• Suspect nursing home abuse or neglect?
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file000790132663If an elderly California resident is declared incompetent and placed under a conservatorship (also known in many places as a guardianship), can that senior actually be at greater risk of elder abuse? According to a recent article in Forbes Magazine, conservatorships and guardianships are “ideally a protection for older adults.” However, as the article explains, a conservatorship “is a drastic measure often prompted by warring relatives, nursing homes that want to get paid, or a ‘friend’ who gains the trust of an older adult in order to take advantage of him or her.” While these typically are worst-case-scenario examples, it is important to think carefully about the potential links between conservatorships and nursing home abuse in Southern California.

What is a Conservatorship?

The California Courts make clear that a conservatorship involves an adult (the “conservatee”) who either “cannot care for himself or herself or manage his or her own finances” and a responsible person or entity (the “conservator”) to care for that adult. The Court’s website explains that general conservatorships, like the scenario described above, often involve an elderly person.

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DSC_1071Given that the elderly population of Southern California continues to grow, we need to invest time and effort into preventing elder abuse and nursing home abuse, according to a recent article in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. While we continue to discuss the problem of elder abuse in our country and to engage in awareness-raising efforts, elder abuse and neglect remains a problem—and in some areas, the problem is getting bigger. Skilled nursing facilities and other long-term care facilities for the elderly need to do more to prevent elder abuse and neglect.

Placing the Burden on Nursing Home Directors to Properly Train Staff

As the article explains, statistics tell us that around 10% of America’s seniors become victims of elder abuse, “but that statistic alone does not come close to telling the full story of the epidemic.” The article underscores, “for every incident of abuse that does get reported, an estimated 22 do not.” What that fact means is that a majority of elderly Americans are suffering from elder neglect and nursing home abuse, and in many of those cases, the violence goes unreported. What can we do to prevent this kind of abuse? According to the article, much of the impetus is on “nursing home leaders who want to prevent abuse before it happens” by “focus[ing] on training their staff in skills that reduce interpersonal tension and stress.”

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file0001185596879If an elderly patient visits an outpatient healthcare facility and is not advised to seek an opinion from a specialist, can that outpatient healthcare facility be liable for elder neglect? According to a recent article from the Courthouse News Service, the California Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of an outpatient healthcare facility in such a case. The court’s decision in Winn v. Pioneer Medical Group, Inc. suggests a limiting of the reach of the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act.

What do San Diego residents need to know about this recent case and its potential impact on elder abuse lawsuits?

Facts of Winn v. Pioneer Medical Group, Inc.

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red_coatWhen an elderly California resident requires care in a nursing home, it is often because he or she can no longer live at home and requires more care than a place such as a residential care facility for the elderly (RCFE) or assisted-living facility might be able to provide. However, according to a recent article from the Associated Press, nursing home patients who are more challenging and for whom it is more difficult for staff members to provide care are being targeted for eviction. The topic of nursing home evictions and elder abuse has been an issue for several months now, with advocates arguing that nursing homes and other facilities are refusing to readmit patients following hospital stays. For example, an NPR report emphasized the severity of these allegations and the implications for senior health and well-being.

Yet now, according to an analysis conducted by the Associated Press, it looks as though patients at skilled nursing facilities who require more extended care than other patients may also be subject to wrongful evictions. When elderly patients who need nursing home care are evicted without warning and for reasons beyond the resident’s control, are we looking at situations of nursing home abuse?

Seniors with Dementia Alleged to be Targeted by Skilled Nursing Facilities

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Closeup of assorted coins.
Many of us with elderly loved ones who have spent hours and days investigating nursing homes and assisted-living facilities know that most for-profit facilities are not providing the quality of care that most of us seek. An article in Bloomberg emphasized that “for-profit nursing homes lead in overcharging while care suffers.” A number of the facilities profiled in that article had settled wrongful death lawsuits in recent years or had otherwise faced allegations of nursing home abuse and neglect resulting in the serious injuries and deaths of patients.

Why should California residents focus on the problems that have been linked to for-profit facilities? According to a recent press release from the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), a bill that just passed the Assembly Health Committee without any opposition “would open up two very important public and non-profit health financing mechanisms to for-profit nursing home corporations.”

