• Suspect nursing home abuse or neglect?
  • KNOW THE SIGNS
  • KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
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Back in 2013, a number of elderly residents in a Castro Valley facility were abandoned, “left without proper staffing or care for two days,” according to a recent article in the San Jose Mercury News. Now, the owner and administrator from the facility, Valley Springs Manor, “have been charged with felony elder abuse and could face up to 17 years in prison if convicted.”

Indictment for Felony Elder Abuse

Who can be held liable for the serious allegations concerning nursing home abuse in Castro Valley? Based on an announcement from California Attorney General Kamala Harris, both the owner of Valley Springs Manor, Herminigilda Manuel, as well as a top administrator, Edgar Babael, have been indicted on 14 felony counts of elder abuse. Manuel was arrested by agents from the Department of Homeland Security at San Francisco International Airport, and a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Babel.

California authorities allege that Manuel and Babel “left residents in the care of only a janitor and a cook for several days after the state abruptly shut down the facility in October 2013.” The Valley Spring case, as well as other involving nursing home abuse and neglect, have resulted in a much-needed crackdown from the California Department of Social Services. To be sure, based on information about the elder abuse incident in Castro Valley, “legislators have pushed the department to improve not only its procedures for orderly closure of facilities, but also its maintenance of records showing individual facilities’ inspection and violation histories.”

After officials ordered the closure of Valley Springs Manor, no local authorities were contacted “to assist residents with finding new homes.” As such, numerous residents were abandoned at the facility without any “medical personnel to care for them, feed them, or provide them with medications.”

The only two staff members that remained at the facility—a janitor and a cook—reportedly “struggled to provide basic care” for those living at the facility. When asked about the recent indictment, both the janitor, Miguel Alvarez, and the cook, Maurice Rowland, emphasized that they were glad the facility owner and administrator would be held legally accountable for abandoning the elderly residents.

Efforts to Hold Owner and Administrator Liable

What do the charges against Manuel and Babael specifically entail? According to the article, they have been accused of “knowingly and willingly inflicted unjustifiable pain and mental suffering” on the residents of Valley Springs Manor when they abandoned them in October 2013.

Under the California Penal Code section 368(b)(1)(2)(3), Manuel and Babael could face the following penalties for felony elder abuse, including jail time:

  •      One year in county jail and $6,000 fine, or
  •      State prison for two, three, or four years.

In cases where a victim “suffers great bodily injury,” the perpetrator can face an additional 3 to 5 years in state prison. Those prison terms increase in the event of the death of the victim.

Nursing home neglect is a serious issue, and is can result in severe and fatal injuries to elderly residents. If you have concerns about a loved one’s safety or care in a California nursing home, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced San Diego elder abuse attorney.

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Sexual Abuse Reported at Nursing Home

 

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According to a recent report from CBS Sacramento, a California court made clear that “health officials may no longer hide from public view all the relevant details about citations issued to hospitals and nursing homes.” To be sure, the California Supreme court unanimously decided that “only the names of patients may be omitted when the California Department of Public health releases records describing the sanctions it imposed on long-term care facilities for providing improper care or endangering clients.”

Will this decision help to address issues of nursing home abuse and elder neglect across the state?

Background of the Center for Investigative Reporting Case

law-hammerThe recent case originated with the Center for Investigative Reporting after one of the organization’s investigators—who had been looking into patient abuse allegations at various state-run facilities—asked to take a look at the facilities’ citations as part of the California Public Records Act. While the California Department Health complied with the request in some form, it provided very little information that could be of use to someone who wants to determine in depth the reasons for a facility’s citation history.

To be sure, the investigator received “four years’ worth of heavily excised documents that listed only licensing information, the regulation violated, and a vague reference to the patient rights at issue.” According to one of the attorneys representing the Center for Investigative Report, the documents “were completely redacted.” He emphasized that, given the limited information contained within those redacted documents, “you wouldn’t have any understanding of the facts that led to the issuance of the citation.”

