• Suspect nursing home abuse or neglect?
Published on:

Nursing homes in California should take note of the negative publicity surrounding elder abuse and assisted-living facilities in our state.  A recent article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel described serious nursing home abuse allegations that point to fraudulent Medicare claims and poor patient treatment.  In Watsonville, located in Santa Cruz County, the owners of two nursing homes are facing a lawsuit.  According to the report, federal prosecutors sued the owners “allegiDSC08554-bng that leaders made fraudulent Medicare claims” and “persistently and severely overmedicated elderly and vulnerable residents.”

Overmedication and Fraud Allegations

The two nursing homes at issue are Country Villa Watsonville Easy Nursing Center and Country Villa Watsonville West Nursing Center, both in Santa Cruz County.  The owners have been linked to serious crimes connected to nursing home abuse and neglect.

According to U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, these facilities “accepted more than $20 million in Medicare and Medicaid payments from 2007 to 2012.”  While Medicare and Medicaid can provide legitimate payments for patient care, Haag emphasized that much of these funds “went to claims that were grossly inadequate, materially substandard, or worthless services.”  In other words, Medicare and Medicaid paid claims for services that did not actually help patients living in these facilities.

In addition to fraud allegations, the owners face overmedication allegations.  According to the lawsuit, the facilities gave residents anti-anxiety medications and other drugs “at the convenience of management.”  The allegations suggest that the patients did not need these medications, but staff provided them in order to make their jobs easier.

Specific Claims in the Lawsuit

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.  The damages sought are yet to be determined, but the owners face possible of civil penalties that range “from $5,500 to $11,000 for each violation.”

According to the lawsuit, seven different residents between the ages of 46-101 were victims of nursing home abuse and neglect.  The lawsuit claims these residents either suffered mistreatment or were the subject of the fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid claims.

One 86-year-old resident suffered from “sepsis, lethargy, dehydration, malnutrition, an infected pressure ulcer, additional pressure ulcers, and overall functional decline.”  According to the suit, the staff at the nursing home doubled the man’s daily dose of Xanax, a sedative, and also gave him two antipsychotic drugs—Haldol and Risperdal—“without the consent of his physician or family.”  It is also alleged that a resident who suffers from Alzheimer’s was overprescribed psychotropic drugs.

Contact a San Diego Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

Nursing home neglect can lead to severe and life-threatening injuries.  While pending legislation in California seeks to change the way we think about fines and violations for assisted-living facilities, many nursing home residents continue to sustain personal injuries due to elder abuse.  If you are concerned about an elderly loved one in a nursing home or assisted-living facility, do not hesitate to contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer.

Photo Credit: DodgertonSkillhause via morgueFile

See Related Blog Posts:

Sacramento Lawyer Charged with Elder Abuse

Behind the Medicare Star Rating System

Published on:

recent article in the Sacramento Bee reported on an attorney in the northern California area who was charged with financial elder abuse.  At the Walton Law Firm, we take elder financial abuse very seriously.  As an Elder Justice Advocate, Randy Walton is committed to protecting older Americans from crimes such the ones that occurred recently in Sacramento.  When looking for an elder lawyer to help with your legal issues, you should not need to worry whether you will be treated fairly. Contact our office today to learn more about our dedication to safeguarding elders in the San Diego area and throughout the state.

file000453200083Scams Target Elderly Californians

According to the Bee article, in late August, authorities arrested Delbert Joe Modlin, 63, on charges of financial elder abuse, grand theft, and securities fraud.  His release on bail conditioned that he agree not to practice law or see clients until the criminal proceedings ended.  Modlin has been licensed to practice law in California since 1987.
Modlin is accused of scamming a 90-year-old man from North Highlands and his 66-year-old daughter into investing substantial sums of money without any real promise of return.  According to court documents, he “advised the elderly man to liquidate all his investments, and he persuaded the daughter to invest $120,000 in a new cat litter box that Modlin allegedly had invented.”  He promised to double investments, but the father and daughter never saw their money again.

