Articles Posted in Signs of Elder Abuse

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:

•Generally poor health or weakness
•Paralysis
•Injury or illness that requires bed rest or wheelchair use
•Recovery after surgery
•Sedation
•Coma

However, more specific risk factors affecting elders which make them so susceptible to bedsores may include advanced age, which results in thinner, drier, less elastic skin, which is generally more fragile. Elders may also develop bedsores after significant weight loss, which can accompany a long-term illness. Poor nutrition and/or dehydration also make elders susceptible to developing dangerous bedsores. Illnesses such as diabetes, and vascular diseases may also lead to damaged skin tissue, making it easier for a bedsore to develop. Likewise, elders who suffer from bowel or bladder incontinence are also likely to develop bedsores if soiled clothing isn’t removed and replaced immediately.

Similarly, elders who are in a state of mental decline are typically more likely to develop dangerous bedsores. Those who have limited mental alertness may be unaware that sores are developing, leading them to progress into dangerous infections before being discovered. By the same token, any elder who has diminished sensory perception, such as those who are paralyzed, may also not discover bedsores until they have reached a dangerous stage.

The key to prevention (and treatment) of bedsores is to relieve pressure. This can be accomplished most effectively by repositioning an elder regularly, particularly once a bedsore has developed.

For elders residing in a Southern California nursing home, inspection of the skin should be a routine part of care. Unfortunately, all too often patients suffer from bedsores due to neglect or lack of an appropriate care plan implemented in the California nursing home. If you have found a bedsore on an elder you know, a doctor needs to be notified immediately. Bedsores can often be resolved with appropriate detection and treatment.

While many long-term care facilities in California provide excellent care, others subject their patients to many forms of neglect or elder abuse. The California Welfare & Institutions Code §15610.57, addresses “neglect” in part by stating 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 elder from dehydration, bedsores, falls, other injuries caused by safety or health hazards and any type of injury that does not fit the explanation provided by the staff.
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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.
*Any intentional actions which prevent the elder resident from speaking with their physicians, their attorneys, law enforcement or even members of their religious organization.
*Actions such as placing an elder in a locked room, or restraining them in another capacity without their consent.
*Confinement of an elder (which can also be deemed false imprisonment).

Elders are often isolated by nursing home staff as a way of dominating and/or instilling fear in the elder resident. The consequences that the elder may experience as the result can be traumatic. Elders who have been isolated often experience depression, anxiety, stress, and fear. In the worst cases, the lasting effects of isolation may result in suicide or death.
If you suspect that a loved elder may be experiencing intentional acts of isolation while in a his or her nursing home, speak up. Often elders who are being victimized in any way feel helpless to do anything about the abuse, for fear of repercussions.

If you suspect an elder you know is being abused in any capacity while residing in a California nursing home, report it to the following agencies immediately:
• 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. They 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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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.

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.

When interviewing a potential caregiver for your loved one, be sure to:

*Photocopy a Valid California Driver’s License
*Obtain Proof of Certifications
*Check References
*Run A Background Check
*Spend Time Getting to Know Them

After you’ve hired an in-home caregiver, make sure to stay in contact with your loved elder. In addition, be sure to schedule consultations with the caregiver at least once per week to remain current on your loved one’s wellbeing. Wherever possible make unannounced visits while their caregiver is there to make sure that the relationship between the two is one of mutual respect and care.

The decision to hire an in-home caregiver for your loved elder is a big decision and warrants time and careful screening of candidates to ensure you’ve selected the best person for the job.
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Nearly 70% of elder abuse victims are women, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. It is worth noting that the population of elder women is much larger than the population of elderly men in the United States, however, that does not make these alarming statistics any less disturbing.
Why are women the victims of elder abuse more often than men? There are a few reasons most experts tend to agree upon.

1. Elderly females may be seen as easier targets for physical, financial, emotional, or even sexual abuse.
2. Women tend to live longer than men, and many live alone putting them in a position where they may be more likely to be abused.
3. Women tend to develop crippling physical diseases such as osteoporosis, which may take a long time to recover from.

Statistics conclusively show that elders who are disabled are far more likely to be abused than those who are not. As a matter of fact, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse, Administration on Aging:

“Institutionalized adult women with disabilities reported a 33% prevalence of having ever experienced interpersonal violence (IPV) versus 21% for institutionalized adult women without disabilities…when considering lifetime abuse by any perpetrator, a sample of 200 adult women with disabilities indicated that 67% had experienced physical abuse and 53% had experienced sexual abuse.”

Elderly women are far more likely to be sexually abused than men. Reports in the Journal of Elder Abuse and Neglect found that elderly women were six times more likely to be sexually abused than elderly men. Sexual abuse of elderly women occurs most often in nursing homes, or other assisted living facilities.

