• Suspect nursing home abuse or neglect?
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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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California Facilities Fined for Resident Deaths

Staffing Shortages at Skilled Nursing Facilities

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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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Staffing Shortages at Skilled Nursing Facilities

Latino Elders and Rates of Abuse

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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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Latino Elders and Rates of Abuse

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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Elder Neglect and Home Caregivers

Rising Number of Falls and Dangerous Injuries Among the Elderly

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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.


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.

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Hospice Mistreatment and Federal Sanctions

Rising Number of Falls and Dangerous Injuries Among the Elderly

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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.


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.

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Nursing Home Complaints and Fraud Allegations

Fines to Increase at Assisted-Living Facilities

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Are our elderly loved ones receiving proper end-of-life care at California hospices? A recent article in the Huffington Post reported that, unlike other healthcare facilities that receive Medicare funding, hospices aren’t being punished sufficiently when they commit elder abuse and violate rules related to patient health and safety. To be sure, when a hospice fails to provide the promised comfort and care at the end of a person’s life, “it almost always escapes sanctions.” Why isn’t the federal government punishing these hospices for failing to do their jobs?


Inspections Don’t Yield Sanctions

One of the primary issues, the article suggests, is that federal regulators just aren’t doling out sanctions to hospices in the same way that they often do for nursing homes. The problem isn’t that the federal government isn’t investigating claims of abuse, neglect, and patient mistreatment at hospice facilities. Indeed, “inspections do occur and problems are identified,” yet inspectors often tend to accept “hospices promises that they’ll reform.”

The statistics seem to prove this point. Medicare’s federal regulator, according to the Huffington Post researchers, “has punished a hospice just 16 times in the last decade, despite carrying out 15,000 inspections and identifying more than 31,000 violations.” To put those numbers in perspective, only .05 percent of identified violations have resulted in a sanction. And what do these sanctions look like? Federal law only has one available for hospice violations—terminating the hospice’s license. In these cases, the loss of a license typically results in the close of the hospice facility.

While all of the identified violations haven’t been serious—some, for instance, have involved minor issues like a dead battery in a smoke detector—other violations have been life-threatening. For example, federal inspectors have listed violations such as “administering the wrong dose of medicine in error and killing a patient as a result.” Medicare pays a majority of hospice claims, yet signs of serious problems don’t seem to be limiting that funding in a salient way.

Medicare “Bankrolls” For-Profit Hospices

Given that Medicare pays a large portion of claims from hospices, it’s especially disconcerting that federal investigators aren’t issuing more sanctions for obvious violations. But what’s more problematic, perhaps, is that much Medicare funding appears to be “bankrolling” a number of for-profit hospice facilities that have cropped up over the last decade.

In recent years, the federal government has cracked down on a number of these for-profit facilities, but not because of patient safety issues. Rather, many for-profit hospices have engaged in Medicare fraud, taking on patients who are “not close enough to death to qualify for the service,” such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients, or “boosting them to extra-expensive levels of care they didn’t need.”

In addition to identifying fraudulent practices at for-profit hospices, it’s important for the federal government to take a closer look at patient safety in both for-profit and non-profit facilities. Will elder care at hospices become a more important concern in 2015? In 2014, Americans took a close look at assisted-living facilities in California and called for more action to prevent elder abuse and neglect. We’ll need to wait and see whether violations at hospices will be handled in a similar manner this year.

If you have concerns about elder abuse, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced San Diego elder law attorney today. A dedicated elder justice advocate at the Walton Law Firm can answer your questions today.

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Rising Number of Falls and Dangerous Injuries Among the Elderly

Fines to Increase at Assisted-Living Facilities

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Many of us know that nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs) in California made national news over the last year for undesirable reasons related to elder abuse and neglect. Even more recently, an audit report exposed serious elder abuse investigation delays within the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Now, according to an article in the Pasadena Star News, the Los Angeles County Public Health Department has been accused of falsifying the dates on which it received complaints about nursing home abuse.


