• Suspect nursing home abuse or neglect?
  • KNOW THE SIGNS
  • KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
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According to a recent story from ABC 7 Eyewitness News Los Angeles, “California’s largest nursing home chain has come under fire from government regulators, facing a flurry of citations and penalties.” Indeed, Brius Healthcare Services will have to account for the numerous elder abuse allegations against its facilities across the state.341653009_14c3f29e39

Serious Violations in Brius Health Services Facilities

Over the course of the past year, Brius facilities have been investigated by the police, they’ve been sued for nursing home abuse, and they’ve been the target of investigations conducted by state and federal agencies that have issued violations. The company has 81 facilities in California, and they cover a wide expanse of the state. Indeed, the facilities stretch from “San Diego to Roseville to Eureka.”

What has led to the current scrutiny over these facilities when they’ve been identified as risky locations for nursing home residents long before now? According to the Sacramento Bee, the “final straw” for government regulators occurred when Courtney Cargill, a suicidal nursing home resident in Pasadena, checked herself out of the facility without any attention from the staff.

After she left the facility, Cargill purchased a gallon of gasoline, doused herself in the liquid, and lit herself on fire. She died less than a day later, the newspaper reported, “with second- and third-degree burns over 90 percent of her body.” After Cargill’s death, government regulators “decertified South Pasadena Convalescent in January and yanked its Medicare and Medi-Cal funding.” And that’s only one of the recent regulatory actions taken against Brius.

Who is to blame for the numerous nursing home abuse and neglect violations in the Brius facilities? Some commentators point to the owner of the chain, Schlomo Rechnitz, and his limited understanding of running residences for the elderly.

Newcomer Nursing Home Owner

Rechnitz has become the owner of many California nursing facilities in a relatively short time. To be sure, he has acquired all of the 81 facilities since 2006, “many of them through bankruptcy court.” The Sacramento Bee reported that Rechnitz’s chain has “grown so quickly that he now controls about 1 in every 14 nursing home beds in California, giving him an outsized influence on quality of care in the state.” With Rechnitz’s relative inexperience in managing these facilities, some elder advocates argue that the owner isn’t ensuring the proper quality of care in the many nursing homes he owns.

According to Molly Davies, the administrator of the long-term care ombudsman program in Los Angeles, “what we’re seeing at the Brius locations is quite concerning.” Davies elaborated about how her program has “seen patterns of poor care, patterns of substandard care in some of these facilities.” To be sure, Davies indicated that members of her staff reported witnessing a “flagrant disregard for human life in some Brius-owned facilities.”

In the last five years, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has only decertified six nursing home facilities (out of more than 1,200 licensed in the state). Three of those facilities—a whopping 50 percent of the total—belonged to Rechnitz. Decertification is a serious punishment—an “economic kiss of death that is extremely rare.”

Brius is now facing serious sanctions for the violations that have occurred at its facilities throughout California. We’ll need to wait and see whether many of these nursing homes remain in business.

Contact a San Diego Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

If you have concerns about nursing home abuse and neglect at a Brius facility, you should contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse attorney as soon as possible. An advocate at the Walton Law Firm can help with your case.

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Paramedics and Elder Abuse Reporting

Nursing Homes in Santa Cruz County Agree to Settlement

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Every year on June 15th, the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) and the Administration on Aging (AoA) provide awareness resources and prevention information for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). According to a press release from the AoA, WEAAD was established in 2006 by several different global organizations that partnered to help stop elder abuse across the world.4015324803_d0e5839192

Elder Abuse and Neglect Occurs Across the Globe

In conjunction with the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations, the NCEA and AoA hope to “provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons.” What kind of tools are necessary to help global citizens understand elder abuse and neglect? While age is a primary risk factor for sustaining injuries resulting from elder abuse, nursing home abuse and neglect isn’t limited to just one socioeconomic or ethnic group.

