• Suspect nursing home abuse or neglect?
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file3261246766942According to a recent article from Modern Healthcare, a Riverside nursing home owned by Schlomo Rechnitz was the target of an FBI investigation. The FBI served search warrants at the Alta Vista Healthcare & Wellness Centre late last month, but the agency has not yet commented on the nature of its investigation. Have more issues of nursing home abuse and neglect arisen at facilities in our state?

Learning about nursing home abuse and neglect allegations in Southern California can be disconcerting, particularly when you have an elderly loved one who receives care at a nursing home or assisted living facility in our state. If you have concerns about a senior’s safety, you should contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse attorney.

Renewed Scrutiny into Rechnitz Facilities

As a report in the Sacramento Bee emphasizes, the recent investigation into another nursing facility owned by Rechnitz likely will not come as a surprise to many Californians, given that the California attorney general’s office has already filed criminal charges against former top administrators who worked at facilities owned by the Los Angeles-based entrepreneur.

A spokesperson for the FBI, Laura Eimiller, did confirm that “FBI agents executed search warrants seeking evidence in relation to alleged criminal activity at the 99-bed facility in Riverside” that Rechnitz currently owns. While Eimiller could not disclose details of the investigation, she did indicate that FBI agents “took documents” from the facility. She also noted that “patients were not removed or even disturbed” when the raid took place.

Some of you might remember that Rechnitz’s California facilities “have been the focus of multiple local, state, and federal probes” in recent months as health officials in our state have begun scrutinizing nursing homes with alleged incidents or nursing home abuse and neglect.

History of Rechnitz Nursing Homes in California

Over the last ten years, Rechnitz greatly expanded his ownership of nursing facilities throughout the state. Based on a Sacramento Bee investigation, Rechnitz currently owns “about 1 in every 14 skilled nursing beds in the state,” and he has “an estimated 80 homes under his control.” In other words, Rechnitz’s facilities provide care for a large number of seniors in California who need personalized medical attention and care. To be sure, he has “widespread influence on the quality of care being delivered in skilled nursing facilities, which serve some of the state’s most vulnerable residents.”

Many of those facilities have been cited for failing to live up to the standards of care that we expect in sites that care for some of our most vulnerable citizens. Last year alone, Rechnitz’s facilities had “nearly triple as many serious deficiencies per 1,000 beds as the statewide average in 2014.”

Spokespeople for Rechnitz have underscored that they have no knowledge of the basis for the FBI’s investigation, but that they currently are cooperating.

Nursing home abuse and neglect is a serious issue in Southern California. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of abuse, and to reach out to an aggressive San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer if you suspect your elderly loved one has suffered a serious injury. Contact the Walton Law Firm today to learn more about how we can help with your case.

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California Governor Signs RCFE Bill

Mandatory Liability Insurance and RCFEs

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file0002014909352According to a recent article in the Contra Costa Times, the family members of an 85-year-old senior are suing the San Pablo skilled care facility where she lived for elder abuse and neglect. The family alleges that the senior’s death was “the direct result of improper care at the facility where she was a patient for the last three years.” The family also alleges that the San Pablo facility, Vale Healthcare Center, failed to:

  • Meet staff-to-patient ratios required by the law;
  • Provide care plans for dementia patients;
  • Properly assess patient injuries;
  • Properly train staff;
  • Adequately monitor high-risk patients; and
  • Report violations to the state of California.

Given that around 185 elderly residents live at the facility, it is important to take a closer look at the allegations and consider how licensed nursing homes and other facilities for the elderly are held accountable for instances of nursing home abuse and neglect.

Patient’s Death a Result of Improper Care

A serious fall accident in which the 85-year-old woman broke her hip is the moment the facility began to fail her. The facility did not tell the woman’s family that she had suffered a fall and had broken her hip. In addition, the staff at the facility did not properly assess the senior’s injuries. They only transferred her to the hospital a day after she suffered the severe fall and broken hip. About a month after her delayed admission to the hospital, the woman died.

