• Suspect nursing home abuse or neglect?
  • KNOW THE SIGNS
  • KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
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Did you know that Southern California is home to the largest Latino and Asian populations in the country? According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, elderly persons within these populations may not be getting a fair deal in elder abuse cases. When claims go to court, it is important for a judge or a jury to understand a plaintiff’s injuries and to grasp the extent of the nursing home abuse or neglect that took place. However, when your first language is not English, it is sometimes extremely difficult to mIMG_1930ake your way through the justice system.

Language Barriers to Legal Forms, Filings, and Testimonies

In California alone, the Los Angeles Times estimates that there are about seven million “limited-English proficient speakers,” and for those people, the civil court system is “practically impenetrable.” What is the problem?

Imagine the following scenario. Your elderly mother sustained injuries due to nursing home neglect in a San Diego facility. Both you and your mother are native Spanish speakers. You are only proficient in English, and your mother barely speaks English at all. When it comes time to file a lawsuit, you attempt to examine the paperwork you will need to file in order to initiate your claim.

Given that your English-language skills are not to the level of native fluency, you have difficulty understanding the legal terms used. Keep in mind—legal language is often quite complex and difficult for even a native English speaker to comprehend. As a result of your confusion due to language barriers, when it comes to filing a lawsuit, your mother’s claim is not filed on time. Indeed, the language in the statute of limitations was difficult to parse, and you did not contact a lawyer in time.

Even if you make it to the courtroom, you are still going to face serious language difficulties. To be sure, “people in civil court do not have the constitutional right to an interpreter.” As such, your elderly mother’s testimony about the injuries she sustained may not be clear to the judge or the jury. Is this a fair way to handle cases?

Interpreter Requirements and the Elderly Population

Last year, the Department of Justice took a close look at the number of residents in Los Angeles County who could not speak English fluently and were in need of a courtroom translator. The Department ultimately concluded that court proceedings must make available free language services, and that nearly $8 million in the California budget—allocated for interpreter services— remained unspent.

Do residents of San Diego County need these services as much as residents of Los Angeles County? According to data reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, more than twelve percent of the San Diego County population is aged 65 and older. Of the total population, about one-third are Hispanic or Latino. This number is significant because “more than 80 percent of litigants who have difficulty with English are Latino.” While all Hispanic or Latino residents of San Diego County certainly do not fall within this category, it is important to keep in mind that many Californians’ native fluency is in another language, and they may only be proficient in spoken and written English.

If your elderly loved one sustained injuries from nursing home abuse or neglect, you should not need to worry about problems of translation and language comprehension. It is extremely important to have an advocate on your side, and one of our experienced San Diego elder abuse lawyers can speak with you today.

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California Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program

Elder Care Risks and Quality of Life

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First Nursing Home Facility Rating System in California

As the population of California continues to age, and more baby boomers find themselves thinking about San Diego assisted-living facilities and nursing homes, it is becoming more important than ever to ensure that seniors in the San Diego area are protected from nursing home abuse and neglect.  According to a recent story San Diego CBS 8, San Diego County leaders currently are in the process of developing an elder care facility rating system that is aimed at preventing elder abuse.

file0001867553256According to the news story, the new rating system will be the first of its kind in California.  The ratings will be based on several different factors, and the Board of Supervisors hopes that the system will allow families to make informed decisions about the care of their elderly loved ones. The system is still in its early stages, but the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved its creation, emphasizing the need to protect older adults from physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in Southern California facilities.

New Elder Abuse Protection Unit Funding

While the San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved a new rating system designed to help seniors decide on an appropriate elder care facility, and thus to prevent elder abuse, the story also reported on increased funding to the District Attorney’s office.  While the new elder care facility rating system is designed for prevention measures, additional funding to the Elder Abuse Protection Unit will help the county to hold abusers accountable.

Each year, according to the San Diego County District Attorney, the county handles about 9,000 cases of elder abuse.  It is important to remember that many of these incidents go unreported, and the District Attorney’s office can only take action if abuse is properly reported.  Additionally, it is essential to report elder abuse situations so that the victim can be eligible to file a civil claim to seek compensation for his or her injuries.

