Articles Posted in Elder Abuse

By law, the staff members employed by California nursing homes are required to report health changes observed in the elders residing in their facilities. Unfortunately, all too often these changes are unreported. The change in condition of a resident may not be reported for a variety of reasons, including fear that the nursing home be may fined for understaffing, or neglecting California elders residing within the facility. In other cases, a resident who has experienced a rapid deterioration in condition, may indicate that isolation, neglect, or even abuse is occurring within a facility.

Failure to report changes in condition to an elder’s doctor and family members is a violation of the law.

Changes in an elder’s condition which must be reported may include, but is not limited to:

Isolation is a form of Elder Abuse in California, per California Penal Code §15610.43. Elder abuse is a violation of the rights of elders by those charged with caring for them in facilities, such as California nursing homes. California nursing homes are required to provide reasonable care, and any intent to do otherwise constitutes a criminal action.

Elder Isolation may include:

*Any intentional actions, which prevent an elder resident from making or receiving phone calls, or having contact with family and friends outside of their residential, nursing facility.

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:

For many Californians the time comes when their loved elderly parent or family member may need some help within their home. Whether they need help with meal preparation, personal health and hygiene, or just some help around the home and with errands, finding the right person to care for your elder can be stressful.

Types of in-home caregivers for elders may range from a weekly housekeeper to a certified nursing assistant, or skilled care worker. The range of services provided may be cleaning the home, dispensing medication, helping the elder with transportation, or home care workers may help with personal care such as bathing, and monitoring overall health.

Once you determine the type of care your loved elder needs, there are many places to find compassionate, qualified in-home caregivers. Consider beginning your search by asking for referrals from friends and family, or from a doctor specializing in senior care. You can also check job postings such as those found in the newspaper, or online on sites including www.Caring.com.

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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Millions of elders will fracture, or break, a bone each year. Falls are the leading cause of broken bones in those over 65, and one out of three elders will fall each year. Unfortunately, falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries to seniors. In this post, we will focus on nonfatal injuries only.

In a best-case scenario, a fall will be nothing more than painful, but in many cases involving elders, a fall will cause a bone fracture. In fact, millions of elders suffer bone fractures each year. Hip fractures in particular are especially dangerous to those over 65. Yet according to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2010 there were 258,000 hospital admissions for hip fractures among people aged 65 and older.

As people grow older bones naturally become weaker, allowing fractures to occur from gentle movement and regular overuse. Yet, broken bones can also result from improper care, abuse and/or neglect within a Southern California nursing home.

It can be difficult to determine whether a broken bone in an elder was the result of normal activity or caused by abuse or neglect in a Southern California nursing home. That is why it is vitally important to determine the type of fracture. There are three types of fractures that elders may sustain. A stress fracture would occur naturally, as they are merely tiny cracks in bones that appear over time as the result of repetitive motion, movement, or overuse. Nursing home staff need to be aware of any stress fractures in elder residents to assure the fracture is treated properly and to prevent further injury.

Compression or spontaneous fractures can occur without trauma, and are typically caused by osteoporosis. Normal daily activities, such as walking, may cause a compression fracture in an elderly adult due to weakening bones. Common compression fractures appear in the hips and/or spine.

Traumatic fractures in elders are caused by an injury. In most cases, a traumatic fracture is the result of a fall. However, traumatic fractures may also indicate elder abuse. Neglect of a resident may be to blame for the elder falling; in cases where they were improperly medicated, and lost balance, for example. Abuse may indicate failure of the nursing home staff to properly investigate the cause of the injury, and/or failure to properly follow up with a medical visit after the fall.

It is vitally important for any nursing home resident who experiences a fall to have a thorough medical evaluation following the accident. The most common fractures that elders suffer as the result of a fall include breaks in the spine, hip, forearm, leg, ankle, upper arm, hand, and pelvis.
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