• Suspect nursing home abuse or neglect?
  • KNOW THE SIGNS
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We’ve been following the reform initiatives for residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs) in California, and a story in U-T San Diego emphasizes that support for the RCFE Reform Act of 2014 has been gaining momentum.  Last Tuesday, legislation “pushed through separate committees at the state Capitol,” thus “making it more likely that rules governing senior homes will get tighter.”  Potential reform legislation now includes “nearly 20 different bills authored by lawmakers from both political parties,” reported U-T San Diego.

Old Man Currently, approximately 7,500 residential care facilities exist in California, and reform advocates are eager to support any legislation that will require greater oversight and will help to prevent instances of elder abuse.  Numerous nursing home abuse and neglect cases have made local and national news over the last year, and many of the recent reform measures have been offered in response to those reports.

However, not all Californians are in favor of the legislation.  We’ll go over the key points of the recent testimony and the perceived advantages and disadvantages of the RCFE Reform Act of 2014.  In the meantime, if you suspect that your elderly parent or loved one has sustained injuries because of elder neglect at a nursing home or residential care facility, it is very important to speak to an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer.

Advocates in Favor of Nursing Home Reform

Most of the reform advocates who gave testimony concerning the pending legislation want an entire “overhaul” of the system in our state.  What would such an overhaul entail?  According to the article in U-T San Diego, reform advocates want to “require homes to carry liability insurance, increase fines and inspections, protect whistle-blowers, and require more timely investigations by regulators.”  Other possible measures include raising the licensure fee to operate a residential care facility, requiring the state to post records of violations online, and requiring additional training in order to be eligible to work at an assisted living facility or even to serve as an administrator within an RCFE.

Eric Carlson, a lawyer with the National Senior Citizens Law Center, indicated that increasing the number of inspections is the most important aspect for reform.  According to Carlson, “it’s hard to overemphasize how important the inspection process is,” as “relying on complaints is unrealistic.

Aaron Byzak, the grandson of a victim of elder neglect, created an advocacy group called “Hazel’s Army.”  The group pays homage to Byzak’s grandmother, who sustained a broken leg in an accident at a care facility and later died when staff failed to adequately respond to her injury.  Byzak is lobbying primarily for Social Services to be required to post compliance records online.  As of now, “the only way to view complaints and correction orders is by making an appointment in advance and visiting a state office in person.”  With such violations posted on the internet and made readily available to California consumers, fewer Californians will unknowingly seek the services of residential care facilities that have had a history of elder abuse or elder neglect.

Opposition to Legislative Reform

Who would oppose measures to improve living conditions for the elderly?  According to the article in U-T San Diego, opposition to some of the reform measures doesn’t relate to an unwillingness to assist the elderly, but rather stems from concerns about specific logistics of some of the bills.  For instance, the California Assisted Living Association “withheld support from one proposal…only because it did not specify how the money raised would be spent.”

What will happen from here?  The “bills that make up the RCFE Reform Act of 2014 will be sent to other committees within the state Assembly and Senate.”  It’s likely that the bills will endure certain additions, deletions, and alterations during this process, but advocates believe that the reform package will be adopted.

If you have questions about elder abuse in California or concerns about how the reform measures are likely to affect your elderly loved ones, don’t hesitate to contact an elder justice advocate at the Walton Law Firm.

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Online Map to Track Elder Financial Abuse

More Oversight of Elder Care Facilities in San Diego County

 

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Elder abuse and nursing home neglect are crimes that aren’t confined to physical or emotional abuse.  In fact, every year many older Americans become victims of financial mistreatment.  A recent article in the New York Times reports that the AARP has developed a new interactive online tool—a map of sorts—to prevent fraudulent practices that target the elderly.  The tool is available to California seniors and older adults across the country.

Are you concerned that your elderly loved one has been the victim of financial elder abuse?  It’s very important to contact an experienced elder law attorney as soon as possible.  Elderly financial abuse can prevent Americans from living comfortably during old age, and even worse, fraudulent schemes can prevent older adults from being able to pay for nursing home care or other expensive treatments they might require.  At the Walton Law Firm, we have significant experience handling many different types of elder abuse claims.  An elder justice advocate at our firm can talk with you today.

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network Map

What is this online fraud tool?  The Fraud Watch Network tool is a national map created by elder advocates at AARP that arose from a fraud awareness campaign last autumn.  According to the article in the New York Times, the online map is an interactive tool that “lets you click on your state and see notices about fraudulent activity in your area, both from consumers reporting their personal experiences and from state authorities.”