Hiring a Dedicated and Reputable Advocate

Much like records of nursing home abuse violations, it is important to know the background of potential caregivers or advocates.  Modlin failed to tell the elderly father and daughter he scammed that he was coping with a “severe gambling problem,” and that he twice filed for bankruptcy–one in 2004, and a second time in 2012.  According to one investigator on the case, this is information “that a reasonable prudent investor would consider significant.”

Perhaps more alarming than his financial history, Modlin is currently awaiting trial for felony charges in Placer County, California.  In 2011, authorities levied criminal charges against Modlin for “defrauding a frail, elderly couple from Auburn and selling their home and assets without their approval.”

The state of California wants to make sure elderly persons are not fooled by Modlin’s promise to help.  The state claims Modlin took steps to wipe away negative information about him on the Internet by hiring a firm to “clean his presence” and “manipulate search engines to obscure negative details.”

Elder abuse can happen anytime and anywhere, and those we trust to act in our best interest are not always trustworthy.  It is important to clearly understand the financial the histories of advisors and physical caregivers when planning to trust them with a elderly loved one’s well-being.  If you are concerned about fraud or nursing home abuse, contact a San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer at the Walton Law Firm today.

Photo Credit: imelenchon via morgueFile

See Related Blog Posts:

Financial Elder Abuse Continues to Thrive in California

Online Map to Track Elder Financial Abuse

Published on:

History of the Star Rating System

A recent New York Times article discussed the danger of trusting the Medicare star rating system, providing as an example a five-star nursing home facility in California with a history of elder neglect violations. Last week, we discussed the star rating system and the Rosewood nursing home in the Sacramento area. In sum, the rating system is not helping consucohdranknmomprknsnsmers in the way it claims. How did this rating system rise to prominence, and why are so many Americans willing to trust it without additional investigation?

According to the article, the five-star rating system began in 2007, when Oregon Senator Ron Wyden posed the following question at a congressional hearing: why is it easier to shop for washing machines than to select a nursing home? Two years later, Medicare officials developed the  star rating system, “a move that was applauded by consumer groups, who hope that more transparency would lead to greater accountability.”

The nursing home industry initially “lobbied against the ratings,” but later embraced them after a number of facilities earned the coveted five star rating. Some industry trade groups even profited from the rating system. According to the article, the American Health Care Association “offers members a free service that helps companies track their star rating,” and the industry trade group insists that “the rising scores are evidence that quality is improving.” However, nursing home abuse continues, and older Americans continue to suffer serious injuries in facilities across the country.

Too Many Facilities Have High Star Ratings

Medicare officials believe the star rating system gives nursing homes an incentive to improve their quality. If quality of care increases, officials suggest, they can look forward to receiving a higher star rating. Dr. Patrick Conway, the chief medical officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, says the federal agency has “seen improvements.”

What improvements have Medicare officials catalogued? According to Conway, Medicare has observed:

  •      Decrease in the use of physical restraints by nursing homes, and
  •      Fewer nursing homes reporting bedsores “among patients at a high risk of developing them.”

Since a significant amount of this data comes from self-reporting, are nursing homes in the San Diego area and across the country really improving? In interviews with former nursing home employees and patient advocacy groups, the New York Times learned that many nursing homes and assisted living facilities “learned how to game the rating system.”  In that sense, too many facilities with above-average ratings continue to receive complaints of elder abuse and neglect.

When the program started in 2009, 37 percent of nursing homes in the U.S. received ratings of four or five stars. In the last five years, the number has risen substantially. Today, approximately half of all facilities receive these superior rankings. Five-star ratings alone increased from 11 percent in 2009 to 29 percent in 2013. As noted, many of these nursing homes, such Rosewood in Sacramento, received four or five stars based on self-reported data.

It is important to fully research a nursing home or assisted living facility before trusting its quality level. If your elderly loved one sustained injuries due to nursing home abuse or neglect, contact a dedicated San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer today to discuss your case.

Photo Credit: cohdra via morgueFile

See Related Blog Posts:

Medicare Star Ratings and Quality of Care

Assisted Living Facilities Fail to Pay Fines

Published on:

Five-Star Nursing Homes May Not the Best Indicator of Care

Are Medicare star ratings good predictors for the quality of care at nursing homes?  According to a recent article in the New York Times, a facility with a five-star rating may not be what one would expect.  In fact, many five-star facilities have receiIMG_29490008ved fines for injuries related to nursing home neglect.

