursing hours per patient per day.

Unfortunately, many facilities choose to ignore the California law. Even worse, the understaffing of nursing homes has been directly correlated to abuse and neglect of elders. Indeed, understaffing in California nursing homes leads to substandard care over and over again. Substandard care in nursing homes then leads to illness, injury, and too often, death.

Elders being admitted to a long-term care facility, such as a Southern California nursing home, are granted certain rights. These rights are protected by regulations on both the State and Federal level. Specifically, these rights are guaranteed by the California Code of Regulations, the California Health and Safety Codes, the California Welfare & Institutions Code, and the Code of Federal Regulations. All California elders entering into a nursing home are granted these rights by law.

Unfortunately, this does not mean their rights are protected and upheld by the facility and staff members. It is important that anyone considering placing an elder into a long-term care facility understands these rights. Rights are granted on pre-admission, while in residence, and transfer and discharge basis.

Pre-Admission Rights
As a potential resident of a long-term care facility, such as a California nursing home, residents’ rights are granted before being admitted. Each potential resident has the right to:

•Visit the facility
•Review the license and certification of the facility
•Review the admission agreement
•Inquire into cost of care, optional services and coverage provided by Medicare or Medi-Cal
•Be informed of all rights in a language that is understandable to the resident
•Be informed of the nursing home’s rules and regulations
•Review all contracts thoroughly before signing
•Be made aware of what basic services are included in cost, and what services are optional
•Be made aware of right to apply for Medicare or Medi-Cal, and be granted assistance in applying for this coverage
•Refuse to have a cosigner
•Refuse to provide a deposit, if you are the beneficiary of Medi-Cal or Medicare
•Refuse to delay rights to receive Medicare or Medi-Cal
•Refuse to sign an arbitration agreement
•Receive the Patient’s Bill of Rights

In-Residence Rights
Federal and State laws further guarantee residents of California nursing homes certain rights while living in the facility, including:

•The right to be treated with respect and dignity
•The right to privacy during treatment
•The right to privacy during personal care
•The right to choose your personal physician
•The right to participate in one’s own treatment planning and decision making
•The right to receive care to ensure proper personal hygiene
•The right to reside in a clean, sanitary facility
•The right to receive proper nutrition in quality and quantity as per physician’s recommendations
•The right to manage your own financial affairs
•The right to refuse care/treatment
•The right to make advance directives including power of attorney, DNR
•The right to voice grievances and/or suggest policy changes to the facility without fear of repercussions
•The right to make and receive phone calls privately
•The right to privacy in visits from family members and friends
•The right to be completely free from abuse, chemical restraints and physical restraints that are not medically required to treat patient’s symptoms
•The right to a monthly itemized bill
•The right to 30 days’ notice of increase in facility rates

Transfer & Discharge Rights

Elders being discharged or transferred from one facility to another, or to return to a private residence are also granted rights under California and Federal laws. Nursing home residents transferring, or being discharged are granted the following rights:

•The right to voluntary discharge without notice
•The right to refuse involuntary transfer except in an emergency
•The right to receive a refund of security deposit within 14 days of account being closed
•The right to remain in the nursing home if insurance transfers from private pay to Medicare or Medi-Cal
•The right to remain in the nursing home if nursing home withdraws from Medicare or Medi-cal
•The right to have a bed held for 7 days if resident is transferred to a hospital

The State of California and the United States Federal Government guarantees these rights and more to all residents of Southern California nursing homes. If these rights are being in any way restricted, or violated, it is time to speak with an elder abuse attorney about your next course of action.
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