• Suspect nursing home abuse or neglect?
  • KNOW THE SIGNS
  • KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
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Vr_(14798594120)A recent article in Reuters Health reported that one out of every five nursing home residents that suffers verbal or physical nursing home abuse is not enduring that abuse at the hands of one of the staff members at a facility. Rather, about 20% of all verbal and physical nursing home abuse cases involve violence committed by another resident. While these cases may result from serious issues of nursing home neglect and understaffing (and the general failure to properly monitor patients in a facility), a recent article from NPR and KQED News, a new virtual reality device is helping seniors in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to remain calmer and to, perhaps, live fuller lives.

Can such technology help to prevent elder abuse when it is perpetrated by other residents?

Virtual Reality Improving the Lives of Seniors

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DSC_0041While it might sound unlikely, perpetrators of nursing home abuse are not always those employed as caregivers for the elderly. According to a recent article in HealthDay, many elderly residents at nursing homes suffer injuries at the hands of other patients. The article cites a recent study that determined “one in five nursing home residents had been involved in an incident with a fellow resident within the past month.” In a majority of cases, those “incidents” were only verbal altercations and did not involve physical violence. However, as the article explains, “some seniors were involved in physical scuffles, and some experienced inappropriate sexual behavior.”

It is difficult enough to feel like you have conducted sufficient background research into the caregivers at a nursing home or assisted-living facility before feeling comfortable with your elderly loved one receiving care at such a place. But how can you determine whether some instances of elder abuse actually were caused by patients living within the facility?

Elder Mistreatment Not Openly Discussed

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handsIn order to stop nursing home abuse or to remove California seniors from assisted-living facilities where they have suffered serious injuries as a result of elder neglect, we need to know that this kind of abuse is occurring. However, according to a recent report in California Healthline, the silence surrounding elder abuse is one of the biggest barriers to helping seniors who have been victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. The report emphasizes that, when it comes to elder abuse, “one of the hardest parts about prosecuting and curbing it is that the victims are often too embarrassed or scared to speak up.” The California Healthline report cites an article in the Modesto Bee that clarifies that problem of silence in relation to nursing home abuse in California.

Victims Do Not Always Want to Report Abuse

In Modesto, CA alone, the Modesto Police have investigated 30 cases of elder abuse this year. According to the article, there are “dozens more throughout Stanislaus County,” and those numbers do not even begin to take into account the number of cases that have been reported in San Diego County or in other parts of the state.

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file1251238100316June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month, and on June 15th, organizations across the globe will recognize World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, according to a press release from the United Nations. While we might not initially think about the ways in which California seniors who have been victims of elder abuse are connected to other older adults in other parts of the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) emphasizes that we need to think both locally and globally when it comes to preventing violence against the elderly.

During Elder Abuse Awareness Month, what can we do in California to help prevent nursing home abuse and neglect in a way that will reflect upon prevention initiatives in other parts of the world?

United Nations Resolution to End Violence Against the Elderly

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file000790132663If an elderly California resident is declared incompetent and placed under a conservatorship (also known in many places as a guardianship), can that senior actually be at greater risk of elder abuse? According to a recent article in Forbes Magazine, conservatorships and guardianships are “ideally a protection for older adults.” However, as the article explains, a conservatorship “is a drastic measure often prompted by warring relatives, nursing homes that want to get paid, or a ‘friend’ who gains the trust of an older adult in order to take advantage of him or her.” While these typically are worst-case-scenario examples, it is important to think carefully about the potential links between conservatorships and nursing home abuse in Southern California.

What is a Conservatorship?

The California Courts make clear that a conservatorship involves an adult (the “conservatee”) who either “cannot care for himself or herself or manage his or her own finances” and a responsible person or entity (the “conservator”) to care for that adult. The Court’s website explains that general conservatorships, like the scenario described above, often involve an elderly person.

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DSC_1071Given that the elderly population of Southern California continues to grow, we need to invest time and effort into preventing elder abuse and nursing home abuse, according to a recent article in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. While we continue to discuss the problem of elder abuse in our country and to engage in awareness-raising efforts, elder abuse and neglect remains a problem—and in some areas, the problem is getting bigger. Skilled nursing facilities and other long-term care facilities for the elderly need to do more to prevent elder abuse and neglect.