Rosewood Post-Acute Rehab, a nursing home located in a Sacramento suburb, received a five-star rating from Medicare.  The nursing home “bears all the touches of a luxury hotel, including high ceilings, leather club chairs, and paintings of bucolic landscapes.”  According to the article, getting a five-star rating—the highest possible—is not easy.  Only about one-fifth of all nursing home in the U.S., about 3,000 total, hold this distinction.

Yet the star rating can be misleading to consumers.  Based on research conducted by the New York Times, a Medicare “seal of approval” is often based on incomplete information about the living conditions at these nursing homes.  The star ratings “are based in large part on self-reported data by the nursing homes that the government does not verify.”  Three criteria are used to determine Medicare star ratings, including:

  •      Staff levels;
  •      Quality statistics;
  •      Results of annual health inspections.

Only the third criterion—the results of annual health inspections—receives verification by independent reviewers.  The staff levels and quality statistics are based on data reported by the nursing homes themselves and taken at face value, “with limited exceptions.”

Negative Information Not Included in Star Ratings

It is problematic that the Medicare star ratings, known as “gold standards” in the industry, receive much of their information from nursing homes’ self-reporting.  Even more problematic, perhaps, is that the ratings do not “take into account entire sets of potentially negative information.”  What type of negative information gets ignored?  Generally, it is information about fines and enforcement actions taken by state authorities, or consumer complaints filed with state, rather than federal, agencies.

How does this play out in practice?  In the case of Rosewood, the State of California fined Rosewood $100,000 last year for “causing the 2006 death of a woman who was given an overdose of a powerful blood thinner.”  The penalty is the highest levied in California.

Rosewood did not only receive one fine, either.  Between 2009 and 2013, state agencies received hundreds of consumer complaints about Rosewood.  The State of California estimates it received 102 complaints, while the advocacy group California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) indicates that 164 consumers filed complaints against Rosewood.  If those numbers are correct, Rosewood received twice the number of complaints as the state average.

If your elderly loved one suffered an injury resulting from nursing home abuse or neglect, contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer today.

Photo Credit: psarahtonen via morgueFile

See Related Blog Posts:

Assisted Living Reforms Are Not Enough, Some Advocates Say

MRSA Infections Detected in Southern California Nursing Homes

Published on:

Many of us have heard about assisted living facility reforms pending before the California legislature, as well as those aimed specifically at residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs).  But are those reforms sufficient to ensure that California seniors are safe from elder abuse?  According to a recent story from KQED’s State of Health, many elder justice advocates in California do not believe the reforms are going to do enough.

Recent History of Elder Abuse in San Diego

According to Deborah Schoch, an advocate with the California HealthCare Foundation Center for Health Reporting, the number of assisting living facilities in our state essentially doubled over the last 25 years.  For whom are these faciwoman-65675_1280lities designed?  According to Schoch, they are intended for older, healthy adults who are “relatively independent.” Yet many of these facilities have taken in patients who require much more extensive levels of care, and assisted living facilities “are not designed to deliver skilled nursing care.”

Schoch recently helped report on numerous deaths resulting from elder abuse or neglect in San Diego County assisted living facilities.  Her work led the San Diego district attorney’s office to create a “special unit” designed to “target crime in the facilities.”  However, such a unit is not sufficient to combat the rampant nursing home abuse taking place in facilities across the state.  As a result, a number of lawmakers are proposing new legislation aimed at ensuring our seniors receive the care they need.  But will the new legislation be sufficient?

Lawmakers Seek to Change Elder Care

Across the state, lawmakers have listened to testimony from reform advocates concerning the state of elder abuse in assisted living facilities.  In Sacramento, lawmakers heard from Aaron Byzak, an advocate who founded “Hazel’s Army” following his grandmother’s preventable death in an assisted living facility.  When his grandmother died as a result of the facility’s neglect, the state only issued a $150 fine.  In Sacramento, according to the KQED story, fines and regulations “haven’t changed much in close to 30 years.”

