Articles Posted in Residents’ Rights

In our last post, we suggested tips for confirming that a potential skilled nursing facility or residential nursing home has the appropriate staff to address the needs of elders with dementia. To recap, dementia is a syndrome in which there is deterioration in memory, behavior and thinking. This causes many who suffer from dementia to lose the ability to perform their regular activities. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, though there are multiple types of dementia.

Elders suffering from dementia need special care when they move into a long term care facility such as a California nursing home. If you are considering helping to move a loved one with dementia into a nursing home, there are specific questions you will want to ask about the services provided for your loved one.

Questions should include:

According to the World Health Organization, dementia is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people. Dementia, which is a syndrome in which there is a deterioration in memory, behavior and thinking, causes many who suffer from it to lose the ability to perform their regular activities.

Elders are stricken with dementia far more than any other age group. In many cases, dementia can lead to an elder moving into a longterm care residence, such as a nursing home. If you or someone you know is considering placing an elder suffering from dementia in the care of a nursing facility in California, there are certain questions you’ll want to ask of the facility.

In this post, we will specifically talk about what to look for in terms of the staff of a skilled nursing facility or nursing home. In a subsequent article, we’ll talk about other facility services you’ll want to inquire about.

For many families the decision to help a loved one move into a long-term care facility is difficult. With elder abuse cases on the rise, it is understandable if you have concerns about a particular nursing home that you’re considering for yourself or your loved one.

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Although the decision may be necessary, you’ll obviously want to ensure that you’ve selected the most reputable facility available. To help you in the process of searching for the perfect long-term care facility for your loved ones, here is a list of helpful questions to ask of the facility’s administrators and staff.

*What is the staff to resident ratio?

bigstock-Middle-aged-man-holding-cardbo-12848081-300x200The decision to place a loved one in a long-term care facility for the elderly can be a very difficult and emotionally demanding process. Both you and your loved one need to take an active role in the decision to maximize the health, safety and well-being of your loved one. Once you have narrowed down your search and thoroughly researched and toured the facility, you should consider the following set of guidelines put together by California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform to ensure your loved one receives the best possible care and treatment.

1. Support your loved one’s transition to the care facility. Open communication is extremely important while your loved one transitions to their new home. There may be feelings of loss or abandonment by the person being placed in the facility, as well as mirrored feelings of guilt or neglect by the person assuming responsibility for the placement. Therefore, it is important to openly discuss these feelings. Make sure your loved one receives a comprehensive assessment upon admission and be attentive to any changes in needs, behaviors, attitudes, and affections during the transition.

2. Make your visits count. Vary your visiting schedule by going on different days and at different times. This will ensure you are able to meet various members of the staff, and observe how your loved one interacts with other residents and staff members at different times of the day. Also, make a plan before each visit. Try to discover new things, meet new residents and staff members, explore new areas of the facility, plan special events outside of the facility, and bring with you important talking points and your loved one’s special interests.

If your loved one is suffering from dementia, you should be sure that any nursing home you may be considering is equipped to care for dementia patients, thus allowing for a more beneficial experience for the patient, not to mention a safer one.

Dementia is caused by damaged brain cells, which leads to a deterioration in cognitive abilities, including memory, speech, and dementia-in-women-300x169understanding. Numerous diseases lead to dementia, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for 70% of all dementia cases. Other diseases leading to dementia include Parkinson’s disease and vascular disease.

In choosing a home for a dementia patient, you should first carefully evaluate the skills and background of the staff. Understaffing and poorly-trained staff are severe problems in California nursing homes due in part to the rise in the sheer number of patients, but also to health facilities cutting corners to improve profit margins. Staff should be trained specifically in dealing with the symptoms of dementia so that they are aware of the special needs involved. You should inquire about the kind of training staff members receive, whether the training is ongoing, and whether staff is trained in handling the sometimes difficult behavioral characteristics of dementia patients. Finally, excessive administering of psychotropic drugs to patients is a problem that has become rampant in California and across the nation. You should also inquire about the facility’s practices in this regard, and ensure that it follows California and federal law prohibiting off-label use of medications.

The use of physical and chemical restraints in California nursing homes is sometimes a necessary way of protecting patients from injuring themselves and others. When used excessively and, more importantly, without consent, the practice becomes outright abusive. Often this method is used not simply to protect the patient, but rather to make a staff member’s job easier. Overuse of restraints is exacerbated by the growing number of understaffed nursing facilities.

Physical restraints are used to keep patients from wandering around the facility, a potential hazard for the patient and others. A nursing home is required by law to have the resident’s consent before using a physical restraint. Symptoms of physical restraints include sores or bruising on the arms and legs, usually on the ankles and wrists.