Why weren’t state health officials providing all of the essential information? Turning to a decades-old law, the department argued that redacting the documents was necessary to “protect patient confidentiality,” and an appeals court tended to agree. However, the Supreme Court held that “citations are public records from which only patient names need to be withheld.”

Citations are Public Records

When the Supreme Court determined that citations are public records and thus only require the omission of patient names for privacy purposes, it emphasized that Californians should be able to know the background of nursing home citations at facilities across the state.

As Justice Goodwin Liu noted in the decision, the lawmakers behind the Long Term Care Act—the law on which the Supreme Court relied in making its decision—were “aware of the privacy concerns presented by public disclosure.” At the same time, the Long Term Care Act “expressly mandates that every writing DPH generates . . . is a matter of public record subject only to the redaction of the names of the individuals involved.”

While this case focused primarily on facilities that treat “mentally ill and developmentally disabled individuals,” it’s likely to have reverberations in the elder care community. Given recent concerns about elder abuse violations at many nursing homes and assisted-living facilities throughout California, the state Supreme Court’s decision may make it easier for families to choose a safe facilities for their loved ones.

When you’re thinking about helping a loved one transition into a nursing home or assisted-living facility, it’s important to make sure that the facility has a history that’s free from allegations of nursing home abuse or neglect. If you do suspect that your elderly parent has been the victim of elder abuse, you should speak with an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer as soon as possible.

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When most of us think about elder abuse or neglect, we tend to imagine horror stories about staff members getting into physical altercations with residents or failing to take care of patients in need. However, sexual assault can happen at nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, too. According to a recent article from the Marin Independent Journal, a female Greenbrae nursing home resident sued the facility for elder abuse after contending that she was sexually assaulted during her residency. Now, authorities with the California Department of Public Health are investigating the incident.

Nursing home abuse can take many forms, including sexual abuse. If you have concerns that your elderly loved one has been the target of elder abuse or neglect, you should seek advice from an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer.

Nursing-Home-Female-PatientDetails of the Greenbrae Sexual Assault

A Novato woman, who had been a resident of Kindred Nursing and Transitional Care, filed a claim against Kindred Healthcare, Inc. in February of 2014. Based on the information contained in her lawsuit, the resident suffered a sexual assault at the facility, which “was the second sexual assault within a span of eight months.” According to police records, Terence Tumbale, the Director of Kindred Nursing, reported a sexual assault on behalf of the resident to the police in April of 2012.

Back in January of 2013, the resident entered Kindred Nursing to transition from Marin General Hospital, where she had been treated for a neck fracture. Just a month after living at Kindred, the resident alleged that “a man dressed in medical scrubs and wearing a surgical mask came into her room, lifted her out of bed, and took her to another room where he sexually assaulted her.”

According to the lawsuit, the resident’s family members informed Kindred of the assault, but Tumbale “told the reporting nurse that there was no need to inform the police about the sexual assault since the attack occurred over 12 hours ago.” While the Central Marin police weren’t able to substantiate the claim, Sgt. Toby Miller emphasized that “it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”

Lawsuit and Investigation

The resident also named Tumbale as a defendant in her lawsuit, alleging that he was guilty of neglect. Tumbale resigned from his position in January of this year, and he wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit. The resident passed away last October at the age of 89. Now, however, the California Department of Public Health has launched an investigation into this facility in Greenbrae.

According to Corey Egel, a spokesperson for the department, the reported sexual assaults were already investigated and closed. The department found “there was insufficient evidence to substantiate either of the claims.” Egel couldn’t comment on the current, ongoing investigation into Kindred Nursing and Transitional Care, but it’s possible that the department is seeking information about sexual assaults at the facility.

The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) and the Administration on Aging (AOA) emphasize that sexual abuse is a serious problem facing elderly Americans. Sexual abuse includes “non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an elderly person,” including sexual contact with “any person incapable of giving consent.” If your parent or loved one has suffered injuries from nursing home abuse or neglect, contact an experienced San Diego elder abuse attorney today to discuss your case.