The family has serious concerns about whether their elderly loved one received proper treatment at Vale Healthcare Center, but they are also worried about the nearly 200 other patients who reside at this facility. The facility is one of nineteen care facilities throughout California owned by Mariner Health Care. Advocates emphasize that the costs of labor for a facility like Vale Healthcare Center are high, and as a result some facilities try to “do it on the cheap.” When facilities are understaffed and or do not provide proper training to staff members, the quality of care for elderly patients can suffer dramatically.

Facility Owner Disputes Allegations

In response to the lawsuit, Mariner Health Care disputed the allegations. A spokesperson for the facility said, “Our employees strive to provide quality and compassionate care to our residents while remaining in compliance with state regulations and required staffing levels. We value our residents whom we are privileged to serve, and our dedicated team members work hard to meet their needs each and every day.”

What will the facility need to prove? At the basic level, it might show that it provided the staffing levels required of skilled nursing facilities by California law, which include providing “at least 3 hours and 12 minutes of nursing care daily for each patient.” However, based on Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare tool, Vale Healthcare Center provides patients only with “an average of 1 hours and 18 minutes of nursing care,” which is less than the average in California of 1 hour and 52 minutes.

When we select a skilled nursing facility to provide care to our elderly loved ones, we should be able to expect a certain quality of care. If you have concerns about your loved one’s risk of nursing home neglect, you should speak with a dedicated San Diego elder neglect lawyer as soon as possible. Contact the Walton Law Firm today.

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Mandatory Liability Insurance and RCFEs

Distinguishing Elder Abuse from Common Injuries

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Shower headOver the past couple of years elder advocates have been paying a significant amount of attention to physical abuse and neglect at nursing homes in the San Diego area. It is important to remember that nursing home abuse can take many forms, including emotional and psychological abuse. According to a recent report from ABC 10 News, allegations of elder abuse at a Vista facility have resulted in an investigation by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. The article indicates that an employee at the LifeHOUSE Vista Healthcare Center has been “accused of using her cellphone to take footage of a patient getting in the shower, and then posting it on the internet.”

Elder Abuse Investigation in Vista

The elder abuse investigation in Vista got underway after someone who viewed the online video “took a screen grab” of it and sent it to ABC 10 News. The video was taken on Snapchat. According to the report, “it shows a partially nude woman from the shoulders up,” and there is an employee “standing behind her laughing.”

After learning about the video, the news station contacted LifeHOUSE, and the facility’s executive director contacted the employee who is alleged to have posted the video. The employee admitted that she “was helping to give the elderly woman, who has dementia, a shower then the photo was taken.” However, she denied taking photos or video recordings of the elderly patient. Both employees accused in this incident of elder abuse have been suspended from their jobs, and they also are facing elder abuse charges. According to the viewer who called in the tip to ABC 10 News, the employees were both laughing in the video. However, it will be difficult to prove the allegations of elder abuse given that Snapchat “videos and photos are erased within 24 hours.”

The LifeHOUSE Vista Center released in its own statement in response to the allegations, emphasizing that it “takes any allegations of patient abuse very seriously.” The facility noted that it is currently conducting its own investigation into the incident. The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the California Department of Justice will also be investigating since LifeHOUSE Vista is licensed by the state. But this might not be the first instance of elder emotional abuse at this facility. Based on the star ratings from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), LifeHOUSE Vista has a “below average overall rating, with 2 stars out of 5.” The facilities have also been cited for 19 deficiencies, which is significantly higher than the state average of 10.5 and the national average of 6.8.

Understanding Emotional and Psychological Abuse

According to an article in the journal Aging Well, psychological abuse is much more common than it may seem. Experts predict that it is “the most common of all types of elder abuse, with a reported incidence rate of 54.1 percent.” It is often difficult to detect (and to prosecute) because it does not produce objective evidence such as bruises or lacerations. Yet it is a serious form of elder abuse that can involve the following:

  • Threats;
  • Humiliation;
  • Fear;
  • Manipulation; and
  • Other forms of cruel emotional conduct.

Emotional abuse can come in the forms of both verbal and nonverbal conduct, and it often includes harassment, insults, and other forms of denigration.