These reports range from “medical alert” scams reported by an attorney general to fraudulent email schemes urging older adults to open dangerous attachments.  Other reports focus on Social Security scams, or situations in which someone creates an online Social Security account in the name of an elderly adult and has those monthly payments redirected.

The goal of the interactive online tool, according to Nancy LeaMond, the executive vice president at AARP, is “to help consumers more easily track illegal schemes that target them for financial fraud and identity theft.”  LeaMond emphasized that “it’s to make sure that people are alerted to scams that are out there.”

Some commentators wonder whether the tool will be effective, since we don’t often think about elderly Americans spending a lot of time on the internet. However, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts, “56 percent of Americans aged 65 and older are online, and more than half of those who are online use social network sites.”  Yet the online presence of older adults comes with the risk of increased opportunities for scammers to take advantage of vulnerable Americans who are relying on their retirement nest eggs in order to survive.

Keeping Elders Safe Online

The AARP emphasizes the importance of keeping older adults safe on the internet.  How can you help your elderly loved one to avoid online scammers while still helping them to take advantage of tools like the fraud map created by AARP?

According to LeaMond, children and caretakers of older adults should do the following:

·      Advise your parent not to open emails or attachments from people they don’t know.  In many cases, these emails are attempts to get “malicious software” onto computers of elderly adults in order to secure information about their bank accounts, social security numbers, and so forth.

·      Choose a safe password that’s at least 8 characters that contains uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.  If your parent needs to write down the password, make sure to keep it in a safe place and do not label it as “password.”

It’s important to remember that consumer fraud schemes targeting older Americans aren’t always perpetrated by strangers.  In fact, the elderly often are targeted by younger family members who seek to take advantage of their vulnerability.  If you suspect that an older adult in your life might be the victim of financial abuse, it’s better to be safe than sorry.  An experienced California nursing home abuse attorney can answer your questions for you today.

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Financial Abuse in Palo Alto Care Home?

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As many California residents know, our state has made national news over the last year for concerns about nursing home negligence and nursing home abuse.  A recent article in the Sacramento Bee reported that Los Angeles County public health officials, “in an effort to reduce California’s backlog of health and safety complaints at nursing homes,” might have urged inspectors “to close cases without fully investigating them.”  Internal memos sent between managers, inspectors, and supervisors from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health suggest that these quick and potentially harmful case closures are part of an effort called the “Complaint Workload Clean Up Project,” and it has been in effect “since at least the summer of 2012.”

What does this mean for elderly nursing home residents?  In short, complaints at nursing homes and nursing facilities in Los Angeles County might not have been adequately investigated, and county supervisors could be held liable for injuries that occurred.  Do you have a loved one who resides at a nursing facility in Southern California?  At the Walton Law Firm, our California nursing home abuse attorneys have years of experience handling elder law claims and can speak with you today.

Nursing Home Residents at Risk of Inattention in Southern California

What has been happening in Los Angeles County?  Based on information contained in confidential documents, “Los Angeles County public health supervisors, including division chief Ernest Poolean, told inspectors to administratively close complaints submitted anonymously as ‘No Action Necessary.’”  In other words, if the confidential documents prove factual, anonymous nursing home complaints were closed without any investigations.

In addition, supervisors also encouraged inspectors to avoid investigations at the nursing facilities themselves by turning instead to “previous reports about the facility.”  According to the Sacramento Bee, “if two other inspections done around the same time did not reveal problems similar to the new allegation, the complaint was to be determined ‘unsubstantiated.’”

While inspectors did look into higher profile complaints involving abuse and those that had clear connections to ongoing lawsuits, it looks as if a number of complaints may not have been thoroughly investigated.  Ernest Poolean, who serves as Los Angeles County’s chief of the health facilities inspections division, indicated that “the county’s actions were the result of a state push to close cases.”

State and Federal Scrutiny

According to the article in the Sacramento Bee, approximately one-third of all California nursing homes are located in Los Angeles County—nearly 1,300 facilities.  The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has emphasized that it didn’t approve the practices at work in Los Angeles County, and the CDPH “has ordered Los Angeles County officials to immediately discontinue it.”  According to Anita Gore, a spokesperson for the CDPH, the practices involved in the Complaint Workload Clean Up Project run counter to the “policies and protocols” of the CDPH.