To be sure, the AoA emphasizes that it’s important to look at “cultural, social, economic, and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.” As the World Health Organization (WHO) points out, “in many parts of the world elder abuse occurs with little recognition or response.” And regions across the globe consider the subject to be taboo, and thus not one that’s open to large-scale awareness and prevention efforts. However, there is hope. WHO emphasizes that in some countries in which public discussions of abuse and neglect previously were avoided, it’s slowly becoming a topic of public health concern.

But don’t go thinking that nursing home abuse or elder neglect only occur in certain parts of the world. Both developing and developed countries have to contend with elder abuse injuries, and elder abuse and neglect are “typically underreported globally.” According to WHO, it’s important for primary health care providers, as well as social services employees, to have proper training for identifying and reporting elder abuse.

Awareness Day Encourages Communities to Help Prevent Nursing Home Abuse

While WEAAD is a great time to get involved in awareness programs in your community, at the same time, the activities in June can serve as a reminder of the kinds of programs we can create year-round. Some ideal activities for San Diego-area residents might include:

  • Helping to develop an educational program about nursing home abuse
  • Creating a press conference to discuss elder abuse problems in Southern California;
  • Volunteering at a local nursing home; and/or
  • Writing an editorial about elder abuse for publication in a local newspaper, such as U-T San Diego.

Remember, contending with the massive elder abuse problems across the country can’t resolve itself with an annual awareness day. However, each step helps, and WEAAD reminds us each year that we need to do more to combat elder abuse in San Diego and to assist elderly Californians who have been injured while residing in nursing homes or assisted-living facilities.

Do you have questions about how you can get involved with nursing home abuse prevention measures in Southern California? Or do you have concerns about an elderly loved one in a nearby nursing home or assisted-living facility? You should speak with an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer today.

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Paramedics and Elder Abuse Reporting

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According to a recent article in the Courthouse News Service, a California senior’s family filed an elder abuse lawsuit against “the nation’s largest nursing home chain” after the patient was accidentally given a fatal dose of morphine. The victim, Jonathan Bell, had been a dialysis patient at American River Center in Sacramento when his nurse mistakenly administered the morphine. Bell’s family has alleged that the nursing home “refused to let an ambulance take the catatonic man to a hospital” after the medical mistake occurred. Bell died the following day.1921401904_b3e2bdfd81

Nursing Home Concerned About Sanctions

Why wouldn’t staff members at American River Center allow an ambulance to take Bell to the hospital for care? His daughters argue that “the nursing home feared sanctions for giving him the wrong treatment and tried to cover up its mistake by letting Bell remain in a catatonic state for more than 24 hours without medical attention.” Indeed, according to the family’s lawyer, “they tried to bury their mistake and buried his life.”

Based on the complaint, Bell realized he had taken a narcotic and told the nursing staff. However, he soon “became non-responsive and catatonic,” and the nursing staff allegedly left him to “sleep off the morphine.” Bell’s roommate also alerted the nursing staff to Bell’s condition. It was only 24 hours after Bell received the lethal dose of morphine—and two hours after the facility refused to have the victim transported in an ambulance—that the nursing home called an ambulance to take him to a hospital. But, according to the complaint, “Bell quickly died in the hospital.”

Suspicion of Nursing Home Negligence

Like numerous medication errors, Bell’s dose of morphine proved to be fatal. And the complaint argues that the nursing home didn’t seek treatment for the patient because it was concerned about a medication error citation.

Bell had been admitted almost two years prior to the incident after he suffered a stroke. During the time of his residence at the facility, the victim’s daughter were concerned that he suffered other injuries as a result of nursing home negligence. For example, Bell’s daughters reported that he lost about 30 pounds during his stay at American River Center, and that “he fell nine times while under the supervision of American River Center’s staff.” Advocates for Bell have indicated that the facility was severely understaffed, as “the nurse assigned to him was working a double shift and ignored him altogether.”