Our elderly loved ones deserve to be treated with proper care and respect. If you have concerns about a senior’s safety in a Southern California nursing home or have worries about emotional abuse, you should discuss your case with a San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer as soon as possible. Contact the Walton Law Firm today to learn more about how we assist seniors and their families.

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Distinguishing Elder Abuse from Common Injuries

Nursing Home Workers’ Strike Raises Questions About Care

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ScrollAccording to a recent article in the Contra Costa Times, California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law a bill that will impact licensing requirements for residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs). Specifically, the law will require applicants seeking a license to run an RCFE to “disclose prior ownership of any type of facility in any state.” With this information, elder justice advocates hope that California can prevent the opening of RCFEs by persons who have been linked to accusations of elder neglect or nursing home abuse around California and in other parts of the country.

History and Requirements of the New Law

The law began as AB 601, and it was written by Assemblywoman Susan Eggman. The law is aimed at establishing “specific suitability requirements for all licensing applications,” which involves the following:

  • Determining the history of an applicant with regard to prior involvement in facilities throughout the country;
  • Cross-checking the applicant’s provided information with records from the state’s Department of Public Health; and
  • Permitting the California Department of Social Services to “revoke or deny a license when someone fails to disclose required information.”

Until Governor Brown signed the bill, there was little oversight when it came to getting a license to run an RCFE in our state. Prior to the law a new California resident could apply for a license to run an RCFE, but that person’s background would not be cross-checked with licensing agencies in other states. As such, someone who “may have faced significant fines or violations in other states” would not face serious barriers when attempting to run a facility in California.

Significance of Elder Neglect at a Castro Valley RCFE

The impetus to change the law really began, according to the article, back in October of 2013. The owner of a facility in Castro Valley learned that the state was closing the facility based on a number of violations. The owner, along with most of the staff, abandoned more than a dozen residents at the Castro Valley RCFE. The residents went for many days without proper care before the local sheriff’s office rescued them.

News from the office of Attorney General Kamala Harris emphasized that the owner and administrator of the facility would be charged with more than a dozen counts of felony elder abuse. It later became known that, at the time the owner applied for a license to run the facility, she already “had a slew of fines owed to federal and state licensing agencies for deficiencies and citations when she owned four California nursing homes.” Had the new law been in place when she applied for the license, she would not have been approved. As such, the state could have prevented a serious incident of elder abuse.

The law is just one step to ensure that California seniors are safe from injuries that result from nursing home abuse and neglect. If you have concerns about an elderly loved one’s safety in a nursing home or assisted-living facility, you should speak with an experienced San Diego elder abuse lawyer as soon as possible. Contact the Walton Law Firm to learn more about how we can help you.

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Nursing Home Workers’ Strike Raises Questions About Care

Senior Transportation and Elder Neglect Prevention

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As of July 1, 2015, owners of Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFEs) in California were required to have liability insurance in the event of elder neglect and other related injuries. The new law, which went into effect just this past summer, began as AB 1523, a bill that was sponsored by the Consumer Advocates for RCFE Reform (CARR). In the minds of many elder justice advocates, mandatory liability insurance for RCFEs represents one step toward safer care options for seniors in California. If we take a closer look at the history of the bill and the implications of mandatory liability insurance in our state, we can better understand how this new law may have an effect on incidents of nursing home abuse.

Background to AB 1523 and the Requirement of RCFE Insurance

Over the last couple of years, numerous advocates have voiced concern about the state of the assisted-living industry in California. Many reports about elder abuse and neglect appeared in The San Diego Union-Tribune, emphasizing the need for reform measures throughout the state. One of those reforms includes the law requiring liability insurance for RCFEs. As CARR explains in a press release about the new law taking effect, the advocacy group conducted extensive research into the affordability of mandatory insurance. In short, CARR found that “the average monthly cost to a small, six-bed facility would amount to approximately $50 per month per resident.” According to CARR, $50 per month for each resident of an RCFE is “a reasonable amount by any standard.”

CARR looked into the costs of mandatory liability insurance after RCFEs complained about the increased price. For example, when AB 1523 was introduced, a group of RCFE providers, 6Beds, Inc., produced a report indicating that mandatory liability insurance would “force small facilities to close their doors and subsequently leave seniors with reduced care options.” In other words, RCFEs contended that California elders actually would be in a worse situation if these facilities were required by law to have liability insurance because those older adults would be left without any affordable care options.