Placing the Burden on Nursing Home Directors to Properly Train Staff

As the article explains, statistics tell us that around 10% of America’s seniors become victims of elder abuse, “but that statistic alone does not come close to telling the full story of the epidemic.” The article underscores, “for every incident of abuse that does get reported, an estimated 22 do not.” What that fact means is that a majority of elderly Americans are suffering from elder neglect and nursing home abuse, and in many of those cases, the violence goes unreported. What can we do to prevent this kind of abuse? According to the article, much of the impetus is on “nursing home leaders who want to prevent abuse before it happens” by “focus[ing] on training their staff in skills that reduce interpersonal tension and stress.”

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file0001185596879If an elderly patient visits an outpatient healthcare facility and is not advised to seek an opinion from a specialist, can that outpatient healthcare facility be liable for elder neglect? According to a recent article from the Courthouse News Service, the California Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of an outpatient healthcare facility in such a case. The court’s decision in Winn v. Pioneer Medical Group, Inc. suggests a limiting of the reach of the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act.

What do San Diego residents need to know about this recent case and its potential impact on elder abuse lawsuits?

Facts of Winn v. Pioneer Medical Group, Inc.

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red_coatWhen an elderly California resident requires care in a nursing home, it is often because he or she can no longer live at home and requires more care than a place such as a residential care facility for the elderly (RCFE) or assisted-living facility might be able to provide. However, according to a recent article from the Associated Press, nursing home patients who are more challenging and for whom it is more difficult for staff members to provide care are being targeted for eviction. The topic of nursing home evictions and elder abuse has been an issue for several months now, with advocates arguing that nursing homes and other facilities are refusing to readmit patients following hospital stays. For example, an NPR report emphasized the severity of these allegations and the implications for senior health and well-being.

Yet now, according to an analysis conducted by the Associated Press, it looks as though patients at skilled nursing facilities who require more extended care than other patients may also be subject to wrongful evictions. When elderly patients who need nursing home care are evicted without warning and for reasons beyond the resident’s control, are we looking at situations of nursing home abuse?

Seniors with Dementia Alleged to be Targeted by Skilled Nursing Facilities

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Closeup of assorted coins.
Many of us with elderly loved ones who have spent hours and days investigating nursing homes and assisted-living facilities know that most for-profit facilities are not providing the quality of care that most of us seek. An article in Bloomberg emphasized that “for-profit nursing homes lead in overcharging while care suffers.” A number of the facilities profiled in that article had settled wrongful death lawsuits in recent years or had otherwise faced allegations of nursing home abuse and neglect resulting in the serious injuries and deaths of patients.

Why should California residents focus on the problems that have been linked to for-profit facilities? According to a recent press release from the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), a bill that just passed the Assembly Health Committee without any opposition “would open up two very important public and non-profit health financing mechanisms to for-profit nursing home corporations.”

Risks of Public Funding Usage at For-Profit Nursing Homes

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red-cross-29930_1280We often hear news about instances of nursing home abuse and neglect in which an elderly patient dies after being taken to a hospital after it is much too late. Particularly in cases of elder neglect, a patient may require care at a hospital. However, if a facility is understaffed and does not call for an ambulance in time, an elderly patient may not receive the care he or she ultimately needs. What if those patients could be rushed to a geriatric emergency department equipped to handle specific senior medical issues, including those related to elder neglect? According to a recent article in The San Diego Union-Tribune, a geriatric ER will soon be coming to UCSD and will provide specialized care to elderly residents in Southern California.

Complex Medical Needs Among the Elderly

When and where will the new geriatric emergency unit appear? It is currently in the planning stages, but the ER will become part of the Thornton Hospital at UC San Diego through an $11.8 million grant provided by the Gary and Mary West Foundation. According to the article, this emergency department “will be the first in the region to focus solely on seniors,” which is an important fact given that more Californians are reaching old age. The “complex medical needs” of the elderly, even when abuse or neglect is not a factor, “are expected to strain available resources as the baby boom generation reaches retirement age.”