Why would the department do this? According to two employees, pressure had increased to “meet state deadlines for launching investigations,” and when the department couldn’t comply, it changed the dates of the complaints it had received.

Allegations of Abuse, Falls, and Pressure Sores

When the Los Angeles County Public Health Department decided to change the dates on some of the complaints it received—making it look as if the complaints had arrived to the department later than they actually had—the department didn’t select lower priority cases. Indeed, according to a letter drafted by inspector Kimberly Nguyen, the department shifted the dates of 11 different cases in its computer system, and those cases “involve alleged abuse, falls, and pressure sores.”

Nguyen emphasized the seriousness of these allegations against the department. She explained, “in my belief, falsification is a serious matter and unlawful and our department should know better to not manipulate paperwork to mislead others and the public.” By how many days were some of the dates changed? According to Nguyen, some of the dates of received complaints were altered by as much as 79 days. In other words, some of the fraudulent recordkeeping changed the dates on complaints by nearly 3 months.

Information about the fraud came to light back in early August, but the issue wasn’t properly addressed. Sharon Geraneo, who works as an assistant supervisor in the department, drafted an email to her supervisors citing the problems with the date alterations. In her letter, she accused the department of fining nursing homes for fraudulent recordkeeping while her department was committing similar violations.

Laws Concerning Investigation in California

Under California law, investigations into allegations of elder abuse much begin much more quickly than the department allowed for some of the serious complaints it received. State law requires that “investigations must be started within 10 days of receipt of a complaint.” In the case of an allegation that involves serious harm or the threat of imminent death, the investigation must begin within 24 hours of receiving the complaint.

What’s the relationship between the Los Angeles County Public Health Department and the CDPH? The department in Los Angeles has a contract with the state requiring it to “investigate potential problems at nursing homes.” Nguyen indicated that the department’s investigation practices are “putting patients in harm’s way,” and she emphasized that it should be “held accountable” for injuries that have resulted from its delays.

Have you filed a complaint about nursing home abuse in southern California? Are you concerned about your elderly loved one’s safety in a nursing home or assisted-living facility? Contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer today to learn more about how we can assist you.

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Elder Care Risks and Quality of Life

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We recently discussed the growing problem of severe and fatal injuries resulting from falls among the elderly population, as reported in an article in the New York Times. As most of us know, falls are a type of preventable injury. But what, precisely, can we do to prevent older adults from falling? And should residents in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities undergo greater education about the risks and dangers of falls?


Education About Fall-Related Accident Prevention

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released statistics showing that the number of fall-related deaths and life-threatening injuries has risen drastically over the last decade, a number of facilities for the elderly began to think about ways to prevent falls and to ensure that elderly residents aren’t being neglected.

Do some methods work better than others when it comes to preventing falls among the elderly? The National Institute on Aging recently partnered with the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to conduct a 5-year study that will spend $30 million to determine the best routes to fall prevention among seniors who currently live independently. It will be the largest study of its kind to date, but it won’t provide a substantial amount of information about falls in facilities where elderly residents can be monitored.

One of the problems in facilities is that a majority of the residents refuse to accept that they’re at greater risk of a fall-related injury. Many nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have offered educational sessions specifically for residents that provide information about “avoiding falls and improving balance and fitness.” Yet these kinds of sessions haven’t done a lot to prevent falls. Why? Most residents “will not go near them” until they’ve actually sustained a serious injury in a fall-related accident. In short, education doesn’t seem to be the path on which elderly residents can learn to take steps to help themselves. So what should facilities do?

Making Senior-Specific Physical Changes to Facilities

People of any age can suffer injuries in a slip and fall accident. Yet prevention methods are different depending upon the age of the likely victim. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), common ways to prevent falls in your residence include some of the following:

  • Storing objects within your reach so that you don’t have to use a ladder;
  • Keeping walkways clear of objects;
  • Making sure electrical cords aren’t in footpaths;
  • Adding handrails to staircases;
  • Using non-skid bathmats to prevent a water-related slip and fall accident in the bathroom;
  • Cleaning up liquid spills as soon as they occur.