This isn’t the first time that American River Center, owned by Genesis HealthCare, has been listed for having nursing home abuse issues. To be sure, another of Genesis’s facilities in Sacramento is “one of six nursing facilities in California listed on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ list of centers with serious quality issues.” And Bell’s family alleges that American River Center, too, has “a record of substantiated complaints against it.”

The recent incident in Sacramento is only one example of nursing home abuse in California. If you have concerns about an elderly loved one’s safety in a nursing home or assisted-living facility, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer.

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When emergency medical responders receive a call to a nursing home or assisted-living facility, they may be in the best position to identify signs and symptoms of elder abuse. According to a recent article from ABC 7 KRCR News, “paramedics and first responders are sometimes the first to notice something is wrong.” As such, they can help to ensure that victims of nursing home abuse can receive they help they need.red-cross-29930_1280

Training Paramedics to Look for Signs of Neglect

A recently reported case of elder abuse in Redding has led to an increased emphasis on paramedics and their unique position to identify signs of elder neglect. To be sure, according to Mark Belden, an operations manager for American Medical Response, when paramedics enter the home of an elderly adult, they’re “trained to look for signs of neglect.” Under California law, paramedics must report suspicions of elder abuse or neglect, but it’s important that these first responders have the necessary training to know what they’re seeing.

For instance, paramedics in California and across the country receive training that requires them to do a “visual inspection of the patients’ surrounding and environment,” and to attempt to determine whether those patients are getting “proper nutrition.” Emergency responders also “look for the presence of old wounds and bruises.”

While paramedics certainly aren’t trained to investigate reports of elder abuse—their aim is to move a patient out of a potentially dangerous situation and to transport them to a facility where they can receive the care they need—emergency responders can make reports about their observations. As Belden explains, “we’re not police, we’re not investigators. We’re going to report what we see, we’re not going to ask questions about what’s going on there.” Yet simply knowing what to look for can help elder abuse investigators down the road and can result in a patient being safely removed from a dangerous environment.

Research on Emergency Medical Responders and Nursing Home Abuse

When paramedics think they see a sign of elder abuse, do they always report what they’ve observed? Or do we need to provide emergency medical responders with better training for spotting symptoms of nursing home abuse and neglect? A report from the National Institutes of Health suggested that “paramedics and EMTs lack complete understanding of their role in the identification and reporting of elder abuse.”

Elder justice advocates tend to agree that paramedics could be a first line of defense when it comes to cases of nursing home abuse. What barriers exist to persons in these professions successfully identifying and reporting suspected cases of abuse? According to the report, paramedics need better training in identifying elder abuse, and, perhaps more significantly, they need to know who should learn about their suspicions. The following reasons existed for emergency responders failing to report suspected situations of nursing home neglect:

  •      Lack of certainty about which authority to report to;
  •      Unclear definitions of elder abuse and neglect;
  •      Lack of knowledge about mandatory reporting laws; and
  •      Concerns about anonymity.

Do you have questions about elder abuse and neglect? In some cases, signs of elder abuse may be difficult to identify. It’s very important to discuss your concerns with a dedicated San Diego nursing home abuse attorney. You may be able to file a claim for compensation.

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Back in September, we discussed a federal lawsuit concerning nursing home abuse in Watsonville. According to a recent article in the San Jose Mercury News, the leaders of those two Watsonville nursing homes involved in the suit have agreed to a $3.8 million settlement. The lawsuit alleged that the owners “provided ‘substandard or worthless services,’ overly medicated residents, and submitted false Medicare and Medicaid claims.”2189387168_cc27c053e0

Background of the $3.8 Million Nursing Home Abuse Settlement

Filed eight months ago, the lawsuit alleged gross misconduct related to elder abuse and neglect. Now, almost a year later, the leaders of those Watsonville nursing homes have agreed to settle the case. The facilities include Country Villa Watsonville East (now renamed as Watsonville Nursing Center), and Country Villa Watsonville West Nursing and Rehabilitation Center (now renamed as Watsonville Post-Acute Center). Other named parties included the CF Watsonville East, LLC, CF Watsonville West, LLC, and the entities overseeing the finances and nursing home management of the facilities.