How have lawmakers reacted?  Pat Leary, Chief Deputy Director of the California Department of Social Services, emphasizes the need “for a revamp.”  She referred to a number of bills pending before the legislature that would include some of the following reforms:

  •      Raising the maximum fine from $150 to $15,000;
  •      Upgrading the online “violations” database to make it more accessible to the public;
  •      Creating a medical expertise unit;
  •      Establishing a corporate accountability unit.

Leary explained that the state’s current inability to track elder abuse trends has been a serious problem, as The California Department of Social Services only “tracks facilities on a one-facility-at-a-time basis.”  However, a corporate accountability unit could change that.

Advocates “say they’re heartened” by the proposed legislation, but they “worry about the fine print.”  For instance, Chris Murphy and Christina Selder, two ardent advocates from the San Diego area, sponsored a bill requiring assisted living facilities to carry liability insurance.  That bill passed, and has since been signed into law. However, Murphy explained that, if certain features are not “clearly stipulated within the bill, then it’s left to the regulators, then the regulators are going to come up with whatever they come up with.”

According to KQED, Selder “worries lawmakers are tweaking a system that is fundamentally dysfunctional.”  Perhaps, she explained, lawmakers should be looking to give the system a complete overhaul, rather than designing laws that act more like analgesics.

Contact a San Diego Elder Abuse Lawyer

Do you have an elderly loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility in Southern California?  It is often difficult to know for certain whether an older adult is receiving proper care.  If you suspect that your parent has sustained injuries because of nursing home abuse or neglect, it is important to talk to an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer.

Photo Credit: geralt via pixabay

See Related Blog Posts

California Needs a Tech Upgrade: Online Information and Assisted Living Facilities

Financial Elder Abuse Continues to Thrive in California

Published on:

It’s no secret that California assisted living facilities have been in the national news due to reports of nursing home abuse and neglect.  Indeed, over the last year, elder rights advocates have emphasized the need to make information about nursing homes and assisted living facilities readily available to older adults and their loved ones.  Without such information at our fingertips, how will we know which facilities are safe and can provide a high quality of care for our elderly parents?  According to a recent story from KPBS San Diego Public Radio, this kind of information remains pretty difficult to access.

iPhone search

Lacking Internet Information About California Assisted Living Facilities

According to the recent KPBS story, it’s not easy to access information about the quality of nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Southern California.  For example, Lorid Macri’s mother suffers from dementia, she told KPBS.  At the beginning, Macri cared for her mother.  However, the stress of caring for a dementia patient became “overwhelming.”  And when Macri herself needed hospital care, she realized she needed to find an assisted living facility where her mother could receive quality care.

Given that Macri’s mother had friends and family in Southern California, she knew she wanted to find a facility around the San Diego area.  She began looking for assisted living homes on the internet, “where all consumer searches start these days.”  Macri explained that she “wanted to make sure the places she considered had no complaints lodged against them, no violations for neglect or abuse.”  However, Macri soon learned that she couldn’t find any of this information on the web.  “There’s nothing,” she told the station, “you cannot find anything.”

In order to find the information she needed, Macri traveled to Southern California to “request paper copies of these reports.”  She was “dumbfounded” that she couldn’t access information about a facility’s history online, especially when she had to make a decision about which facility to entrust with her mother’s care.

Changing the Law in California?

The lack of readily available information about assisted living facilities is a serious issue in California.  Currently, more than ten states provide information about facility violations on the internet, such as Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina.  According to the news story, “California lawmakers say it’s an embarrassment that a state with the technical genius of Silicon Valley is so far behind.”

Back in January, Assemblymember Susan Eggman proposed a bill that would “require the state to build an online rating system where consumers can compare facilities on quality.”  She emphasized that California residents shouldn’t have to use unreliable social media platforms like Yelp when they’re making decisions concerning the care of their elderly loved ones.  Her bill, along with several others aimed at assisted living reform, are currently pending.

Do you have questions about the quality of care your elderly loved one received in a nursing home in Southern California?  Are you concerned that someone you love sustained injuries because of nursing home neglect?  It’s very important to speak with an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer.  We can take a close look at your case today.