How does reporting work in San Diego County? Generally speaking, if you witness a crime of elder abuse as it is happening, you should call 911 or a local law enforcement agency.  But if you suspect elder abuse or neglect already occurred, you can contact Adult Protective Services.  In many cases, healthcare providers and social services professionals are “mandated reporters,” which means that they must report a suspected occurrence of elder abuse.

In addition to the elder facility rating system, the Board of Supervisors hopes that additional funds for prosecuting elder abuse can help to bolster the work already being conducted by the Elder Abuse Protection Unit.  In San Diego County, the Elder Abuse Unit is part of a larger “Family Protection Division.”  In addition to prosecuting acts of elder abuse, the unit also provides educational outreach to seniors so that they know how to protect themselves from abuse, and how to report it in the event that abuse or neglect occurs.

Contact a San Diego Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

Given the recent news across the country concerning elder abuse and neglect in San Diego’s assisted-living facilities, it does not come as a surprise that San Diego County leaders have begun taking steps to help prevent and combat elder abuse in Southern California.  If your elderly loved one sustained injuries because of elder abuse or neglect, it is extremely important to talk with an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer today.  Contact the Walton Law Firm to learn about how we can help.

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California Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program

Grant Funding to Combat Elder Abuse

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Who looks out for aging Californians who do not have relatives our outside caregivers to keep an eye out for the signs of elder abuse?  The California State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is in place to make sure that older adults receive proper care in long-term care facilities across the state.  What is a long-term care facility?  Examples in California include: nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs).

San Diego residents following the latest news about RCFEs know that many of these facilities in our state have fallen under much scrutiny in recent months, along with many assisted-living facilities.  The Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman program speID-100190126cifically “investigates elder abuse complaints” at facilities such as these.

Services Offered by the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program

According to the California Department of Aging, the LTC Ombudsman Program is intended to provide a number of services for older adults who may have been victims of nursing home abuse or neglect.  For example, some of the services provided by the LTC Ombudsman Program include:

  • Answering questions and/or responding to concerns about a senior’s quality of care;
  • Responding to the suspected physical, mental, or emotional abuse of residents in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and RCFEs;
  • Providing witnessing services for advance health care directives;
  • Providing an Ombudsman to attend a resident care plan meeting;
  • Providing an Ombudsman to attend a resident or family council meeting.

The ultimate goals of the LTC Ombudsman Program, according to the Department of Aging, are centered around patient advocacy.  This advocacy take two different forms:

  • Receiving and resolving individual complaints from, or on behalf of, residents of long-term care facilities; and
  • Pursuing resident advocacy in the long-term care health system, which means attending to the law, policies, regulations, and administration.  The Ombudsman Program tries to do this through public education and consensus building, according to its website.

In San Diego County specifically, Aging and Independent Services (AIS) provides assistance to older adults and their families.  At the same time, it is important to know that you may have legal recourse in the event of nursing home abuse or neglect.  A San Diego elder abuse attorney can assess your case today.

Ombudsman Volunteers Helping the Elderly

Volunteers also assist the LTC Ombudsman Program throughout the state of California.  According to an article in the Bakersfield Californian, Ombudsman volunteers are vital to helping the program run.  These volunteers often “visit local nursing homes and check in on elderly residents who have no family or friends to watch out for them.”  In addition, “regular visits by Ombuds man volunteers also keep nursing homes to a high standard of care and cleanliness.”  Many of the local programs need volunteers, as full-time employees are not able to visit the facilities with the same frequency.  Yet despite its dedicated employees and volunteers, the LTC Ombudsman Program cannot prevent or equally attend to each case of suspected nursing home abuse.

Indeed, while the California Department of Aging makes efforts to investigate complaints of nursing home abuse and neglect throughout the state, many California seniors continue to sustain injuries as a result of elder abuse.  If you are concerned that your parent or elderly loved one has suffered injuries at a nursing home, assisted-living facility, or RCFE in Southern California, contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse attorney.