Risks of Public Funding Usage at For-Profit Nursing Homes

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red-cross-29930_1280We often hear news about instances of nursing home abuse and neglect in which an elderly patient dies after being taken to a hospital after it is much too late. Particularly in cases of elder neglect, a patient may require care at a hospital. However, if a facility is understaffed and does not call for an ambulance in time, an elderly patient may not receive the care he or she ultimately needs. What if those patients could be rushed to a geriatric emergency department equipped to handle specific senior medical issues, including those related to elder neglect? According to a recent article in The San Diego Union-Tribune, a geriatric ER will soon be coming to UCSD and will provide specialized care to elderly residents in Southern California.

Complex Medical Needs Among the Elderly

When and where will the new geriatric emergency unit appear? It is currently in the planning stages, but the ER will become part of the Thornton Hospital at UC San Diego through an $11.8 million grant provided by the Gary and Mary West Foundation. According to the article, this emergency department “will be the first in the region to focus solely on seniors,” which is an important fact given that more Californians are reaching old age. The “complex medical needs” of the elderly, even when abuse or neglect is not a factor, “are expected to strain available resources as the baby boom generation reaches retirement age.”

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handsOne of the largest nursing homes in Stockton, CA is facing numerous allegations of nursing home abuse and neglect, according to a recent article from Recordnet.com. Reports from patients and their families allege lack of privacy, physical abuse, and serious neglect at Wagner Heights Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. What else do you need to know about these allegations? Can they help families to understand the importance of researching a nursing home or assisted-living facility before allowing an elderly loved one to become a resident at a facility without the best patient ratings?

Serious Citations at Wagner Heights Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Based on data provided by California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), Wagner “has been issued the greatest number of serious citations going back to 2010 . . . of any skilled nursing home in Stockton.” Over the last six years, it has received six serious citations. Why were those citations issued? According to the article, the following represent some of the most serious fines levied against Wagner Heights:

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file3451272140532We often discuss cases of nursing home abuse and neglect in San Diego, and in facilities throughout the state of California. But when we talk about filing an elder abuse or neglect lawsuit, what exactly do we mean? In other words, what elements must be present in order to have a valid elder neglect claim? To better understand how suspicions of nursing home abuse or neglect can result in a lawsuit, we should take a closer look at both the signs of neglect, as well as the elements of the laws that prohibit it.

Recognizing Signs of Elder Neglect

Before we look at the specific elements of neglect and abuse outlined by the California Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act, we should take a look at the signs and symptoms of neglect and physical abuse. A fact sheet from the Administration on Aging (AoA) lists the following as signs and symptoms of elder neglect:

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file0001370155977According to a pamphlet from the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), one of the most prominent “red flags” of nursing home neglect is the presence of untreated pressure ulcers, which are also known as “bedsores.” According to a news release from the University of California, Berkeley, engineers at the university are working to develop a type of bandage technology that actually might make the presence of bedsores known to a patient and/or her family before they become visible to healthcare professionals.

While we want to take steps to prevent nursing home abuse from happening in the first place, being able to quickly spot the signs of neglect might be able to help California seniors in these facilities to avoid severe and even life-threatening injuries. What should we learn about the developing bandage technology?

“Smart Bandages” Can Detect Tissue Damage Caused by Bedsores

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Many of us know that the population of seniors in California is growing, and that it will continue to expand over the next couple of decades. According to statistics from the Administration on Aging (AoA), Americans aged 65 and older made up a little over 14% of the population in 2013 (or around 44.7 million people). That number is expected to grow to nearly 22% of the population by the year 2040, and it will more than double—to around 98 million people—by the year 2060. What do these numbers mean for the current population of residents in California’s nursing homes and assisted-living facilities? According to a recent article in The Sacramento Bee, “the number of under-65 nursing home residents has surged 40% in a decade,” and it may be producing a “dangerous mix” at facilities.

When nursing homes serve clients in very different age groups, what problems can arise? Do these issues rise to the level of nursing home abuse or neglect?