Photo Credit: flickranet via Compfight cc

See Related Blog Posts:

Financial Elder Abuse Continues to Thrive in California

Elder Abuse and the Poor

Published on:

Southern California Insurance Agent Charged with Financial Abuse

Elder abuse comes in many forms, from physical violence to financial fraud.  A recent article in Consumer Affairs reported that a licensed insurance agent in Southern California was recently arrested fo  elder financial abuse.  The insurance agent, John Paul Slawinski, 59, was charged with “five felony counts of financial elder abuse and five counts of burglary.”  What did he do?  Specifically, the charges allege that he “ripped off five senior citizens for more than $2 million through the sale and surrender of investment annuity products.”

Feel free to use this image just link to www.rentvine.com

Earlier in the summer, the California Department of Insurance received complaints about Slawinski and decided to launch an investigation.  The complaints claimed that Slawinski had convinced five different senior citizens to give up annuities and investments, promising that he could get them higher returns on their money.  Yet Slawinksi never purchased additional annuities or investment products with the seniors’ money, and he never gave back the funds, either.  In other words, he “conned the victims into giving him money to invest for them.”

In order to hide his crimes, Slawinski gave each of the victims “fraudulent financial statements,” and he issued minimum investment payments in order to “lead them to believe their insurance investment and life savings were secure,” according to the California Department of Insurance.

In response to Slawinski’s arrest, Commissioner Dave Jones said, “I find it particularly appalling when people in the position of trust violate that trust and take advantage of vulnerable senior citizens.”  Jones emphasized that “consumers should be able to trust their [insurance] agent when making important insurance decisions,” and when agents like Slawinski take advantage of that relationship, “the result is often devastating.”  Authorities suspect that Slawinski could have defrauded other California seniors as well, and they’re currently looking for additional victims.

A “Thriving” Abuse Industry Across the State

Slawinski’s victims aren’t the only California seniors who recently suffered from financial elder abuse.  In fact, according to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, a Bakersfield woman was arrested last month after authorities determined she had abused her elderly mother.  The article described elder abuse as a “thriving industry” in our country.  How common is elder abuse among California seniors?

According to the article, a 2013 study found that elder abuse affects “between 700,000 and 1.2 million elderly people annually.”  And the financial cost of this abuse is strikingly high.  Indeed, each year, abuse results in tens of billions of dollars.

Based on a 2013 Consumer Reports survey of about 2,600 financial planners, “56 percent said they knew older clients who had been subject to unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices.”  For all the cases of elder financial abuse reported, the average loss estimate totaled more than $140,000 per person.

Who’s to blame for most financial elder abuse?  According to the article, the following groups of people tend to be the ones who take financial advantage of older adults:

  •      Scammers operating by phone, email, and mail;
  •      Financial advisers; and
  •      Family members.

If you are concerned that an elderly loved one has been the victim of financial elder abuse, contact an experienced San Diego elder abuse lawyer today to learn more about how we can help.

Photo Credit: Dave Dugdale via Compfight cc

See Related Blog Posts:

Elder Abuse and the Poor

Online Map to Track Elder Financial Abuse

Published on:

When our elderly loved ones require care at a nursing home or assisted living facility, we need to balance the costs of a facility with the quality of care we know they’ll be receiving.  It’s necessary to remember that nursing home abuse and neglect can occur at even the most high-end, expensive facilities, so it’s important to do our research.  But what about older Americans who can’t afford to comparison shop?

Old Guy

If you have concerns about your elderly loved one’s safety and care in a nursing home or assisted living facility, it’s important to talk with an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer.  At the Walton Law Firm, we have years of experience handling elder abuse claims in Southern California and can speak to you today.

Rates of Emotional and Physical Abuse Among Seniors

Many seniors are on a very stringent fixed income, and many are even below the poverty line.  How prevalent is elder abuse among low-income older adults?  According to a recent article in the Huffington Post, low-income older adults actually make up a startlingly high percentage of those who have been subject to elder abuse.