Yet, as CARR points out, objections from facility owners do not carry significant weight. In particular, the concerns raised by 6Beds, Inc.—including the worry that “insurance companies may decide arbitrarily to cancel policies or raise premiums to unaffordable levels”—should not outweigh the value of liability insurance. For, as CARR explains, “the purpose of liability insurance is to protect both seniors and facilities in the event of loss or harm.”

Policy Coverage Amounts and Patient Risks

Under the new law, the mandatory coverage for RCFEs is as follows:

  • $1 million/occurrence; and
  • $3 million/aggregate.

This liability coverage includes general liability, professional liability, and abuse liability. If CARR is correct, most RCFEs will pay an average of $50 per month per patient. Yet if an RCFE admits patients that require additional levels of care—such as patients who are sicker than others or those who are frailer than others—the cost of coverage per month likely will rise. RCFEs should be aware that the greater the risk of injury to a resident, the higher the monthly cost of liability insurance. Yet, as we pointed out, this insurance protects the facility and the patients alike.

RCFEs should also keep in mind that they will keep premiums low by keeping patients safe. The fewer liability claims an insurer needs to pay out, the lower the monthly costs for these facilities. If RCFEs expect a rise in premiums when a patient (or her family) files an abuse liability claim, then mandatory liability insurance could end up functioning as a preventive measure for nursing home abuse and neglect.

Given that the law has only been in effect for a few months, we will need to wait a bit longer to examine its implications. In the meantime, if you have questions or concerns about elder abuse in an assisted-living facility or RCFE, you should discuss your case with an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse attorney. Contact the Walton Law Firm today.

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Senior Transportation and Elder Neglect Prevention

Nursing Home Cameras and Elder Abuse Prevention

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file000441681066A recent report from U.S. News & World Report emphasized that elder abuse is very common and that most of us do not realize just how frequently it occurs. Often times, nursing home abuse and neglect happens even when we might be aware of its prevalence. So, how do you best detect elder abuse? If you suspect that an older adult could be the victim of abuse or neglect,  how do you report it?

Getting the Facts About Elder Abuse and Neglect

According to the report from U.S. News, it is often difficult for observers to discern the difference between an “innocent” bruise caused by something like a “bump into furniture” and a more dangerous bruise that could be a sign of nursing home abuse. It is more important now than ever to know the signs and symptoms of elder abuse given the growing senior population throughout the country. Experts predict that nursing home abuse and neglect affects anywhere from 5 to 30 percent of the elderly population, and a study published in JAMA indicated that at least one out of every ten seniors “falls prey to some kind of abuse that’s either physical, psychological, sexual, financial, or neglectful in nature.”

Quite often, that abuse occurs both within and outside the nursing home setting. Data from the Government Accountability office suggested that more than 14% of older adults who still live at home (or in the home of a family member, firmly outside the institutional setting) experience some form of elder abuse. Yet despite the high estimates for elder abuse incidents, experts who attended the 2015 White House Conference on Aging emphasized that only around 1 in every 23 cases of elder abuse is actually reported. In other words, more than half of all nursing home abuse incidents go unreported.

Edwin Walker, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Aging, underscored that “not enough attention has been drawn to the issue” of elder abuse. Walker described it as a “silent issue” that “people don’t talk about,” and he emphasized the need to change that. Indeed, we need to ensure that we all know how to spot the signs of elder abuse and that we know where to report our suspicions. Older adults are particularly vulnerable members of the community, even when they are not subject to physical and emotional violence.

Identifying the Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

Why is it tough for most of us to distinguish between normal bruises and those that suggest abuse? According to Dr. Lisa Gibbs, the chief of geriatric medicine and director of the University of California, Irvine’s Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse and Neglect, it is simply difficult to identify an abuser. As she explains, “bruising in older adults can be complicated just because many assume older adults bruise easily.” As a result of those assumptions, Gibbs clarifies that “many bruises go unnoticed.”