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video_surveillance_lawsMany Californians have loved ones in nursing homes or assisted-living facilities. While we want to put our trust in these facilities and to believe that they are treating our elderly parents and relatives properly, many of us worry about the risks of nursing home abuse and neglect. According to a recent article from NBC San Diego, local families want to install cameras in patient bedrooms, “but they are facing a roadblock from the state.”

Documenting Elder Neglect in Southern California

Why wouldn’t the state want to use video cameras in patient rooms to monitor for elder abuse or neglect? According to Joe Balbas, the co-owner of Vista Gardens, “elderly patients in nursing facilities should have the option of having security cameras in their room[s].” Vista Gardens is a residential facility for patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Balbas believes that installing cameras in rooms—at the request of patients and their families—could help to prevent serious injuries.

What’s the holdup, then? Under current California law, nursing homes and other assisted-living facilities can only use cameras to “monitor residents in common areas, such as hallways or dining facilities.” Vista Gardens already uses cameras in these areas of the facility, but residents’ families don’t believe they’re sufficient. Balbas thinks that the California Department of Social Services is preventing lawmakers from “giving the green light” to in-room cameras. As Balbas explains, “although [the Department of Social Services] is supposedly going to be working with us, it’s been promises that eventually we will get to it. I know they are busy. We are all busy. This is an important issue.”

But, there’s not time to wait. Does the Department of Social Services simply have a backlog of issues with which it must contend and the issue of in-room cameras is in line for attention, or do some administrators have other concerns? According to Michael Weston, the Deputy Director of Public Affairs at the Department of Social Services, “the client’s right to privacy is a concern for the department.” As Weston pointed out, “we view these as people’s homes, and we want people to have rights in their own home and balancing that between a business and a residence.”

The department has developed certain guidelines that “would allow video cameras in private rooms under specific conditions.” However, these guidelines remain in the proposal stage. Some former employees at the department believe in-room cameras should be optional, particularly when families have concerns about elder abuse and neglect.

“Cameras Don’t Lie:” Objective Evidence of Abuse

Why are California families pushing for in-room cameras? Let’s take a look at one specific case, reported in the NBC San Diego report. In October of 2013, Kathe Murphy, a retired paralegal for the Department of Social Services, put her mother in a retirement community that provided care. However, Murphy soon realized that her mother was suffering from elder neglect.

To be sure, Murphy documented “her mother’s dirty clothes, room, and bathroom” with photographs. She insisted the the facility wasn’t taking proper care of her mother, and that the facility was neglecting its duties. By spring of 2014, Murphy learned that her mother had been “put in bed and not checked on for almost 24 hours.” As a result, Murphy found her “laying there with a dirty diaper with sores on her back for almost 12 hours.” Murphy’s mother died just three weeks later.

If Murphy had been allowed to have an in-room camera in her mother’s room, she might have learned about the neglect much earlier. Indeed, the camera might have been a valuable tool in preventing her mother’s injuries.

Do you have concerns about your elderly loved one’s safety? If you suspect that someone you love has been the victim of nursing home abuse, you should contact an experienced San Diego elder law attorney as soon as possible.

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euthanasia-300x175Many Californians are in favor of legislation that would permit assisted suicide in certain situations, yet some elder advocates worry that such legislation won’t have sufficient safeguards to protect against elder abuse. According to a recent article in the Modesto Bee, the Death with Dignity bill, or assisted-suicide legislation, can have “many unintended consequences” that can negatively impact elderly Californians.

Pressure to Agree to Assisted Suicide

The article in the Modesto Bee provides the viewpoint of a former hospital social worker, whose “primary concern is for individuals who might feel pressured into ending their lives.” While assisted suicide may allow individuals with terminal illnesses to end their lives on their own terms, there’s a real concern that such legislation can be dangerous when it comes to “those who might not have a strong support system; access to health care, palliative care, and hospice; or the benefit of a loving, caring family.”