A 2010 study that appeared in the American Journal of Public Health reported an abuse rate of more than 10 percent among Americans aged 65 and over.  Of those who have suffered a form of nursing home abuse or neglect, 4.6 percent indicated they had been the victims of emotional abuse, while 1.6 percent told researchers they had suffered physical abuse.  Another 5 percent experienced injuries caused by neglect.

And those numbers might be on the low side.  To be sure, a recent study in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine suggested that elder abuse rates were much higher than 10 percent among elderly Hispanic/Latino populations.

Low-Income Older Adults in Southern California

A 2012 study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society took a closer look at low-income Latino seniors in the Los Angeles area.  According to that study, the rates of elder abuse in these communities were surprisingly higher than those reported by the American Journal of Public Health.

Specifically, 17 percent of the Hispanic/Latino elders who participated in the study indicated that they “had experienced some form of financial exploitation.”  And the numbers for emotional and physical abuse were even higher.  About 25 percent reported being the victims of psychological abuse, while another 9 percent told researchers they had suffered from sexual abuse.

Any senior can become the victim of elder abuse, regardless of income level or race.  And Congress is beginning to take important steps to combat nursing home abuse and neglect across the country.  In fact, the Labor/HHS Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee recently approved $10 million that will go toward the Elder Justice Initiative.

Advocates like those in the California Elder Justice Coalition have helped to encourage government funding to stop elder abuse, and they have helped to bring greater awareness about the serious and fatal injuries that result from neglect.  If you are concerned that your elderly parent has sustained injuries because of nursing home abuse, contact a San Diego elder abuse lawyer today to discuss your case.

Photo Credit: Neil. Moralee via Compfight cc

See Related Blog Posts:

Hospice “Crisis” and Elder Care

Liquid Nutritional Substances and Nursing Home Neglect

Published on:

A Booming Hospice Industry in America

Did you know that about half of all Medicare patients who die “will do so as a hospice patient”?  According to a recent article in the Huffington Post, just ten years ago only about 25 percent of all Medicare patients died in hospice care.  Now, in the mid-2010s, that number has doubled.  And it affects Medicare spending, too.  Indeed, in 2014, Medicare is likely to spend about $15 billion on hospice care alone, according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.  That number has risen dramatically from the year 2000, when that cost was under $4 billion annually.

Yet, despite the fact that hospice care costs billions of dollars each year, the government doesn’t put an equivalent effort into hospice regulation, according to the article.  To be sure, a recent investigation discovered that “the average hospice hasn’t been certified—meaning fully inspected—in 3 ½ years.”  And some American hospice facilities, 759 to be exact, haven’t received certifications “in more than six years.”  Keep in mind that, under federal law, nursing homes must be inspected much more frequently—every 15 months—and incidents of nursing home abuse and neglect occur nonetheless.  What does this mean for the well-being of patients in hospices that haven’t been inspected recently?

In short, there are more than 400 hospices in the U.S. that have “have racked up 20 or more violations over the past decade,” and a number of those facilities are located in Southern California.

Violations at Southern California Hospice Facilities

When Huffington Post prepared its article on the hospice crisis in our country, it provided an interactive map of the 759 hospice facilities that have received 20 or more violations in the last ten years.  Of the more than 700 facilities shown, nearly 20 exist in Southern California alone.

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 5.08.13 AM

Click on the image to visit the interactive map.

What do these facilities have in common?  By and large, the hospices listed are for-profit facilities.  Indeed, nearly 85 percent of the Southern California hospices with 20 or more violations provide for-profit services.  The national average for hospice certification is 3.5 years, and it’s 2.3 years in California.

As we’ve learned recently, the for-profit hospice industry has produced startling statistics.  For example, over the last decade, the Washington Post argues that about 50 percent of hospice residents have been discharged—a figure that suggests for-profit hospice facilities aren’t always providing the end-of-life palliative care they’re supposed to be offering for America’s aging population.