Chemical restraints involve the administering of powerful psychotropic drugs to sedate and confine the patient by taking away his or her cognitive abilities. These drugs are not permitted under any circumstances unless the nursing care facility outlines a legitimate medical reason for their use and further provides the frequency and dosage. Because most people are not familiar with the side effects of psychotropic drugs, it can be more difficult to identify chemical restraints than physical restraints.

According to a recent report from The New York Times, taking nursing home abuse claims to court has just become easier for residents and their families. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, an agency within the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, issued new rules regarding a longstanding practice wherein nursing homes stipulated in their resident contracts that any disputes or claims of abuse would be resolved in arbitration. The Federal government’s new rules now allow for nursing home residents to take their claims to court, making it far easier to seek meaningful justice.

2The U.S. nursing home industry is a massive and lucrative one, particularly in Southern California. Additionally, a vast number of nursing home residents rely on government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare to subsidize their care. As such, those nursing homes receiving their own share of Federal Aid to support their programming can no longer contractually bind complainants into private arbitration to resolve their claims. This new rule will go into effect as soon as November 2016, paving a new and more feasible avenue for Southern California nursing home abuse victims to take their claims to court. It’s important to note, however, that the rule will apply only to those moving into federally aided nursing homes after the November 2016 start date.

As projections for nursing home resident growth climb—particularly in high-populated metropolitan areas, such as, San Diego— it’s especially important that governmental change to nursing home policies are introduced. Some sources report that nearly a third of all licensed nursing homes in the U.S. have been cited for federal safety standard violations. Now that new rules have been introduced regarding elder abuse lawsuits and complaints, victims finally have fair recourse under the law.

ISE_webbanner_768x180It is an unfortunate fact that elder abuse is a common and growing problem in San Diego and throughout the United States. Abuse of the elderly can take many forms, ranging from neglect and abandonment to physical, verbal, financial, and even sexual abuse. Fortunately, professionals in health care are constantly working towards new breakthroughs in treatment and the prevention of abuse in the elderly population. It’s true that new research and techniques are changing the face of convalescent care every day.

As the population of elders in San Diego continues to grow, it’s also encouraging to see the elder abuse epidemic be drawn out of the shadows and into the light, so we can all learn to recognize symptoms of elder abuse, and report any suspicions. One such example of shining a light on elder abuse prevention will be coming to Southern California next month.

On September 15, 2016 the 2-day USC Judith D. Tamkin International Symposium on Elder Abuse will welcome “researchers, academics, physicians, nurses, and psychologists” to participate in a weekend committed to “Closing the Research Gaps and Moving the Field of Elder Abuse Forward.”

man staring out windowWe all have family members that we love and want only the best for. As our parents and other family members reach an age where they may need assisted living or an in-home nurse, the last thing we want to worry about is neglect or abuse. Although stories of abuse suffered by elders at the hands of nursing home staff, or as the result of neglect, there are rarely reports of patient on patient abuse. However, a June 2016 study published by the Annals of Internal Medicine online reveals that more nursing home patients may be suffering from abuse at the hands of their fellow residents than previously known.

This new study from the Annals of Internal Medicine aims to shed some light on the much overlooked issue. When asked if a patient had encountered abuse, 1 in 5 residents stated they had in the past month. This is significant, because it not only shows that 20% of nursing home residents experience abuse, but is possibly indicative of a routine problem of systematic abuse.

Most commonly, the abuse suffered by elder victims is being on the receiving end of a verbal assault or being witness to behavior that would be considered unacceptable in nearly every public situation. Specifically, the study describes this form of abuse as “negative and aggressive physical, sexual, or verbal interaction between long-term care residents that in a community setting would likely be construed as unwelcome and have high potential to cause physical or psychological distress in the recipient.” Although most encounters were verbal, the study also revealed incidents of physical and sexual abuse between residents.

evictionAccording to a recent report from the Associated Press, elderly residents of nursing homes who are considered to be challenging to care for are often targeted for eviction, and sometimes abuse. Those advocating on behalf of elderly nursing home residents, as well as the disabled elderly, argue that nursing home staff and caregivers are sometimes unwilling to meet the challenges certain elderly residents and patients present, and so steps are undertaken to have these elderly residents evicted from their nursing home facilities.

The goal of these unlawful evictions, advocates argue, are to minimize attention required by staff and to maximize nursing home profits, by switching out need-intensive patients for those who require less direct attention. Some argue that those with involved families, or with families who have complained about prior mistreatment of their elderly loves ones, are also targeted for nursing home evictions.

Another unfortunate detail of this report is, most often the victims of these evictions come from economically disenfranchised backgrounds, and are frequently suffering from dementia. Complaints about these unlawful discharges and evictions are up by 57% since the year 2000. The study reported that, “Complaints and lawsuits across the U.S. point to a spike in evictions even as observers note available records only give a glimpse of the problem.”