However, when we’re talking about older adults, the causes of falls aren’t the same as they are for younger people. For persons over the age of 65, falls often happen because of problems with balance, eyesight, and general stability. As such, a number of nursing homes and other elderly facilities have taken some of the following steps to make bedrooms, bathrooms, and hallways safer for residents:

  • Changing stairway carpeting so that it’s not a uniform color. Placing bright stripes on alternate stairs can help older adults with blurred vision and limited depth perception to see the distinction among stairs.
  • Ensuring that the shower lip is a different color than the tile. For older adults, it can be difficult to see a shower lip when it’s the same white color as the tile. Changing these lips so that they’re black, for instance—and thus standing out against the white tile—can help to prevent an elderly resident from tripping when getting out of the shower.
  • Making sure that carpeting isn’t deeper than an eighth of an inch—any softer and it can prevent a serious tripping hazard for older adults who tend to shuffle when they walk.

Nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have a duty to keep residents safe. If your parent or elderly loved one recently sustained injuries in a preventable fall, it’s important to discuss your case with a San Diego nursing home abuse attorney.

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Fines to Increase at Assisted-Living Facilities

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For elderly adults who live on their own or in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, falls can result in serious and life-threatening injuries. While falls are not the result of elder abuse, they can occur when there is a clear issue of nursing home neglect. A recent article in the New York Times emphasized that the number of reported falls among older adults—many of those accidents leading to serious and sometimes fatal injuries—is a number that is “soaring.”

Nursing Home Regulations file000289604980Aimed at Preventing Falls

How can nursing homes take steps to prevent dangerous falls? The New York Times article discusses the policies put in place recently by a retirement community which require that, during mealtimes, residents who use walkers to get around must have their walkers “valet parked” after they find a seat at the table. In addition, they are not permitted to use their walkers during the meal—they must stay in their seats while staff members serve them. While many residents of the facility argued that the policy “infringed on [one’s] freedom of movement,” it prevented a number of serious falls at the buffet.

What about at non-mealtimes, when nursing home and assisted-living facility residents might not be under such close monitoring? Many of these facilities are struggling to balance residents’ freedoms with the risk of a serious fall. In particular, most of the rulemakers at these facilities—in California and across the country—know that, when an elderly resident suffers an injury during a preventable fall, that resident may be able to file a claim for nursing home neglect.

Experts indicate that nursing homes throughout the U.S. are beginning the process of creating rules and regulations aimed specifically at preventing falls, given that the number of fall-related injuries have risen dramatically in recent years. For some facilities, this means trying to anticipate hazardous conditions, and hiring architects and designers who can outfit a facility in a way that is safer for elderly residents.

Structural and design changes can take the form of automatic floor lighting that helps to guide seniors from the bed to the restroom, for instance, or energy-absorbing floors that reduce the impact from a fall. For other facilities, changes take the form of rules like the one that prevents residents from using their walkers during mealtime.

Facts and Figures Concerning Elderly Falls

Based on figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a shockingly high number of older adults sustain fatal injuries in fall-related accidents. In 2012, about 24,000 seniors died from injuries they sustained after a fall. That number has doubled over the last decade. And the numbers are even higher for emergency room visits linked to serious falls. In 2012, more than 2.4 million adults over the age of 65 received emergency room treatment for injuries connected to a preventable fall. That number shows a 50 percent increase from 2002.

Over the last ten years, more than 200,000 seniors have sustained fatal injuries in preventable falls. Indeed, falls are “the leading cause of injury-related death in that age group.”

If your parent or elderly loved one suffered a serious fall at a nursing home or assisted-living facility, you should contact an experienced San Diego elder abuse lawyer. You may be able to hold the facility liable.

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