According to the initial complaint, “the leaders received more than $20 million in Medicare and Medicaid payments for services characterized as non-existent, grossly inadequate, materially substandard, and/or worthless.”

One of the primary practices at issue was overmedication. To be sure, the complaint contended that residents of the facilities were given narcotics and antipsychotic drugs to treat symptoms of dementia, depression, and pain. Overmedication and off-label drug use is a serious problem in nursing homes, and the facilities in Watsonville are just one example of locations that attempt to supply “chemical restraints for the convenience of management.” In addition to harmful medication practices, the facilities didn’t “keep proper medication records” or “monitor medication side effects.”

Elder Abuse and Neglect that Shocks the Senses

In addition to the $3.8 million, the defendants in the suit agreed to a five-year corporate integrity agreement. This agreement will require the facilities to “implement and maintain compliance” with specific regulations. According to Ivan Negroni, the special agent in charge of the investigation with the Office of the Inspector General, “it’s outrageous when nursing home owners accept Medicare and Medicaid money to care for vulnerable nursing home residents and in return provide care so lacking in quality and compassion it shocks the senses.”

According to U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, the settlement also has terms that will help to hold the nursing homes accountable. They’ll be required to have an independent monitor, in addition to other protections designed to keep residents safe, in order to prevent the type of elder abuse for which the lawsuit arose in the first place. Haag emphasized that her agency is “committed to investigating such substandard care” and ensuring that nursing homes and other elder care facilities provide “appropriate, high quality care in the future.”

If you have concerns about a loved one’s safety or care in a California nursing home or assisted-living facility, it’s extremely important to discuss your case with a dedicated San Diego nursing home abuse attorney. Signs of elder abuse and neglect can sometimes be subtle, and it’s essential that poorly run facilities providing substandard care be held accountable. If you have questions about filing a claim, contact the Walton Law Firm today to learn more about how we can assist you.

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Nursing Home Inspection Reorganization

Elder Abuse or Medical Malpractice?

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How dangerous are psychiatric medications when they’re prescribed for dementia patients in nursing homes? According to a recent article in Modern Healthcare, the benefits of the long-term use of psych meds when they’re prescribed for the disorders for which they’re designed—would “need to be colossal to counter known harms associated with their use.” And while the off-label use of antipsychotics to treat dementia symptoms appears to have declined, it remains a significant problem in Southern California and throughout the country.

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Stopping Use of Psychotropic Drugs

Researchers across the globe are speaking out about the dangers of antipsychotic drugs. To be sure, a debate about their efficacy and long-term effects recently sprung up on the website for the journal of the British Medical Association. According to Dr. Peter Gøtzsche, who serves as the director of the Nordic Cochrane Center, the lack of benefit from these medications, particularly when they’re used in an off-label manner, means that “we could stop almost all psychotropic drugs without causing harm.” For even when they’re used to provide short-term relief, he emphasized, they pose serious long-term harms.

In the United States, psychotropic medications simply are overprescribed. A study featured in JAMA Psychiatry in 2012 reported that “rates of patients visiting their doctors for a prescription for antipsychotics more than doubled . . . between 1993 and 2009.” And those figures represent one of the growing problems of these drugs—they’re used far too often in nursing homes “to manage challenging behaviors in elderly dementia patients.”

To be clear, antipsychotic drugs weren’t designed to treat or manage symptoms linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. When the drugs are prescribed for reasons other than those approved by the FDA, we describe this situation as “off-label” use.