Which hospices should we keep an eye on?  For example, Vitas Healthcare Corporation of California, a for-profit facility in San Diego, hasn’t been certified in 8 years.  It has received 33 violations—a staggering number compared to the state average of 6 violations.  In Poway, CA, Scripps Hospice, another for-profit facility, hasn’t been certified in 7.4 years and has been cited for 15 violations.  A little bit farther north, Tri-City Hospice in Vista, CA hasn’t been certified in almost 7 years and has 2 violations on record.

Hospice care is an important concern for those of us who have elderly loved ones who may require long-term treatment or palliative care.  If you are concerned that your parent has been the victim of elder abuse—whether at a nursing home, assisted-living facility, or a hospice facility—it’s important to discuss your case with an experienced San Diego elder abuse lawyer.  Contact the Walton Law Firm today to learn more about how we can help with your case.

See Related Blog Posts:

Overuse and Misuse of Hospice Care

Assisted Living Facilities Fail to Pay Fines

Published on:

Many of us in the San Diego area have seen commercials for liquid nutritional supplements, particularly those marketed toward older adults.  According to a story in the New York Times, these bottles have become “staples in older people’s refrigerators, in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and in hospitals.”  As such, it’s only logical to assume that these liquid supplements are healthy and can even benefit the elderly.

However, a recent set of recommendations from the American Geriatrics Society suggested that these drinks aren’t as beneficial as their manufacturers would like us to believe.  Indeed, replacing elderly adults’ meals with these liquid supplements may even rise to the level of nursing home neglect.


Dangers of Boost, Ensure, and Other Supplement Drinks for the Elderly

According to Paul Mulhausen, the head of the American Geriatrics Society’s “Choosing Wisely” workgroup, drinks like Boost, Ensure, and other generic supplements aren’t healthy at all.  Indeed, Mulhausen refers to them as “liquid candy bars with vitamins.”  He explained that they’re mostly made up of water, “several forms of sugar,” oils, and flavorings.

But don’t the drinks provide nutritional information that looks quite healthy?  It’s true that, in a bottle of rich chocolate Boost Original, a consumer can get 10 grams of protein.  But it’s the high amount of sugar—and few other nutrients—that’s alarming.  For instance, drinking a bottle of Boost with 10 grams of protein also means you’re taking in 28 grams of sugar, and zero fiber.  And even if you choose a flavor other than chocolate, you’re still likely to get at least 15 grams of sugar.  Most of us don’t know how many grams of sugar constitutes too much.  To put it in perspective, some of the allegedly sugary cereals that parents complain about—such as Froot Loops or Lucky Charms—have “much less sugar per serving than these drinks.”

While older adults who have suffered seemingly unexplained weight loss believe they can add some weight with these supplements, it’s important to keep in mind that they often cause gastrointestinal systems with few benefits.  Indeed, “there’s no evidence that such supplements affect mood, functional ability, quality of life, or survival, even if they do add a few pounds.”

Mulhausen emphasizes that an older adult who is experiencing significant weight loss should see a doctor rather than self-medicate with supplements like Boost.  In most cases, if there’s an underlying disease that’s causing the weight loss, a supplement may do more harm than good.

Marketing Problems and Older Adults

Is it possible that these supplements haven’t been marketed appropriately?  Could companies producing liquid supplements like Boost or Ensure face liability for marketing problems?  If Mulhausen is right, the proper use of a liquid supplement probably doesn’t involve using it as a substitute for regular meals.  He explains that “they’re marketed as something that helps you be vigorous and well as you age,” telling seniors that they can “stay strong, stay active, with Boost.”  However, Mulhausen argues that there’s no clear value of the supplements in these situations.

Rather than using potentially harmful supplements, older adults should do their best to “eat real food.”  And for those who need assistance eating, it’s important for caregivers to recognize the difference between drinks claiming to be meal replacements and actual meals.

Has your elderly loved one been mistreated or suffered injuries from neglect at a nursing home or assisted-living facility in Southern California?  At the Walton Law Firm, we take claims of elder abuse very seriously and can discuss your case with you today.  Contact a nursing home neglect lawyer at our firm to learn how we can help.

Photo Credit: Dee West (Formerly deedoucette) via Compfight cc

See Related Blog Posts:

Nursing Home Staffing Numbers and Elder Abuse

Caring for a Loved One with Dementia