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Grant Funding to Combat Elder Abuse

Fines to Increase at Assisted-Living Facilities

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Is elder care in America working, or do we need a new system to ensure better nursing home quality of care for seniors?  According to a recent article in Forbes, the system as it currently stands just is not working.  Indeed, the author suggests that the disproportionate attention to caution and safety results in risk aversion, which actually may diminish the quality of care that the elderly receive at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Nursing Home CareDoes Risk Aversion Result in Lower Quality of Life?

Why would risk aversion result in seniors experiencing a lower quality of life?  The article explains that many assisted-living facilities are particularly concerned about accusations of neglect.  As a result, each time a patient complains of pain or falls, staff at the facility will call an ambulance.

For example, a woman with dementia was residing in an assisted-living facility.  The elderly woman had an anxiety issue about needing to use the bathroom, and often complained and became agitated when she did not have easy access to a toilet.  She often fell without sustaining obvious injuries, but each time, the staff would call EMTs to take the woman to the hospital in an ambulance.  When she arrived at the emergency room, she was not classified as a high priority patient.  As such, she would lay on a gurney and wait to be seen.  While waiting, she would experience extreme anxiety about being unable to use the bathroom.  Following these unnecessary hospital visits, it would take “several days” for her to “recover her cognitive function back to its baseline” given her dementia.

Years later, the same woman eventually required care in a nursing home.  When the facility recognized that she occasionally had trouble eating without choking on her food, she was placed on “a soft diet with thickened liquids.”  What is wrong with this?  It “meant that one of her few remaining pleasures was removed.”

Maintaining the Right to Take Informed Risks

Should assisted-living facilities and nursing homes accept waiver liabilities for older patients who want to maintain a better quality of life while risking injury?  According to the Forbes article, elder care facilities are extremely hesitant to accept waivers such as these.  But should older adults maintain the right to take informed risks at the possible detriment to a facility’s reputation?

According to the California Department of Public Health, nursing home residents in California do maintain specific rights.  While many of the “Nursing Home Residents’ Rights” concern receiving certain treatments rather than refusing them, the language is clear for elder residents’ rights: “you have the right to accept or refuse treatment, and if you accept, you have the right to change your mind for any reason at any time.”  While consent typically is implied for routine care like bathing and feeding (or is given in the admission agreement to the facility), residents should still know that they do have rights with regard to their treatment, and even their routine care, when they’re in a nursing home or assisted-living facility.

Do you have questions about your elderly loved one’s rights in a nursing home or concerns about nursing home abuse?  Contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer at the Walton Law Firm today.

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Elderly Conservatee Rights Violation

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Elder abuse is much too common across the country, and nursing homes and assisted-living facilities in California have proven particularly prominent offenders of nursing home abuse and neglect.  What do we need to prevent elder abuse in our state?  Many elder rights supporters believe that policy changes might help, and a recent grant aims to help with this kind of advocacy work.

Southern California file0001159645301Center Receives Advocacy Grant

According to a recent news release from the University of Southern California, the Keck School of Medicine became the sole grant recipient to fund the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA).  The NCEA is, according to the article, “a vital clearinghouse created by the Administration on Aging,” which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The $2.2 million grant will be dispersed over a three-year period to fund NCEA programs.  The programs will include some of the following:

  • Technical assistance and training programs for states and community-based organizations to develop their own methods for generating elder abuse awareness and prevention;
  • Intervention and response efforts to address elder abuse claims among authorities and administrators;
  • Increasing identification and reporting of elder abuse;
  • Improving the ability for those within the elderly community to detect, intervene in, and prevent the abuse of others; and
  • Researching possible policy changes on behalf of the elderly in California and across the country.

Top Los Angeles Hospital to Direct Elder Abuse Initiatives

It is extremely important to raise awareness about elder abuse and to develop measures to prevent it.  Laura Mosqueda, who serves as the chair of the department of Family Medicine and Geriatrics at the Keck School of Medicine and as the director for the NCEA, emphasized the striking number of older adults who sustain injuries from abuse.  Indeed, “one in 10 Americans over age 60 suffer some form of elder abuse,” she explained, and noted that the number totals to about “5 million seniors each year.”