And it’s not just the state of California that’s taking a closer look at the poor investigative practices used in Los Angeles County.  Indeed, the “federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is conducting a separate inquiry.”  Jack Cheevers, a federal spokesperson, emphasized that CMS only recently learned about the rushed nursing home investigations in Los Angeles County, and there will be increased federal scrutiny in the weeks and months to come.

If you are concerned that an elderly loved one has sustained abuse or neglect, it is important to speak to an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer.  Contact us today to learn more about filing a claim for compensation.

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More Oversight of Elder Care Facilities in San Diego County

Verbal Abuse and Elderly Nursing Home Residents

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Over the past several months, Southern California has been in the elder law spotlight.  With news of rampant nursing home abuse throughout the state and a PBS frontline special, California legislators have been looking to more closely regulate residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs) in our state.  During the second week of March, the San Diego Board of Supervisors made a decision to “tighten oversight of residential care facilities for the elderly,” and they also elected to fund a “one-year pilot program to investigate and prosecute crimes committed at care homes, according to an article in KPBS San Diego.

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Nursing home abuse and neglect is a serious problem in San Diego and, indeed, across the state and country.  If you suspect that your elderly loved one has been injured because of nursing home abuse or nursing home neglect, you shouldn’t hesitate to speak with an experienced California nursing home abuse lawyer.  At the Walton Law Firm, we have years of experience handling these claims, and we’re eager to help with your case.

Details of the San Diego County Supervisors’ Decision

How will San Diego County tighten up its RCFE oversight?  First, the supervisors “unanimously approved establishing an eight-member unit in the District Attorney’s office” that will be “tasked with enforcing standards of care, and working to identify and prosecute” criminal cases of elder abuse.  This new unit will do its best to bring to justice nursing homes and other elder care facilities that aren’t playing by the rules.  According to District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, her office “works very hard to help victims of elder abuse” and to “hold those who prey on them accountable.”

What else will change?  San Diego County is also planning to provide additional funding for its Long Term Care Ombudsman program.  Back in 2009, funding for this program essentially was cut in half, but Supervisor Greg Cox has promised that the county will restore that lost funding.  According to the County of San Diego’s website, the Long Term Care Ombudsman program “advocates for residents in long term care facilities.”

For the purposes of the program, long term care facilities include nursing homes and certain other licensed facilities in the state of California.  And if you’re not sure what an ombudsman does, it’s simply a person who “listens to concerns, provides information and assistance when requested, and will investigate and resolve complaints related to care or personal rights.”

According to Cox, the board plans to double the number of patient advocates it currently has, thereby increasing the number of “unannounced visits to facilities.”  More patient advocates also means more employees who can investigate complaints when they come in.

Elderly Residents in San Diego County to Double in Coming Decades

If county officials are right, “the number of residents at least 75 years old” will “nearly double by 2030.”  Yet before making these important reforms, the services and resources available to older adults through San Diego County weren’t sufficient.  The supervisors hope that their plans for additional and stricter oversight measures will help out with the “Silver Tsunami” that’s on its way in the coming decades, as many officials call it.

Are you concerned about an elderly parent who currently resides in a residential care facility for the elderly in Southern California?  Contact a San Diego elder law attorney at the Walton Law Firm today to talk about your case.

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Can Advocacy and Awareness Remedy Nursing Home Patient Injuries?

Study Shows Nursing Home Patients Injured During Treatment
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Last week, we told you about a recent study conducted by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The report focused on skilled nursing facilities and found that about one-third of all nursing home patients suffer injuries, and more than half were preventable. The study focused on more than 600 patients from over 600 skilled nursing facilities during a one-month period in 2011. Using these figures to project nationally, the study asserted that nearly 22,000 patients sustained injuries, and more than 1,500 patients died as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect during the month of the study.

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How can we repair this shocking problem? Legislators and advocates for nursing home reform have expressed serious concern over the facts presented in this recent report. Is raising awareness about health care standards in skilled nursing facilities sufficient? Would increased inspections help? Or can we do even more to remedy the harms suffered by elderly loved ones in nursing homes?

Patients “Deserve Better,” Legislators Say

When presented with the facts of the HHS report, Senator Bill Nelson, who also serves as the chairman of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, exclaimed that “Medicare patients deserve better.” He indicated that he plans to “push for better inspections of the facilities,” and he emphasized that the report “paints a troubling picture of the care that’s being provided in some of our nation’s nursing homes.”