How might this legislation lead to elder abuse? One point to consider, perhaps, is that many perpetrators of elder abuse actually are family members. And, some social workers fear that those family members may try to pressure their elderly loved ones into ending their lives. To be sure, California has seen its share of family caregivers who “were abusive and stole money from their disabled and elderly relatives.”

In addition, there’s a serious concern that staff members at care facilities might not be able to provide the right support that terminal patients need in deciding whether or not to choose assisted suicide. What happens when financial pressures lead to a patient’s decision to end his or her life? What about emotional pressures?

Limitations to Elder Abuse Safeguards

In short, the proposed assisted-suicide legislation in California doesn’t protect elderly patients from outside pressures that can impact their ultimate decisions. But, why is this a particular concern for older adults? To be sure, “no assisted suicide ‘safeguard’ can ever protect against coercion.” Then, why should we be talking about certain safeguards for the elderly?

When it comes to the elderly, it’s important to remember that many patients may have already been subject to nursing home neglect or abuse, and thus they may be emotionally incapacitated. In addition, many older adults suffer from diseases like dementia that ultimately limit decisionmaking capacities. Who will advocate for seniors when it comes to assisted-suicide options?

Certain elder advocates aren’t just concerned about pressures from family members and other outsiders. Indeed, insurance companies may also exert pressure on these patients if the bill passes. For instance, in Oregon, where such legislation already exists, insurance providers have denied treatment coverage to extend the life of a terminal patients but have agreed to pay for the same patient’s assisted suicide. And, if assisted suicide looks more like a “treatment option” that comes with a lower price today, advocates worry that elderly Californians won’t have anyone to speak up for their rights when it comes to medical care.

A lack of oversight also could prove problematic, as the legislation has “no requirement for an outside witness to be present when the deadly drugs are taken.” As such, “there would be no one there to know whether or not a patient changes her mind or decides that she isn’t ready to die,” and no one to confirm whether or not a patient took the drugs on her own “or if someone else put the lethal dose in a feeding tube.”

The Death with Dignity bill has goals that are certainly worthy of consideration. At the same time, a number of medical organizations and advocates argue that we may need to think deeply about how assisted-suicide legislation in California could lead to unintended elder abuse incidents. Should the Death with Dignity bill include certain safeguards against elder abuse? And, would such safeguards be effective?

If you have concerns about nursing home abuse or neglect, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced San Diego elder abuse lawyer. An attorney at the Walton Law Firm can discuss your case with you today.

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Amidst news reports of elder abuse and neglect in assisted-living facilities, nursing homes, and residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs) across the state, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has been criticized for its failure to investigate. What did it fail to investigate, exactly? Elderly patients and their families argue that they reported nursing home abuse incidents to the CDPH, yet they contend that the department didn’t investigate those complaints in a timely manner and failed to properly fine the responsible facilities.

budgetcalculatorMore Funding for Elder Abuse Investigations

According to a recent press release from the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), Governor Jerry Brown has proposed a budget for the coming fiscal year that would “add more than $30 million and about 260 positions for the Licensing & Certification Division of the California Department of Public Health.” Yet, the most surprising part of the new budget isn’t merely about licensing and certification. Rather, as the CANHR suggests, it’s about taking complaints about nursing home abuse investigations more seriously.

To be sure, the press release emphasizes that, usually, when we see such a huge increase in a budget, we assume that “there must have been a huge increase in its workload to justify such an enormous expansion of its workforce.” In the current case, however, “that is not so.”

Given that the CDPH was so behind with investigations—primarily a problem of staffing shortages, the department suggests—it might not come as a complete shock that the department is increasing its staff into order to better handle complaints. As the CANHR explains, the department “is requesting the new positions primarily because its prior methodology for assessing staffing needs failed to consider that inspectors were needed to investigate its vast backlog of complaints or to finish complaint investigations and write reports after onside visits were conducted.”

Requirements to Promptly Investigate Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

Nearly a decade ago, a San Francisco Superior Court Judge ordered the CDPH to promptly investigate allegations of nursing home abuse and neglect, which the department claimed it couldn’t do despite a recent $20 million budget increase for hiring investigators. A backlog of elder abuse complaints existed ten years ago at the department, and money didn’t seem to correct the problem.