However, bruises are often one of the more salient signs of abuse. What should we look for? Gibbs emphasizes focusing on the location of bruises on the body. Bruises around the breasts or genital area, as well as bruises on other parts of the body that would not usually be subject to an innocent run-in with furniture, should be taken seriously.

Gibbs also highlights the fact that one form of elder abuse often coincides with others. If physical abuse is present, for instance, that older adult may also be the victim of emotional abuse.

The key to prevention is staying informed and alert. If you suspect that an elderly loved one has been the victim of abuse, you should discuss your case with an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer as soon as possible. Contact the Walton Law Firm to learn more about our services.

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Independent Living, Fewer Incidents of Nursing Home Abuse?

Nursing Home Charged in Burn Patient Death

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handsIf California nursing home employees go on strike, who will provide care for patients residing in the facilities? Should families of those patients have concerns about nursing home neglect? According to an article in the Marin Independent Journal, sixty nursing home workers went on strike last month in San Rafael following a string of nursing facility violations from government regulators. The strike was aimed at forcing the nursing facility to cease its understaffing practices and to encourage a work environment in which providing a threshold level of care for patients is among the most important logistics of running the facility. Even if such a strike is intended to improve conditions, who cares for patients while employees are on strike?

Understaffing and High Turnover Limits Quality of Care

The recent strike occurred at San Rafael Healthcare and Wellness Center, which is owned by Brius Healthcare Services. With more than 80 facilities in California, Brius is the largest nursing home chain in our state. For the last 18 months, employees of the nursing home have been working without having a contract. Why are employees working without a contract? About a year and a half ago, those workers rejected the terms of a union-negotiated contracted because it did not do enough to deal with the serious understaffing problem at the facility.

According to Maria Martinez, a Certified Nursing Assistant, patients at the nursing home suffer because of its nearly constant problems with understaffing. Why is the facility routinely understaffed? One of the underlying issues, Martinez suggests, is the low wage paid by the facility. Without a promise of a sufficient wage, employees are unlikely to remain at the nursing home for an extended length of time. Between 2012 and 2014, the turnover rate was 50 percent.

As a result of the understaffing, nurses and assistants cannot provide patients with the kind of care many of them require. Olga Espinoza, one nursing assistant at the facility who has remained in her position for the last five years, explained that “one nursing assistant ends up taking care of 13 patients at a time.” That is not a sufficient ratio of patient to nursing staff if we want to ensure that nursing home residents receive proper care. As Espinoza emphasized, “it’s not fair to the patients.” Another nursing assistant divulged even more concerning numbers. Often during the night shift (between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.), the facility has only one employee working and 46 patients in need of care.

Determining the Effectiveness of a Strike

When the San Rafael nursing home employees went on strike, the nursing home pulled employees from nearby Brius facilities to ensure that patients would not suffer from neglect. But if other Brius facilities are as understaffed as San Rafael Healthcare, the idea of removing employees does not necessarily sound like a good thing.

The spokesperson for Brius did not comment on the total number of staff members caring for patients at San Rafael Healthcare and other Brius facilities. Instead, the spokesperson emphasized “maintaining our high nurse-to-patient ratio is important to us.” The Brius spokesperson has not indicated how the nursing home chain plans to deal with its poor turnover rates and complaints about inadequate nurse-to-patient ratios.

In the meantime, if you have questions about a loved one’s safety in a California nursing home, do not hesitate to reach out to a San Diego nursing home neglect lawyer to discuss your case. Contact the Walton Law Firm today to find out more about how we can assist you.

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Interdisciplinary Approach to Elder Abuse Prevention

Modernizing Nursing Home Safety

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file000356994816When older adults continue to live at home with help from a caregiver, elder neglect can become a serious issue. Although some caregivers have medical training and should be expected to care for the elderly in a manner that emphasizes safety, some caregivers are not properly trained and can be implicated in situations of elder abuse and neglect. These situations can become even worse when an older adult needs medical treatment and cannot rely on a caregiver for transport to a hospital or a physician’s office. That is where a new transportation service for the elderly comes in, according to a recent article from the California Health Report.