According to an article in ProPublica, the HHS report emphasized that “it is possible to reduce the number of patients being harmed.” The burden lies on the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, as well as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Together, these agencies can do more to “promote patient safety efforts in nursing homes” just as they have done in hospitals where adverse events have been identified.

More Inspections, Efforts to Promote Patient Safety

What does “promoting patient safety” mean in practical terms? Can more inspections solve the problem? According to the authors of the report, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) can require state health agencies that conduct nursing home inspections “to review what they are doing to identify and reduce adverse events.” But increased inspections (or at least those operating at a higher level) may be difficult to implement across the country. The article in ProPublica emphasized that “there are more than 15,000 skilled nursing facilities” in America, and nearly all of them are certified nursing homes that can provide long-term care.

And the number of residents in nursing homes has grown “as hospitals have moved to shorten patient stays.” Indeed, Medicare spending on skilled nursing facilities “more than doubled to $26 billion between 2000 and 2010,” according to ProPublica.

Advocates for patient rights and safety suggest developing new metrics to track improvements in nursing homes, rather than relying solely on annual inspections. According to Dr. Marty Makary at Johns Hopkins Medicine, annual inspections “don’t do a good job of capturing a facility’s everyday performance,” and access to such statistics could lead to greater improvements in healthcare at skilled nursing facilities.

Other advocates, such as those working with New York’s Long Term Care Community Coalition, insist that “better enforcement of the existing standards in nursing homes” can help to solve the problem. In short, there’s no need to create new standards of care—the existing ones are good, but they’re not being enforced. Richard Mollot, the executive director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition, believes that if these standards were enforced consistently, “we wouldn’t have these widespread problems.”

Your elderly loved one deserves to receive proper care while residing at a nursing home. If you suspect nursing home abuse or neglect, contact the experienced California nursing home abuse lawyers at the Walton Law Firm today.

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When we trust the care of our elderly loved ones to skilled nursing facilities, we expect that they’ll receive proper treatment and won’t suffer unnecessary harms. Nobody anticipates nursing home abuse and neglect, but a recent article in ProPublica indicates that about one-third of patients in skilled nursing facilities suffer harms during their treatments. Based on a study conducted by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “nearly 22,000 patients were injured and more than 1,500 died in a single month—a higher rate of medical errors than hospitals.”

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Is your elderly loved one in safe hands at her nursing home? Nursing home neglect occurs more frequently than we’d like to think. And while California legislators are hoping to change some of the rules for residential facilities in our state, it’s important to be vigilant. If you suspect that an older adult has been mistreated in a nursing home or assisted living facility, contact the experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyers at the Walton Law Firm today.

What is a Skilled Nursing Facility?

A skilled nursing facility, often referred to as an “SNF,” is what we commonly think of as a nursing home. In short, it’s a licensed healthcare facility that undergoes regulation and inspection by the state. Skilled nursing facilities can offer both long-term and short-term care for older adults who require medical treatment or rehabilitations services for health problems, such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, according to SeniorHomes.com. The key point is this: skilled nursing facilities provide a higher level of care than assisted living facilities. In California, you may know assisted living facilities as “RCFEs,” which aren’t licensed to provide the higher level of care of a skilled nursing facility.

Details of Patients’ Harms in Nursing Homes

The recent report indicated that “one-in-three patients in skilled nursing facilities suffered a medication error, infection, or some other type of harm related to their treatment.” And of these injuries, nearly 60 percent were preventable, according to physicians who reviewed the files. And while it may not be the first thing on our minds, the financial implications are also very high. For instance, of the nursing home patients who sustained injuries, more than half required additional hospital treatments that totaled approximately $208 million in the course of a month, or “about 2 percent of Medicare’s total inpatient spending.”

More patients suffer harms in skilled nursing facilities than in hospitals, and this fact is disconcerting to many patient safety experts, as hospital errors typically receive the most media attention. According to Dr. Marty Makary, a physician at Johns Hopkins Medicine, the recent report provides evidence that “there are vast areas of health care,” such as that in nursing homes, “where the field of patient safety has not matured.”