Will additional finding help the CDPH to handle its current backlog and to properly investigate complaints of elder abuse in a timely fashion? While the $30 million going toward new jobs in the department will certainly help with the workload, it looks as though it still will have problems with prompt investigations. As the CANHR points out, “even with all the new positions,” the department believes that “it will take approximately four years to complete the current pending investigation workload.” And, that estimate doesn’t include new cases that are likely to come in during 2015.

Do you have an elderly parent or loved one who has suffered injuries as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect? It’s very important to discuss your case with an experienced San Diego elder abuse lawyer as soon as possible. Contact the Walton Law Firm today.

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Many of us know that the state of California has been under intense scrutiny for the way it has handled nursing home abuse and neglect violations. In addition to concerns about the frequency with which the California Department of Public Health has investigated a number of complaints, victim advocates also contend that facilities across the state aren’t fined enough to prevent future elder abuse violations.

According to a recent news release from the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), the Department of Public Health has cited a couple of facilities in southern California for serious violations. And, according to the report, each of the facilities received a $75,000 fine—an amount that suggests that the state is heading in the right direction.

empty-bed-in-nursing-homeResident Death at Paramount Meadows

At the end of December 2014, Paramount Meadows Nursing Center in Los Angeles County received a Class AA citation, which was accompanied by a $75,000 fine, for the death of one of its residents. The victim, a 66-year-old resident at the facility, had repeatedly complained about pain and diarrhea. She suffered from a bladder infection, but due to inadequate care, she died as a result of the infection.

In the Department of Public Health’s report, it emphasized that the facility violated its duty to the patient in several ways, including but not limited to:

  •      Inadequate quality of care: under California law, a facility must provide its residents with “the necessary care and services to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being.”
  •      Inappropriate treatment for urinary incontinence: when a resident suffers from urinary incontinence, a facility must ensure that she “receives appropriate treatment and services to prevent urinary tract infections and to restore as much normal bladder function as possible.”
  •      Inadequate infection control: California requires that nursing homes and other facilities “establish and maintain an infection control program designed to provide a safe, sanitary, and comfortable environment and to help prevent the development and transmission of disease and infection.”

The patient who died as a result of her injuries complained specifically of back pain, side pain, vaginal pain, and pain at the site of the catheter. She eventually became unresponsive due to her infection. Because the facility failed to provide the patient with adequate care, violating some of the laws mentioned above, it was assessed a $75,000 fine.

MacLay Health Center Receives Similar Fine

Around the same time, MacLay Healthcare Center, also located in Los Angeles County, received a $75,000 fine and a AA citation due to the death of a female resident. Like the patient at Paramount Meadows, the MacLay patient came to the facility with “a history of urinary tract infections, dehydration, and trouble swallowing.” The staff didn’t properly administer the fluids required by the patient’s nutrition plan, and she died from injuries only 14 days after arriving at the facility.

Nursing home abuse and neglect is a serious problem. If you have concerns about an elderly loved one’s safety, it’s very important to speak with an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer. At the Walton Law Firm, we have been helping elderly clients for years, and we can discuss your options with you today.

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Elder Neglect and Home Caregivers

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ElderCare-1024x571When does a staffing shortage at a nursing home or assisted-living facility become grounds for an elder neglect case? According to a recent article in the San Francisco Examiner, staffing levels at skilled nursing facilities and other residences for elderly Californians “is an ever-expanding problem.” The need for support services continues to grow in the state, yet the demand doesn’t always fit the need.

To be sure, “individuals 85 years and older, the oldest of the old, are one of the fastest-growing segments of the population.” But, does California have the tools it needs to properly care for these elderly residents?