As Mosqueda elaborated, advocates at the Keck School of Medicine and the NCEA view “elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation as one of the most pressing civil rights issues facing our aging society.”  Now, since the Keck School was named as the National Center on Elder Abuse, Mosqueda believes that Southern California can become a focal point for elder abuse advocacy work.

Mosqueda believes that Keck will serve as “the entity others look to when they need state-of-the-art information,” and that it will also act as a leader in fields of advocacy, education, and research aimed at preventing nursing home abuse and neglect.  Keck Medicine is routinely recognized as one of the best hospitals in the country, according to data compiled by U.S. News and World Report.

Contact an Elder Abuse Attorney

Do you have an elderly parent who currently resides in a nursing home or assisted living facility?  While most of us do not like to think about the risks of elder abuse in these facilities, it is important to make sure that your loved one is safe and receives proper care.  If you suspect elder abuse or neglect, contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse attorney to learn more about your options.

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Class Action Against California Nursing Home Owner

Fines to Increase at Assisted-Living Facilities

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Changes are on the way for nursing homes and California assisted living facilities.  In the midst of shifts to the law, victims of nursing home abuse are filing a class action lawsuit against the owner of 57 skilled nursing facilities in the state, according to an article from Courthouse News Service.  The owner, Schlomo Rechnitz, owns more facilities in the state than any other, with nurfile451297827287 (1)sing homes in nine different California cities, according to a recent report in the Long Beach Press-Telegram.  Rechnitz’s facilities are accused of “chronic understaffing” with allegations of “Actual or suspected abuse or neglect.”

Details of the Class Action Lawsuit

The lawsuit was filed after several years of investigation into the practices at many of Rechnitz’s facilities.  Rechnitz owns Brius Management and Brius LLC, and he owns nursing homes in Inglewood, Los Angeles, Norwalk, Pasadena, San Gabriel, and several other California cities.

According to the lawsuit, investigators discovered that “Rechnitz and his corporate entities hid their history of violating nursing industry laws and regulations from patients and prospective patients.”  In addition, the claim alleges that Rechnitz “chronically understaffed and underfunded the facilities to enhance his profits.”

Brius issued a statement denying the allegations in the lawsuit.  Specifically, the company said that it meets and even exceeds California’s staffing requirements.  According to the articles reporting on the case, in terms of monetary damages, the class action calls for an unspecified amount.  However, it also requests specific action to be taken by Brius and Rechnitz’s other entities, including some of the following:

  •      Compliance with laws governing health care facilities;
  •      Abiding by reporting requirements for future violations;
  •      Drafting a clear policy with procedural requirements when there is suspected patient abuse or neglect.

Based on a statement from Patricia McGinnis, the executive director of the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), it is not surprising that Rechnitz’s facilities would have problems when it comes to nursing home abuse and neglect.  According to McGinnis, “most facilities in California have issues.”  Indeed, she explained, for-profit skilled nursing facilities are particularly to blame, as “their allegiance is to the investors, not to the nursing home residents.”

Related Nursing Home Abuse Claims

The class action is not the first mention of Rechnitz’s name in terms of nursing home abuse allegations.  According to Michael Connors, an elder rights advocate with CANHR, Rechnitz and his Brius company were the subjects of “an emergency motion filed in August by the California Attorney General’s Office.”

That motion referred to Rechnitz as “a serial violator of rules within the skilled nursing industry.”  It pointed to specific instances in which Rechnitz’s companies would not turn over materials to the California Department of Health Care Services.  Connors explained that CANHR is “troubled by the poor performance factors and by the high number of deficiencies” in Rechnitz’s facilities, and the advocacy group worries that older adults in these nursing homes are not receiving the proper quality of care.

If you have an elderly loved one at a nursing home in Southern California, it is important to ensure that your loved one stays safe and receives the care that she or he needs.  If you suspect that an older adult has been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, you should contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse attorney.

