• Suspect nursing home abuse or 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?

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apartment buildingWhen we read news stories or hear anecdotes about elder abuse and neglect in San Diego, we often thinking about harms that occur in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs). In other words, we consider the risks our elderly loved one face in facilities that are required to be licensed by the state of California. When injuries do occur at these regulated places, we should consider the ways in which the California Department of Public Health might be responsible.

But what happens when an older adult sustains elder abuse injuries at a boarding home—a type of residence that does not have to be licensed or certified by the state? A recent article in the San Jose Mercury News discussed the rising number of boarding homes for seniors in California and the ways in which these residences could be the most dangerous of all.

Initial Financial Benefits of Boarding Homes

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DSCN3343Over the last couple of years, the quality of care in California nursing homes and assisted-living facilities—in effect, the salient instances of nursing home abuse—has received national attention. Back in 2013, a special report from U-T San Diego discussed the “Deadly Neglect” happening at facilities across the state. That report highlighted the need for elder safety advocates, local and national agencies, and state and federal lawmakers to take steps to ensure that the very vulnerable population of elder residents across the country begins receiving proper care. But have legislators done enough? Are California nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs) taking steps to change the harmful practices that resulted in elder abuse and neglect?

According to a recent report in California Newswire, newly proposed legislation in our state suggests that, when it comes to nursing home quality in California, facilities continue to fall short. The bill (AB 2079) aims to improve patient safety at facilities throughout the state and to protect California taxpayers.

California Legislators Aim to Improve Patient Safety

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xDKN9HN0When California seniors are evicted from their homes, particularly in regions of the state with ever-increasing rent costs, can those evictions rise to the level of elder abuse? That question has been posed recently in a number of cases in which older adults were evicted from their homes and died shortly thereafter, according to a recent article in the San Francisco Examiner. If a senior dies from the stress of an eviction, can his or her survivors file an elder abuse lawsuit?

How Can Evictions and Gentrification Harm Older Adults?

According to the article, costs of living in various California cities have skyrocketed recently, and it is becoming more and more difficult for seniors to be able to live comfortably in their homes. In large part, commentators cite gentrification as the reason for the rise in living costs in the Bay Area and other parts of California. However, gentrification and growing costs of living become much more serious when they result in the eviction of a senior citizen who cannot afford another place to live. As the article points out, the link among gentrification, eviction, and elder abuse became national news when a 97-year-old woman died earlier this month after being evicted from her home.

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money walletWhen patients allege that a nursing home is responsible for injuries caused by elder abuse and neglect, what can they expect to receive in damages if they settle or win a case? According to a recent article in The Press Democrat, a “high-end Santa Rosa nursing home has agreed to pay $1 million to settle a wrongful death and elder abuse lawsuit alleging it allowed a patient to die from complications of a bedsore.” The settlement goes to show that nursing home abuse can happen at any level of facility—even at the most seemingly posh facilities—and elder abuse claims can result in substantial settlements.

To better understand the allegations, we should take a closer look at the case. In the meantime, if you have concerns about an elderly loved one’s safety in a California facility, you should speak with an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse attorney to learn more about filing a claim for compensation.

Brookdale Fountaingrove Nursing Home Agrees to Million Dollar Payout

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file3451272140532If you live in a nursing home, do you have the same rights as a tenant who rents a home from a landlord? According to a recent report from NPR, numerous nursing home residents who live the facility for a temporary inpatient hospital visit return to the nursing home only to learn that they have been evicted. As the article makes clear, this pattern results each year in thousands of nursing home residents finding themselves without a place to live, and that often leads to less-than-ideal situations that can involve elder abuse. Currently, federal law protects nursing home residents from these kinds of evictions, but as the article underscores, “those rules are rarely enforced by the states.” As such, California nursing home residents have decided to file claims against the state of California.

Plaintiffs File Claims Over Nursing Home Evictions

According to the NPR report, when nursing home residents cannot return to their rooms at the nursing facility, they are left with very expensive hospital bills and often the inability to receive the specific kind of care provided in a nursing home. For instance, one plaintiff who was evicted from his nursing home is currently living in his hospital room at Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento. At the end of May 2015, his nursing home sent him to the hospital to receive treatment for pneumonia. However, once the pneumonia had been treated, the nursing home would not readmit him. As such, he has been living at the hospital for about 260 days now. The financial costs are very high: Medicaid is paying “about 2.5 times what his nursing home cost.”

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IMG_0256California and a number of other states have passed laws that permit nursing homes to install cameras and other electronic recording equipment in the private rooms of patients in order to contend with nursing home abuse allegations. These cameras are not intended to invade a resident’s privacy, but rather will only be installed upon the request of a resident. Many elder advocates have praised these laws, suggesting that nursing home staff members will be less likely to engage in acts of abuse if they know they will be recorded on camera. However, according to a recent article in the Pacific Standard, such laws may not be getting at the root of the problem. And as such, laws allowing cameras in nursing homes might not be doing enough to combat the issues at the heart of nursing home abuse and neglect cases.

Recordings to Substantiate Claims of Elder Abuse

According to the article, installing cameras in residents’ rooms at nursing homes intervenes in the issue of elder abuse a bit too late in the process. Rather than exploring the reasons that people engage in acts of nursing home abuse, the cameras (and the footage they record) aim to substantiate claims of abuse when they happen. Or, at best, they might discourage an employee from abusing a particular resident who has a camera installed in his or her room.

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handsHow Do We Define Nursing Home Abuse in San Diego?

When we are trying to learn what constitutes nursing home abuse or elder neglect, where do we turn for information? One of the primary sources for information on elder abuse is the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), which is directed by the U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA). The NCEA provides important statistics about elder abuse and neglect across the country, as well as fact sheets that can help us to distinguish among different forms of abuse and to determine whether our elderly loved have been subject to some form of nursing home neglect. In Southern California, we are also fortunate to have the resources provided by the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR). Indeed, CANHR helps to sponsor bills aimed at preventing nursing home abuse in our state.

Are these resources sufficient to raise awareness among the greater public about the prevalence of nursing home abuse and neglect in California and across the country? According to a recent article in Long-Term Living, there is a new joint effort by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC and the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control to “publish national definitions for various aspects of elder abuse.

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file851332343852When San Diego seniors sustain injuries as a result of nursing home abuse, physicians often are in a distinct position to recognize the signs of abuse or neglect. Yet healthcare providers do not always identify these symptoms when they see them, and thus patterns of abuse can continue. In a recent article in Emergency Medicine News, one emergency physician in Southern California discusses the limitations of identifying elder abuse and the growing connection between medical malpractice and elder abuse claims.

Difficulty in Obtaining Accurate Patient Histories

Over the last decade, physicians have seen more and more older patients. Given that the number of Americans who are aged 85 and older is growing—and will continue to increase rapidly over the coming decades—more emergency room physicians are seeing elders. But the physician in the article warns that emergency medicine specialists need to be careful to avoid taking shortcuts when it comes to treating elderly patients. While healthcare providers in emergency departments are encouraged to work efficiently, or “faster,” as the author intimates, we need to slow down when seniors come in with injuries that could have been caused from nursing home abuse.