If you suspect that an elder –whether male or female–is being abused, it is vital to report your concerns immediately. Under California law elder abuse can be both a criminal and civil offense. The state of California has taken a firm stance and zero tolerance policy towards elder abuse in any capacity. As part of their mission to encourage all Californians to report suspected elder abuse, the state has created The Citizen’s Guide To Preventing and Reporting Elder Abuse, which can be viewed in its entirety here.

If you believe an elder you know is being abused in any capacity while residing in a California nursing home, report it to the following agencies immediately:

• 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 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 is the reason an elder moves into a nursing home. Dementia is also often to blame for what is known as “elopement” or in layman’s terms, wandering. Elders with dementia may develop wandering tendencies, wherein due to cognitive impairment, they begin to wander around their nursing home unsupervised and without an escort.

Wandering may lead to serious injury as the result of falling. In some cases wandering has even led to death, in cases where residents have wandered outside of their residential facility. Though rare, wandering is dangerous enough that lawmakers included provisions to protect against it in the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act. The law required that nursing homes must provide residents with adequate supervision in effort to prevent elderly patients from wandering. That means of course, that nursing homes must be properly staffed.

Psychological abuse of elders may also be called emotional elder abuse. The terms are often interchangeable and denote the intentional infliction of mental and/or emotional anguish. Psychological abuse may come in the forms of threats, humiliation and even nonverbal conduct by caregivers.

Unfortunately far too many elders in nursing homes in California become victims of psychological abuse at the hands of those charged to care for them. Thankfully, in order to combat this epidemic, organizations such as the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA) work tirelessly to prevent of abuse and neglect of older persons and adults with disabilities.

The NCPEA is an association of researchers, practitioners, educators, and advocates dedicated to protecting the safety, security, and dignity of America’s most vulnerable citizens. It was established in 1988 to achieve a clearer understanding of abuse and provide direction and leadership to prevent it. The Committee is one of three partners that make up the National Center on Elder Abuse, designed to serve as the nation’s clearinghouse on information and materials on abuse and neglect.

Elder abuse typically refers to the knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a custodial care provider, caregiver, or any other person that causes harm to a vulnerable adult. In California, anyone aged 65 and older is protected by the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act. The laws are designed to help prevent neglect and abuse to California seniors. Neglect falls within the definition of elder abuse, and unfortunately may have dire consequences to the victim.

In broadest terms, neglect is a type of elder abuse wherein a caregiver fails to provide the elder with basic needs including water, food, shelter, heat/air-conditioning, personal hygiene products and medical assistance. Failure to adequately move or reposition a bedridden elder, for example constitutes neglect, just as failing to keep elders properly nourished and hydrated constitutes neglect.

Neglect is particularly dangerous for elders, as it can lead to life-threatening consequences. Such consequences of neglect include:

Elder abuse in any form is strictly prohibited by California law. In addition to physical abuse and neglect, medication errors in nursing homes are considered a form of elder abuse. Unfortunately, due to insufficient staffing in many long-term nursing facilities, errors in the type and amount of medications administered to residents occur with alarming frequency. While in many cases there may be no detrimental side effects to an elder who is given the incorrect medication, or the wrong dosage; in many other cases, the error can prove fatal.

For example, if two patients’ medications are mixed up, and incorrectly administered, the outcome can be disastrous. A diabetic who is mistakenly given a fellow patients’ heart medication may not under normal circumstances have a negative reaction. However, if that heart medication happens interacts with other medications he or she is taking, or causes side effects that the patient can’t sustain; the mistake can result in death.

Other medications must be taken consistently in order for them to be effective. Therefore, missing a dose of the proper medication can have devastating consequences on the elder who has missed their dosage. Other medication errors that may occur in nursing homes include:

While Mandated Reporters are required to report elder abuse within 48 hours and know who to report the abuse to, many non-mandated reporters suspect Elder Abuse, but don’t know where to turn. The general rule of thumb is to always err on the side of caution when suspecting elder abuse. Unfortunately, if unreported, elder abuse often escalates, and all too often the results are tragic. If you suspect an elder you know is being abused, report it immediately. You may be saving the health, assets, or even the life of an elder who may be too afraid to report the abuse themselves.

There are numerous ways to report suspected elder abuse, and it is probably much easier than you think. Furthermore you will be protected from criminal or civil liability, so do not let the fear of retribution prevent you from ever reporting abuse.

If you suspect an elder is being abused in any capacity, while in a long-term care facility such as a nursing home; report the incident to both the Local Long-Term Care Ombudsman and the California Department of Public Health. You should also consider reporting to Adult Protective Services Agency.