Mobility is a Significant Issue for the Elderly

Mobility is a significant issue for elderly California residents. Whether an older adult needs transportation to a medical appointment or simply to the grocery store to buy food, a new service can help. Recognizing that elderly Californians often have difficulty getting where they need to—or would like to—go, Eric Wong developed Lift Hero. Lift Hero t is a service that looks a lot like Uber or Lyft, but it is designed specifically for seniors who do not have other modes of transportation.

Wong earned a Master’s degree in gerontology from Columbia University, and afterward decided to work with Lift Hero in order to provide a much-needed service to members of the community who have few options. The company was founded last fall by Jay Connolly with the aim of improving seniors’ health. As the article explains, “isolated seniors are often at the mercy of absurdly inefficient bus routes or impoverished dial-a-ride programs.” When older Californians do not have the option to leave their homes, physical effects may begin to show. “Isolation and despair can lead to dire health conditions like depression, high blood pressure, and alcoholism.”

Sometimes depression and other psychological conditions can result in self-neglect. While we usually hear more about neglect in relation to a caregiver or staff member at a nursing home or assisted-living facility, seniors can also suffer injuries through self-neglect.

Learning More About Self-Neglect

The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) and the Administration on Aging (AoA) emphasize that elder abuse and neglect can take many forms. One of those is known as self-neglect. According to a fact sheet from the NCEA and the AoA, self-neglect is usually “characterized as the behavior of an elderly person that threatens his/her own health or safety.” It is not characterized by a mentally incompetent older adult, but rather by someone who “makes a conscious and voluntary decision to engage in acts that threaten his/her health or safety as a matter of personal choice.” Signs and symptoms of self-neglect can vary, but they can include some the following:

  • Malnutrition;
  • Dehydration;
  • Medical conditions that have not been properly attended to;
  • Poor hygiene;
  • Unsafe living conditions;
  • Unsanitary living conditions; and
  • Lack of necessary clothing, shelter, or medical aids.

Whether an older Californian is at risk of elder neglect or self-neglect, services like Lift Hero may be able to help with one serious issue – mobility. If you have questions or concerns about elder abuse or neglect, you should always speak with an experienced San Diego elder abuse attorney about your situation. Contact the Walton Law Firm today to discuss your case.

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Modernizing Nursing Home Safety

Difficult Decisions for Families as Nursing Home Costs Rise

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Could helping more of America’s seniors to live independently be a method for preventing nursing home abuse? If an elderly San Diego resident does not require the kind of care that an assisted-living facility or a residential care facility for the elderly (RCFE) would provide—if she can have that same kind of care at home—would she take away some of the risks of becoming a victim of elder abuse? One of our first steps in preventing elder abuse should be to make care facilities safer for older adults. But at the same time, even if we did want to push for more seniors to live independently, a recent article in Forbes Magazine suggests that our country simply is not providing the kind of assistance that would make this possible.7622108790_a2a735a94a

Older Americans Act (OAA) and Providing Assistance to Seniors

Every year, elder rights advocates and others attend the National Home and Community Based Services Conferences, which brings together professionals in various fields to discuss the state of independent living for older adults and those with disabilities. The conference is sponsored by the National Association of States United for Aging and Disability, and it has more than 1,400 participants. Indeed, Kathy Greenlee, the Assistant Secretary for Aging, gave an opening speech that marked the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act (OAA).

As Greenlee pointed out, the OAA and other laws aimed at assisting older adults have good intentions. At the same time, much work remains to be done. If we truly want older adults who are able to have the option of independent living, we need to do more. Greenlee articulated in her speech that, “as advocates, we specialize in being frustrated with these programs.” As she explained, “we know we need more funding for OAA, we know there are gaps in Medicare . . . and we know we need to do more balancing these frustrations.” Yet at the same time, Greenlee emphasized that the very existence of these programs at all points to a nationwide investment in older adults.

If we were to provide more through programs funded by the OAA, such as Meals on Wheels, would more of California’s seniors feel safe in their living environments?