Antipsychotic Drug Use Inside and Outside Nursing Homes

While many elder care advocates as well as federal health officials have attempted to limit the use of psychotropic drugs for dementia patients, it’s important to recognize that this abuse isn’t solely taking place in nursing homes. Indeed, a recent report from the Government Accountability Office showed that “overuse among the elderly is not exclusive to nursing homes.” Rather, “internists, family medicine physicians, psychiatrists, and neurologists wrote more than 80 percent of the prescriptions for antipsychotics for older adults with dementia in 2012.”

In other words, even when older adults are living at home with caregivers, the off-label use of antipsychotic drugs to manage dementia symptoms continue to be a problem. And in 2012, the Medicare prescription drug program ended up paying around $363 million for antipsychotic drugs prescribed for elderly dementia patients.

While some physicians argue that these medications are “working well for people with dementia,” others cite the numerous adverse events that occur each year as a result of taking these drugs, from overdoses to severe brain injuries. Other side-effects for the elderly can include “increased risk of heart failure, sudden death, and pneumonia.”

Do you have concerns about your elderly loved one’s care in a San Diego nursing home or assisted living facility? An experienced San Diego elder abuse attorney can answer your questions today.

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Elder Abuse or Medical Malpractice?

Proposed Legislation for RCFE Reform and Excluded Persons Lists

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Given the sheer number of nursing home abuse complaints that have created a backlog in Southern California, it sounds like good news that state officials are hoping to change nursing home inspection and oversight duties. Indeed, according to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, officials in Los Angeles County are changing the way they handle nursing home neglect complaints “as part of a drive to better manage a backlog of investigations.”

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However, the reorganization may not be sufficient to yield a significant change. To be sure, “some patient advocates say the proposed changes aren’t likely to significantly improve conditions, and could make matters worse.”

Investigation Practices in Los Angeles County

In Los Angeles County, the Governor’s proposed budget would provide substantially more money for enforcement measures when it comes to complaints about elder abuse in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. With the proposed budget, county officials’ responsibilities likely would be limited to annual inspections, with exceptions made for “the most serious cases affecting patient welfare.” This shift is supposed to help to prevent a future backlog of complaints. Currently, Los Angeles County has a backlog of 10,000 complaints and incidents, and 2,700 “have been open for more than two years.”

Los Angeles County works a little bit differently than other counties in the state. It’s “the only county in the state that is contracted to conduct yearly inspections of the homes and hospitals, as well as investigations of complaints of mistreatment, inadequate care, and other violations of state regulations.” In other counties, state officials bear these responsibilities. And reports indicate that Los Angeles County officials aren’t getting the inspections completed in a timely or proper manner. To be sure, a recent audit showed that officials closed certain complaints without fully investigating them.

County employees attribute the problem to a lack of funding, and patient advocates have expressed concerns that shifting the investigation duties will lead to even greater mismanagement and the suffering of elderly residents in facilities throughout the county. According to Molly Davies, the vice president of Elder Abuse Prevention and Ombudsman Services at Wise & Healthy Aging, “there’s a potential to miss a lot if you don’t have some continuity of the inspection process.”

Need for More Funding

Will a new “division of duties” between state and county employees make a positive difference in the outcome of nursing home abuse complaints? Or is the problem one that could be better handled with a higher budget for county employees? Each year, Los Angeles County receives $26.9 million for its investigation program. In order to properly enforce the law and to hold facilities responsible for violations, county officials estimate that they’d need “twice that amount and an additional 150 employees.” In short, the county believes it could do better work if it had more funding.

And patient advocates also worry that introducing more state employees into the mix simply isn’t a good thing. According to one advocate with the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), “the state has been equally negligent in investigating nursing home complaints.” In other words, reorganization between the county and the state doesn’t seem to be the answer.

Are you concerned that someone you love has been the victim of elder abuse or neglect? It’s very important to discuss your case with an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse attorney. Contact the Walton Law Firm today to learn more.