Rapidly Growing Elderly Population

Many of us know the statistics about the growing elderly population in the country. Back in 2005, U.S. census figures estimated that about 5 million Americans were aged 85 and older. Based on trends, researchers expect that number to nearly quadruple to 19.4 million by the year 2050. And, if we’re looking at elders who have significant health problems, those figures tell us that “there could be an increase from 1.6 million to 6.2 million people age 85 or over with severe or moderate memory impairment in 2050.” But, what do these numbers mean for older adults in California?

First of all, skilled nursing facilities in California currently are responsible for the care of more than 100,000 residents. In many cases, these patients transition from the hospital into a skilled nursing facility. And, often enough, the residents have serious health issues, such as late-stage Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

In California, most patients in skilled nursing facilities are over age 75, and most are women. While all aspects of the elder care industry are expected to cost more over the next two decades, skilled nursing services are expected to “remain the largest segment,” as costs for assisted-living facilities and in-home health services will expand. By 2016, the elder services industry is expected to grow to nearly $320 billion.

More Seniors, Fewer Staff Members

If the elder care industry is linked to hundreds of billions in costs, why aren’t minimum staffing levels met at skilled nursing facilities—places with patients who need the highest level of care—in California? First, it’s important to understand what we mean when we talk about skilled nursing facilities.

In California and across the country, skilled nursing facilities can look a lot like nursing homes, and indeed, according to Medicare.gov, sometimes they’re even housed within larger care facilities. They provide skilled nursing care—just like their name suggests—to individuals who need particular medical attention. They’re licensed by the state of California, and they’re required to abide by certain regulations, including staffing levels. California law requires at least 3.2 hours per patient in skilled nursing facilities. The “formula” for this is somewhat complicated, but it comes out to “the number of hours of work performed per patient day by aides, nursing assistants, or orderlies plus two times the number of hours worked per patient day by registered nurses and licensed vocational nurses.” In short, skilled nursing facilities certainly shouldn’t look to be understaffed by visitors, and you should almost always be able to see an RN at work. If not, the facility may be “failing to provide the level of care required.” Indeed, such a situation might rise to the level of elder neglect.

As the article in the San Francisco Examiner points out, the California Department of Public Health’s Licensing and Certification Program has been “widely criticized for failing to investigate and charge nursing homes.” Thus, the problem likely is two-fold: skilled nursing facilities aren’t meeting staffing requirements, and when the Department of Public Health receives a complaint, investigations aren’t proceeding as they should.

If you are concerned about nursing home neglect, you should discuss your case with an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse attorney. Contact the Walton Law Firm today to learn more about how we handle elder abuse claims in California.

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Does race play a role in evaluating a loved one’s risk of nursing home abuse? According to a recent article from New America Media, Latino/a seniors may be at greater risk of elder abuse once they enter a nursing home or assisted-living facility due to cultural differences and discrimination.

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The Pew Research Hispanic Center Project emphasizes that Latinos are “the nation’s largest minority group and among its fastest growing populations.” To be sure, the Latino population made up 17 percent of the U.S. population in 2012, and it “accounted for more than half of the nation’s population growth” between 2000 and 2010. Given that California has a particularly high Latino/a population (with Los Angeles featuring the largest Hispanic population in any U.S. metropolitan area), it’s important to consider the ways in which nursing home abuse and neglect might distinctly affect these older adults.

Physical Abuse and Discrimination

In many cases, Latinos in nursing homes suffer physical abuse due to discrimination. In the case of Esther González, a Guatemalan immigrant at a nursing home in Culver City, the caregiving aide repeatedly hit and struck the patient. The abuse began when the aide pushed González, but quickly escalated. González recalls the caregiver “using a hook from a plastic bag” to strike her legs.

In addition to the physical abuse, González also suffered from psychological and verbal abuse.  The latter suggests that the caregiver may have discriminated against González. The patient recalled the caregiver using offensive language toward her on multiple occasions. While a number of Latinos in nursing homes, like González, don’t have perfect English-language skills, it’s important to consider the role that racial discrimination might play in these incidents.

Cross-Cultural Approaches to Combating Elder Abuse

In response to stories like González’s, many elder abuse advocates across the country have begun to consider new ways to address nursing home abuse and neglect. In particular, advocates may want to consider cross-cultural approaches that take into account the growing number of Latino elders in these facilities and methods to address language barriers.