Generating Funding to Prevent Elder Abuse

Helping more seniors to live at home as they age could provide those older adults with the sense that they are empowered to report situations of elder abuse or neglect. Yet elder abuse does not just happen in nursing homes. While the term “nursing home abuse” does refer to violence that takes place in a particular kind of facility, it implicates numerous forms of abuse that take place in nursing facilities, but also within the care of home health aides, visiting nurses, and even family members. To be sure, elder abuse is not relegated to a specific kind of space, and it can happen when a senior lives at home, too.

Why are so many elder safety advocates focusing on the reauthorization of the OAA? Should we not, instead, be focused on preventing elder abuse at home and within care facilities? The OAA and outreach efforts discussed at the conference do not deal solely with independent living practicalities. Indeed, the conference also focused, for instance, on generating more funding to raise awareness about the risks of elder abuse in dementia patients, and the need for “doctors to work with law enforcement to help them investigate charges of elder abuse where the victim may have significant memory loss.”

In short, advocates in many areas are working together to consider more ways to make aging healthier and to help prevent elder abuse among the aging population. If you are worried about an elderly loved one who is receiving care in a nursing home or an assisted-living facility, you should reach out to an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer as soon as possible. Contact the Walton Law Firm today to find out more about how we can help.

Photo Credit: Neil. Moralee via Compfight cc

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Modernizing Nursing Home Safety

Decisionmaking in Nursing Homes for Incompetent Residents

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What does required care for a nursing home patient with burn injuries look like? Patients who suffer from substantial burn injuries and are residing in nursing homes in Southern California must receive a certain level of care in order to be safe from additional injuries. However, according to a recent article from the Los Angeles Daily News, a Montrose skilled nursing home and two of its staff have been charged in relation to the death of a burn patient. According to the newspaper, the charges indicate that the facility and staff members failed “to provide required care to a resident who was a burn victim.” When does negligence rise to the level or nursing home abuse or neglect?2222910959_90b0c86fa5

Nursing Home Neglect

The nursing home, Verdugo Valley Skilled Nursing and Wellness Center LLC, is alleged to have been “grossly negligent” in its care of a burn victim who previously resided at the facility. The patient had burns on 90 percent of his body, injuries that resulted from an arson fire that occurred about 20 years ago. According to the complaint, which was filed by Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, the nursing home did not provide proper care to the patient, and because of its negligence, the patient died.

The Attorney General explained her reasoning for filing the complaint: “Families who entrust loved ones to the care of a nursing home rightfully expect residents will receive the care and attention they need and that nursing homes have a legal duty to provide.” However, Harris’s complaint alleges that “Verdugo Valley and its employees violated that trust and their legal duties in a way that resulted in a senseless, tragic, and unnecessary death.”

The patient resided at Verdugo Valley for 14 months. During that time, the Attorney General’s office indicated that the patient was linked to 80 change of condition forms, but none of them had a treating physician’s signature, which was required. The patient is alleged to have suffered from “severe weight loss, sepsis, and pneumonia.” He died on August 30, 2014 of “multiple system failure due to sepsis,” at which time the patient had “infections throughout his body.”

Alleged Gross Negligence in Patient’s Death

The two staff members charged in the death include the director of nursing at Verdugo Valley, as well as the supervising nurse. In addition to the serious issues noted above, the charges also allege that the staff members:

  •      Failed to call 911 in a timely manner;
  •      Failed to properly document changes in the patient’s condition; and
  •      Made false entries in the patient’s medical records.

What is gross negligence, and how does it different from a more common negligence or neglect allegation? According to regulations posted by the California Department of Consumer Affairs and Board of Registered Nursing, gross negligence is defined as

“an extreme departure from the standard of care which, under similar circumstances, would have ordinarily been exercised.”

What is an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of care? The definition goes on to explain that an extreme departure “means the repeated failure to provide nursing care as required or failure to provide care or to exercise ordinary precaution in a single situation which the nurse knew, or should have known, could have jeopardized the client’s health or life.”

Nursing home neglect occurs much too often, and it is preventable. If you have concerns about a loved one’s safety in a nursing home or assisted-living facility, it is never too early to discuss those concerns with an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse attorney. We are here to help. Contact the Walton Law Firm today to learn more.

Photo Credit: just.Luc via Compfight cc

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