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When you learn that an elderly loved one has died while in the care of a nursing home or assisted-living facility, you may suspect that she didn’t receive the proper treatment. In some cases, however, it’s difficult to discern whether an older adult suffered injuries as a result of medical negligence or because of elder abuse.6811278733_eca62c5091

In California, nursing home abuse and neglect is a serious problem throughout the state. At the same time, medical malpractice can occur in a variety of healthcare settings, including nursing homes. According to a recent article in the National Law Journal, differentiating medical negligence and elder abuse cases can be complicated in California.

Characterizing a Healthcare Provider’s Actions

What’s the difference between medical negligence and elder abuse or neglect when it comes to seniors in California? It is not always easy to tell, and, sometimes, is a question for a jury to decide.  In a nutshell, medical malpractice is simply the failure to follow the “recognized standard of care” in a given situation, or, doing something (or failing to do something) another healthcare provider would do under the same or similar circumstances.   Elder abuse or neglect is conduct that is “more than negligent” and often thought to be a “conscious choice of action” that leads to a harm.  For example, a care plan for a nursing home resident might call for two people to assist to the toilet, but because of low staffing or a busy period, a caregiver decides to assist alone and the resident gets injured.  That could very well be considered neglect, because the caregiver knew, or should have known, what he/she was doing was wrong.  Ultimately, it’s an analysis about the degree or wrong doing.  Was it a simple mistake, or something more.

To be sure, nursing home abuse and medical malpractice claims can overlap. Indeed, both often involve descriptions of negligence or neglect when it comes to the actions of a medical professional or a facility, and more lawyers, like those at Walton Law Firm, will bring a lawsuit that alleges both medical negligence and elder neglect.

Limitations of Medical Negligence Claims for Seniors’ Injuries

Why might a victim of nursing home neglect seek to file an elder abuse claim instead of a medical malpractice lawsuit? In short, nursing home abuse victims may be entitled to additional remedies. For instance, a nursing home abuse claimant may be entitled to certain damages for pain and suffering whereas a medical negligence victim would not be eligible for the same.

Determining damages in any case—from an elder abuse injury case to a medical negligence matter—can be complicated. If you have questions about whether your elderly loved one may have been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, you should be sure to discuss your case with a dedicated advocate. A San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer at the Walton Law Firm can speak with you today.

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Rising Costs of Elder Care in California Prompt Additional Scrutiny

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In California, elder abuse isn’t limited to nursing homes. To be sure, residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs), which are also known as assisted-living facilities, retirement homes, and board and care homes, have been cited for numerous instances of elder abuse and neglect. And given that RCFEs only provide incidental medical services, these facilities aren’t subject to the same regulations as nursing homes. Which ones are safest for your elderly loved one? And which facilities haven’t been implicated in recent nursing home abuse allegations? Proposed legislation seeks to help Californians with these important questions.

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New Bill Aims to Provide Access to Elder Abuse Information

Many RCFEs exist throughout the state of California. According to the California Department of Social Services, they offer services ranging from personal supervision and assistance with activities of daily living to medical services that are incidental to personal care. How can consumers know which of these facilities will provide the best care to their elderly loved ones?

A recent article in California Newswire reported that a new bill seeks to require the Department of Social Services and Community Care Licensing (DSS/CCL) to “publish on its website a list of all persons who have been excluded from owning, operating, and/or working inside any licensed care facility as a result of an Administrative Law proceeding.”

In other words, if the bill passes, the public will be able to access quickly and with relative ease a list of those who have been implicated in serious situations of elder abuse and neglect. To be sure, the bill, AB 1122, “will provide convenient online access to the Excluded Persons Administrative Action List (EPAAL),” which will provide consumers, residents of assisted-living facilities, and service providers with information about persons who could be harmful at RCFEs. Allowing easy access to these names can help to ensure that RCFEs hire caregivers with “no prior history of behaviors which endangered the health or safety of an elder.”