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Fines to Increase at Assisted-Living Facilities

Nursing Homes and Federal Reporting Requirements for Elder Abuse

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New Bill Raises Penalties for ElderSacramento_Capitol Abuse and Neglect

Is the state of California taking seriously the problems with nursing home abuse and elder neglect at assisted-living facilities?  According to a recent article in UT San Diego, Governor Jerry Brown just signed into law a bill that will impose “a 100-fold increase in the top fine for violations of state regulations at assisted-living homes for the elderly.”  Before Governor Brown signed the bill, the highest fine for a violation that results in the death of a resident was only $150.  Now, the top fine rose drastically to $15,000.

Fines for elder abuse and neglect resulting in the death of an older adult are not the only penalty increases.  To be sure, the bill will also raise the maximum fine for “violations leading to serious injury or abuse from $150 to $10,000.”  And the new law will not just apply to assisted-living facilities, as was originally proposed in the bill co-authored by Assemblyman Brian Maienschein of San Diego.  It will “apply to all community care facilities in the state.”

Governor Brown already signed 13 different bills related to reforming assisted-living homes in California.  The legislature is working to effect change in our state, and new laws will apply to more than 7,500 facilities across California.  According to the article, these bills represent the “most sweeping overhaul of the industry in nearly three decades.”

Legislation Aimed at Residents’ Rights

In addition to increasing penalties for violations, the new legislation also provides residents in assisted-living homes with a statutory bill of rights.  It looks a lot like the bill of rights that currently exists to protect patients in nursing homes.

What else will the bills bring?  Staff at assisted-living facilities must now meet “stiffer training requirements.” For instance, administrators will face a training mandate of 80 hours, which is double the 40-hour training time required before the new laws. Staff trainings will also provide greater information about caring for residents who suffer from dementia.

Additionally, the owners of these facilities “will pay higher licensing fees.”  In fact, licensing fees will see a “20-percent hike,” which is “enough to provide much needed funds to the Department of Social Services” as it regulates assisted-living facilities throughout the state. The new laws will also require that a staff member trained in CPR “be present at the homes at all times,” and employees will be freer to call 911 for assistance with residents who need medical treatment.

According to Patricia McGinnis, the executive director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, the new reform package signed by Governor Brown is “a major victory for assisted living residents.”  Yet, she emphasized that there’s still more work to be done.  “We look at it as a good start,” she explained, “but we’re not finished by any stretch of the imagination.”

Do you have an elderly loved one who currently resides in an assisted-living facility?  It is very important to know the signs and symptoms of elder abuse and neglect.  If you suspect that an older adult has been the victim of abuse, contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer today.

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Nursing Homes and Federal Reporting Requirements for Elder Abuse

Elderly Conservatee Rights Violation

Photo Credit: Sascha Brück via Wikimedia Commons

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Are nursing homes in California abiding by federal regulations for reporting allegations of elder abuse or neglect?  According to a recent report released by the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), not all facilities are reporting incidents of nursing home abuse.

Reporting Requirements and IncrHHSeasing Rates of Elder Abuse

The HHS report emphasized that about five million elderly Americans (or ten percent of the elderly population) sustain injuries from physical abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation.  However, these crimes are not always reported.

Under federal regulations, nursing home residents “must not be subjected to abuse by anyone, including, but not limited to, facility staff.”  In addition, those nursing home residents have “the right to be free from mistreatment, neglect, and misappropriation of property.”

When it comes to reporting, all nursing facilities that are Medicare and/or Medicaid-certified “must report alleged violations involving mistreatment, neglect, or abuse, including injuries of unknown source and misappropriation of property.”  Any allegations of abuse or neglect must be reported to “the facility administrator or designee and the State survey agency within 24 hours.”  Additionally, the results of investigations that take place following a report of abuse must be reported within five working days to the same state authorities.

Federal law also requires “owners, operators, employees, managers, agents, or contractors of nursing facilities” to report any “reasonable suspicions of crimes.”  In other words, if you are affiliated with a nursing home, you are very likely required to report signs or allegations of elder abuse.