Some key injury statistics from the report include:

  • Lasting harm occurred in 22 percent of the cases studied
  • Temporary harm occurred in only 11 percent of the cases studied
  • The injured patient died in 1.5 percent of the cases due to poor care

What caused the harms? According to the report, the following were listed as causes of patient injuries:

  • Substandard treatment
  • Inadequate monitoring
  • Delays in providing needed care or failure to provide needed care

The report identified patient deaths caused by:

  • Preventable blood clots
  • Fluid imbalances
  • Excessive bleeding (caused by blood-thinning medications)
  • Kidney failure

Has your older parent sustained an injury while residing in a skilled nursing facility? It is very important to contact an elder law professional. At the Walton Law Firm, our dedicated attorneys have experience handling nursing home abuse cases and can discuss your claim with you today.

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As lawmakers in our state continue to think about elder abuse and the salient problems with California assisted living facilities, some of these residences are being ordered to pay damages for the harms they’ve inflicted on the elderly. According to a recent article in the Long Beach Press Telegram, a jury recently said that an assisted living facility in downtown Long Beach is liable for “hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages” connected to one resident’s spinal injury.

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Has your elderly loved one suffered abuse or neglect in a California residential care facility? This is an important concern in our state, and juries take these cases very seriously. You should speak to an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse attorney about filing a claim for compensation.

Details of the Residential Care Facility

The Breakers of Long Beach is an assisted living facility within the historic Breakers Hotel Building. When driving up the coast from San Diego, you might have noticed it within the Ocean Boulevard skyline. It’s a 14-story building, and it was put up for sale last month with an asking price of $65 million. According to the news article, The Breakers of Long Beach is a residential care facility for elderly adults, and it’s licensed with the state of California. But as we know from numerous reports about poor standards in residential care facilities across our state, mere licensure doesn’t mean that The Breakers was properly caring for all of its residents.

The residential care facility is “affiliated with the Woodland Hills-based firm Sign of the Dover, which is also affiliated with The Sky Room restaurant on the top floor of The Breakers building and Topanga Assisted Living.” In other words, the owners of the residential care facility have connections to various for-profit ventures in Southern California. News commentators have suggested that the sale of the building might be linked to the elder abuse lawsuits.

What Are the Lawsuits All About?

The recent jury verdict is only one case against The Breakers of Long Beach. In this case last month, a jury found the residential care facility liable for an older resident’s spinal cord injury. A resident, Georgia Vickrey, sustained serious injuries to her spine after a dangerous fall. A judge in Los Angeles County ordered The Breakers of Long Beach to pay approximately $400,000 in compensation. According to the Long Beach Press Telegram article, the jury made clear that The Breakers had been negligent in their care of Vickrey, and that “the case qualified as an example of elder abuse due to reckless or malicious conduct.”

But two other cases against The Breakers have been filed. According to the article, one was settled last year. The parties in the remaining case planned to begin settlement talks in February of this year. In this case, a resident, Conrad Flake, died from complications resulting from “an ulcerated laceration on his leg.” The official report indicated that the cause of death “included the leg ulcer, severe sepsis and cardiopulmonary arrest.”

On his first day at the facility, Flake, 90, cut his leg and was transported to a hospital to receive stitches, but the facility failed to properly coordinate further treatment with a home health agency. Flake’s death sparked an investigation by a the Department of Social Services, which determined that Flake “did not receive proper care before his death.” If the parties don’t reach a settlement in the case, the trial is set to start as early as this September.

According to some of the plaintiffs’ attorneys in these cases, one of the primary problems with this residential care facility is that it’s run by business-minded real estate investors, rather than by elder advocates. Regardless of the reason, facilities like The Breakers of Long Beach should be held liable when they engage in acts of elder abuse or neglect. At the Walton Law Firm, our elder abuse lawyers have years of experience handling cases like these and can speak to you today.

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Financial Abuse in Palo Alto Care Home?
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Have California seniors been subject to financial abuse? A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle reported that residents at an “exclusive continue-care community” for the elderly in Palo Alto might have been fraudulently cheated out of millions of dollars. In short, many of these older adults paid substantial fees—some as pricey as $2 million, according to the article—based on a promise from the company to repay the remainder if the resident moved or to repay the remainder to the resident’s next-of-kin in case of death. However, residents and their relatives are accusing the facility, the Vi at Palo Alto, of “reneging on a promise to return most of the money to them.”

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Nursing home abuse can take many forms, and elder abuse is a term that refers to more than just physical abuse or elder neglect. As we’ve noted in recent news cases, the elderly can be particularly susceptible to financial abuse and instances of consumer fraud. Are you concerned that your older parent or relative has been the victim of a financial crime? The sooner you speak to an experienced elder law attorney, the quicker you’ll be able to take action for your elderly loved one. Contact the California nursing home abuse lawyers at the Walton Law Firm today to learn more about elder financial rights.