Changing Reporting Requirements and Public Knowledge

Currently, DSS/CCL doesn’t have to contact outside law enforcement when it learns about cases of elder abuse or neglect in RCFEs. As a result, few of these cases end up being prosecuted. Rather than turn these cases over to prosecutors, allegations often end up in administrative law proceedings. Through these, DSS/CCL “can permanently or temporarily prohibit a person from working in a licensed care facility.”

While these proceedings may help to remove a dangerous employee from an assisted-living facility in one area, they don’t prevent another facility from hiring that person down the road. To be sure, “because the individual was never brought to justice through the criminal court system, the administrative sanction does not appear in a criminal background report.”

As such, Assemblymember Cheryl R. Brown emphasized that something needed to be done. She introduced AB 1122 in hopes of providing families and facilities with the information they need to avoid working with one of these “Excluded Persons” altogether. The bill has support from Consumer Advocates for RCFE Reform (CARR).

Elder abuse and neglect are serious problems that frequently result in serious and fatal injuries to California seniors. If you are concerned that your elderly loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse, you should contact a dedicated San Diego nursing home abuse attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case.

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Rising Costs of Elder Care in California Prompt Additional Scrutiny

Fines to Increase at Assisted-Living Facilities

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Did you search for a nursing home or assisted-living facility in California through an elder care referral agency? In some cases, unfortunately, older adults end up in facilities that have financial arrangements with these referral agencies, and those elderly residents become the victims of nursing home abuse or neglect. Now, according to a recent article in California Newswire, Senate Bill 648 aims to provide greater protection to seniors who seek referrals through these agencies.

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Proposed Legislation to Protect Seniors from Bad Business Practices

How will Senate Bill 648 help elderly Californians and their families when it comes time to select a nursing home or assisted-living facility? In short, if the proposed legislation passes, it will strengthen the licensing and financial disclosure requirements for elder care referral agencies. The bill, according to the article, is on its way to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Why do we need this kind of law in Southern California? It’s no secret that many facilities for the elderly in our state haven’t provided the level of care that our older loved ones deserve. Indeed, numerous investigations into complaints of elder abuse and neglect—at facilities ranging widely in care, from those offering skilled nursing to those offering more limited attention at residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs)—make clear that we need to be particularly cautious when we’re deciding on a facility in which an elderly parent might reside.

Yet given the growing number of seniors across the country, “there has been an explosion of for-profit businesses that offer referral assistance to seniors and their families to find suitable long term care housing options in extended care, skilled nursing home, or intermediate care facilities and residential care facilities.” Are such services useful? If the referral agencies are acting in the best interests of the elderly population they serve, then they can “provide a valuable service.” However, the “current licensing requirements leave room for abuse.” As such, there’s a serious need for tighter regulation in California.

Need for Better Regulation

Elder referral services have risen dramatically in number, but the state’s attention to licensing and regulation hasn’t increased proportionally. To be sure, these companies remain largely unregulated throughout the state. What kinds of regulations currently exist? The better question might be one about the obvious regulatory omissions:

  •      Under the current law, “only certain referral agencies are required to be licensed.”
  •      Referral agencies aren’t required to make referrals to licensed care facilities.

What’s the result of the general lack of regulation when it comes to these referral agencies? Such agencies can advertise that they’re free of charge to clients, but then they recommend nursing homes and other facilities because there’s a financial incentive for every elderly person they place in these residences. And when a referral agency’s interests lie primarily in financial compensation—rather than placing seniors in facilities where they won’t be at risk of elder abuse or neglect—seniors and their families using the services deserve to have all the information.

As such, the bill would institute some new regulations. Specifically, under the terms of the bill, referral agencies must:

  •      Disclose their financial interest in placing customers at particular facilities;
  •      Disclose how many times it has inspected a particular facility;
  •      Provide notice to clients about where they can direct their complaints;
  •      Protect seniors’ medical privacy; and
  •      Maintain liability insurance.

In the meantime, if you or someone you loved suffered injuries as a result of elder abuse, you should contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case.

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