Methods and Conclusions of the HHS Study

HHS undertook the study to protect the health and safety of nursing home residents, especially given that the elderly population is on the rise.  HHS researchers reviewed policies on abuse reporting and policies related to reporting suspicious incidents at a sample of nursing homes across the country; it also conducted surveys of administrators at those facilities.  The study took a close look at the allegations that were reported.

The researchers came to some of the following conclusions:

  • 85 percent of nursing homes sampled reported at least one allegation of nursing home abuse or neglect in 2012;
  • 76 percent of those nursing homes had clear policies that addressed federal regulations for reporting;
  • 61 percent of nursing homes kept documentation about their compliance with federal reporting regulations;
  • 53 percent of allegations likely were reported properly.

In short, a number of nursing homes are reporting some incidents of elder abuse, but it is quite likely that only about half of all nursing facilities are properly reporting all incidents of abuse or neglect that take place.

If your elderly parent or loved one may have been the victim of nursing home abuse, it is important to contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer.  Even the smallest signs and symptoms can cause reason to worry, and you should always speak with an elder justice advocate about your case.

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Elderly Conservatee Rights Violation

California Nursing Home Sued for Overmedicating Residents

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A recent article in the Examiner alleges that Scott Phipps of Phisco Fiduciary committed elder abuse against a senior conservatee, Elinor Frerichs.  Elder advocates argue that Scott Phipps kept Frerichs “confined and isolated” at Lakeside Park, her asfile0001748266226sisted living facility in Oakland.  If true, the fiduciary may have violated the rights provided to conservatees in the state of California.

Conservatee’s Rights in California

According to the Notice of Conservatee’s Rights, our state makes clear that, when an elderly person becomes a conservatee, they do not lose all rights to handle decisions.  Indeed, “he or she does not necessarily lose the right to take part in important decisions affecting his or her property and way of life.”  The conservatee is entitled to “ask questions and to express concerns and complaints about the conservatorship and the actions of his or her conservator.”

The conservatee retains the following rights after a conservator is appointed:

  •      Right to be represented by a lawyer;
  •      Right to ask a judge to replace the conservator;
  •      Right to ask a judge to end the conservatorship;
  •      Right to make a will or change a will;
  •      Right to directly receive and control his or her salary; and
  •      Right to control an allowance (defined as “personal spending money” authorized by the court).

Elder Advocates Allege Fiduciary Committed Elder Abuse

According to the article, Elinor Frerichs was denied the right to see visitors, or even to maintain any contact with the outside world.  Scott Phipps, a Professional Fiduciary through the Professional Fiduciaries Bureau (PFB), denied Frerichs access to visitation, phone calls, or personal mail—all of which are guaranteed by Assembly Bill 937 (2013).  Assembly Bill 937 amended the California Probate Code to “clarify that conservatees have the right to visitation, phone calls, and personal mail.”  The Notice of Conservatee’s Rights already emphasizes that conservatees have the right to see visitors.

On September 12, Phipps asked a judge to “[t]ake away Elinor’s right to visitation.”  Frerichs previously stated she wanted to attend her hearing to ask the judge to replace her conservator because she no longer wanted Phipps as her conservator.  However, Phipps did not permit Frerichs to attend her hearing (as she is permitted to do by the Notice of Conservatee’s Rights), and thus “failed to represent Elinor’s wishes to the judge.”  Based on Phipp’s presentation to the court, “the judge limited Elinor’s visitation rights going forward.”

On September 15, Elaine Renoire, President of the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse (NASGA), phoned Lakeside Park and requested to speak with Frerichs, but Lakeside Park would not allow Frerichs to receive the phone call.  Other elder advocates expressed serious concern about Scott Phipps and the role of conservators, as well as the possible role that Lakeside Park played in permitting elder abuse.

If your elderly loved one has been mistreated in a nursing home or assisted living facility, do not wait to contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer.  At the Walton Law Firm, our elder abuse lawyers can discuss your case with you today.  Contact us to learn more.

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Northern California Nursing Home Sued for Overmedicating Residents

Sacramento Lawyer Charged with Elder Abuse

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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.

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