Financial Security and “High-End” Elder Living—Not What it Seems?

The Vi at Palo Alto houses about 500 elderly residents in apartments, and about another 100 seniors in its assisted-living facility. It’s one of several facilities that’s operated by CC-Chicago, which is a company created by Penny Pritzker. We know Pritzker as President Obama’s commerce secretary, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Living at the Vi doesn’t come cheaply. The retirement home sits on 22 acres of land that’s leased from Stanford University, and according to the report, it charges residents between $4,320 and $9,320 per month, depending on the type of apartment and level of care that each resident receives. The entrance fees for new residents are also shockingly steep—anywhere between $745,000 and $4.6 million. How does it convince seniors to shell out such a high entrance fee? According to current residents, the retirement homes has promised them that “75 to 90 percent of the money will be refunded when they leave, or turned over to their estates when they die.” The Vi also promises residents a “sense of security” with their money, since “they know their entrance fee refund will not fluctuate with changes in the market.”

However, the Vi at Palo Alto and its parent company may be guilty of financial crimes committed against these elderly residents. The company has “no remaining cash reserves and has transferred more than $190 million to CC-Chicago,” which insists that it has no financial duty to the residents at the Vi. In short, it looks like the Vi at Palo Alto won’t be able to keep its promise about refunding entrance fees.

Class Action Lawsuit Against Palo Alto Elder Community

The residents at the Vi at Palo Alto are doing their best to make sure that the continuing-care community will be held liable for financial crimes. According to those residents, the Vi and its parent company (out of Chicago) transferred their money to a corporate headquarters “with little prospect of repayment.” With high entrance fees for each of these residents, this amounts to a substantial amount of money—about $190 million when all is said and done.

What are the residents doing to go after the Vi at Palo Alto and its parent company? They’ve proposed a class-action lawsuit, which they filed last week in a federal court in San Francisco. The claim currently involves six of the Vi’s residents, and it’s headed up by Burton Richter, a resident who won the 1996 Nobel Prize in physics. The lawsuit asserts that “Vi at Palo Alto and the parent company have drained the retirement home of its reserves, run up a deficit of more than $300 million and illegally hidden their financial practices.”

For the past several years the company has insisted that the residents’ funds are perfectly safe. However, the class action alleges that the company owners “have taken hundreds of millions of dollars from a group of vulnerable senior citizens, deprived them of their security, and placed much of their lifetime savings at risk.”

A spokesperson for the company owners insisted that “the charges are completely unfounded.” However, the lawsuit alleges that the Vi at Palo Alto breached it contract and violated California law, which “requires continuing-care homes to disclose a lack of cash reserves to refund entrance fees.” We’ll be keeping an eye on the case as it moves forward.

In the meantime, don’t wait to speak to a California elder attorney if you suspect elder abuse. Contact us today to discuss your case.

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California legislators have proposed assisted-living facility reforms across the state, and the nation-wide attention to elder abuse problems in our state has rallied a variety of advocates to the cause. A recent special report released by the National Senior Citizens Law Center, in conjunction with the California HealthCare Foundation, identifies the key problems with the current assisted living model in California and proposes new “best practices” for ensuring safe care for our elderly loved ones.

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Has your elderly loved one suffered abuse or neglect in an assisted-living facility? You’ll need experienced legal counsel on your side to handle this difficult situation. Contact the dedicated nursing home abuse attorneys at the Walton Law Firm today to learn more about filing a claim for financial compensation.

Overview of Reform Needs

According to the National Senior Citizens Law Center, “California’s assisted living policy is significantly out of date.” What’s the problem? As legislators in our state have pointed out, there’s a stark disconnect between the level of care that many assisted-living facility residents need and the level of care that the state of California requires by law. In short, there’s a “bright line between the medical versus non-medical needs of the residents,” and Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (or RCFEs) aren’t required to supply significant medical care.

While other states have adjusted and amended laws to reflect a higher level of care in assisted living, “California has not adjusted adequately to the sharp increase in residents’ care needs over the past 10 to 15 years.” In fact, the assisted living law in California was enacted back in 1985, and its only been amended “intermittently” and without any substantial modifications. The advocates from the National Senior Citizens Law Center emphasize that California assisted living law “requires significant revision in order to keep pace with the new realities of assisted living.”