The Administration on Aging (AOA) predicts that, between 2008-2030, the elderly Latino population (those aged 65 years and older) will increase by 224 percent. In contrast, the AOA predicts that the elderly non-Hispanic white population will increase by only 65 percent during that same period.

In addition to facing issues of discrimination, one of the primary problems for addressing elder abuse against Latinos is simply knowing about that abuse. According to the National Hispanic Council on Aging and Casa de Esperanza, members of the elderly Latino community in California and elsewhere face many barriers to seeking help for abuse. For example, some of these barriers include:

  •      Fears of the police, fears of the judicial system, and fears of deportation;
  •      Lack of knowledge about the U.S. legal system or misinformation about the U.S. legal system;
  •      Language barriers;
  •      Anti-immigrant sentiments and racial discrimination; and
  •      Economic challenges.

Advocates also emphasize that elderly victims in the Latino community can have cultural values that discourage them from reporting abuse, even if they don’t face some of these other barriers.

If you have an elderly loved one who may have suffered an injury because of nursing home abuse or neglect, you should always contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer. Elder abuse can happen to anyone at any time. Contact the Walton Law Firm to learn more about our approach to elder abuse cases.

Photo Credit: mtop.hh via Compfight cc

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We know that California assisted-living facilities need to be better regulated by the state. After all, many of the serious and life-threatening injuries sustained by patients in nursing homes and residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs) are preventable. But what happens when similar incidents of elder neglect occur at home? According to a recent article in The Atlantic, there’s a significant regulation problem—lack of regulation, to be precise—with California’s in-home supportive services (IHSS) program.

As the article explains, this program “pays people to look after seniors,” but without sufficient regulation, many older adults end up sustaining severe injuries as a direct result of elder abuse and neglect.

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State-Funded Care at Home

What is the in-home supportive services program? As the California Department of Social Services explains, it helps to pay for services provided to seniors so that they can “remain safely in [their] own home.” In order to be eligible based on age, you must be over the age of 65. The program also provides services to certain disabled persons. As the Department emphasizes, it’s an “alternative to out-of-home care, such as nursing homes or board and care facilities.”

What kinds of services will the state pay for? The type of care that elderly residents receive through IHSS looks a lot more like the kind of care provided in RCFEs. For example, IHSS services can include housekeeping, meal preparation, and personal care assistance. Services authorized through IHSS do not include, for instance, any kind of medical services.

Why does the state pay for such services? According to the article in The Atlantic, it “saves the government money.” At the same time, though, it “offers many people a greater sense of comfort and autonomy than life in an institution.” But if the caregivers who provide services through this program aren’t properly trained, the elderly people who use these services could be at serious risk of injuries from neglect. To be sure, these “caregivers are largely untrained and unsupervised, even when paid by the state, leaving thousands of residents at risk of possible abuse, neglect, and poor treatment.”

Rise in Publicly Funded Caregiver Programs

California’s creation of the IHSS program isn’t specific to the state. Indeed, many states across the country have turned to publicly funded caregiver programs. Residents’ use of these services in California, however, ranks among the highest in the country. It’s a 7 billion dollar program, and its caseload has reached nearly half a million since 2001.

Most of the caregivers work for low pay, however (approximately $10 per hour), and they don’t receive much scrutiny from the organizations that monitor nursing homes and other facilities in the state. Based on information from police departments and court records, these caregivers’ in-home lapses “lead to preventable injuries and death.” To be sure, caregivers aren’t even required to learn CPR or basic first-aid techniques, let alone methods for addressing other specific needs of California’s elderly population.

While in-home programs might seem preferable to older adults and their family members, they can come with serious risks of elder abuse and neglect. If you suspect that your elderly parent or loved one has been abused or neglected, you should contact an experienced San Diego elder abuse attorney as soon as possible.

Photo Credit: Ⅿeagan via Compfight cc

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