How Can Things Get Better? Recommendations for Improvement

The key problem, according to California elder care advocates, is that licensing standards for RCFEs don’t differentiate between the different levels of care needed by their many residents. The National Senior Citizens Law Center has emphasized that there are about 7,500 assisted-living facilities in the state of California alone, and they house about 80,000 total residents. Given this information, it seems rash to assume that all of those residents require the same level of care. So what should be done? The special report focuses on five key areas for reform: types of care, care standards, staff training, residents’ rights, and accountability.

First and most importantly, the law should reflect “a separate level-of-care classification for facilities that serve residents with greater care needs.” For residents who do need higher levels of care, such as those with complicated medication needs or dementia, advocates urge California to “establish a regulatory framework” for training staff members and requiring supervision during medication administration. The special report also emphasizes that staff training and staffing levels should be increased all around, and that residents should have more rights within assisted-living homes. Finally, California needs to provide more inspections and a better enforcement system.

As the California Legislature begins to make decisions about elder care reform, we might see some changes to the assisted-living system in our state. In the meantime, your elderly loved one should never have to suffer injuries from abuse or neglect. If you suspect elder abuse or elder neglect, don’t wait to contact an experienced California nursing home abuse lawyer.

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Many Americans have heard that long-term care can be extremely expensive and that it’s important to begin saving, or alternately to invest in long-term care insurance, as soon as possible. But is long-term care insurance really all it’s said to be? Are there other options for elder care? A recent PBS interview with economics professor Lewis Mandell suggests that simply saving money, rather than investing in these insurance plans, may ultimately be a larger help to the elderly.

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What is Long-Term Care Insurance?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) explains that long-term care insurance is special in that it’s “designed to cover long-term services and supports, including personal and custodial care in a variety of settings such as your home, a community organization, or other facility.” These policies work by reimbursing policyholders with a pre-selected daily amount “for services to assist them with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, or eating.”

The cost for these policies can vary widely, depending on a number of factors, such as your age when you purchase the policy, the daily limit for the policy, the maximum number of days or years that that policy will pay, and any additional benefits you choose. Older adults who are in declining health or are already receiving long-term care won’t qualify for a policy.

Downsides to Long-Term Care Insurance

According to Lewis Mandell, these policies are becoming even more expensive, “primarily because people are living longer.” In other words, if insurance companies are going to have to pay for more care, the price of the policies is going to rise. Yet at the same time, many commentators believe the benefits from long-term care insurance are “inadequate” at best. So what are the drawbacks to these policies?

First, on average these policies will only pay up to $150 day for a maximum of three years, and most “won’t pay for the first 90 days,” according to statistics gathered by AARP.

Second, the policies don’t properly adjust for inflation. Many of these policies do adjust for simple inflation, or 5 percent per year. On first glance, a 5 percent-per-year increase can look accurate when it comes to rising nursing home costs (which, by the way are close to $95,000 per year). However, according to Mandell, “a simple inflation adjustment adds 5 percent of the original benefit per year and does not compound like actual inflation.” For example, with simple inflation, a per diem rate of $150 will increase to $225 in 10 years’ time, or by 50 percent. However, the actual cost for care will increase to $245 in 10 years’ time, or by 63 percent with 5 percent annual compounded inflation. In short, the policies aren’t likely to provide enough money to pay for actual care.

Third, most of these policies aren’t going to pay for more than 3 years of care at $150 per day. According to Mandell, that’s about $165,000 without inflation adjustments. Most adults who can afford to pay the premiums for long-term care insurance can save this amount before they’ll need it.

And finally, many older adults don’t end up collecting on long-term care insurance policies. Based on data from an article in the Wall Street Journal, “about two-thirds of seniors stay in a nursing home for less than 90 days, which means that they get no compensation from their policies.” Remember, long-term care policies don’t start paying out until you’ve needed care for more than 90 days. And additionally, “fewer than 4 percent of seniors currently reside in nursing homes,” which means most aren’t receiving benefits from their policies. Indeed, most policies require beneficiaries to be unable to perform “activities of daily living” in order to collect, which leads many individuals who are insured—but who can still dress themselves and eat on their own—to have their claims denied.

With the aging baby boomer generation, we’re likely to see more issues for older adults in the coming years. If you have questions about caring for your elderly loved one or filing a claim, the experienced elder law attorneys at the Walton Law Firm can speak to you today.

Photo Credit: Nicolas Alejandro Street Photography via Compfight cc

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