• Suspect nursing home abuse or neglect?
  • KNOW THE SIGNS
  • KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
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DSC05005Do you know enough about restraints in nursing homes and the importance of restraint-free care? According to a fact sheet from the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), we as a society used to believe that the use of restraints was acceptable in nursing homes for elderly adults and those with disabilities. Yet the use of restraints in nursing homes is very dangerous, and it may rise to the level of nursing home abuse. As the fact sheet highlights, restraints “often entail more risks than benefits,” and recent studies “recommend more dignified methods to improve residents’ safety.”

Yet, as the CANHR fact sheet illumines, many nursing homes and assisted-living facilities continue to use unnecessary restraints, putting patients at risk of physical harm. And on the whole, California nursing homes, in particular, may be particularly heavy-handed in their use of unnecessary restraints. The fact sheet notes that “California nursing homes use physical restraints at a rate about fifty percent higher than the rest of the nation.” What else do you need to know about restraints and helping your loved one to obtain restraint-free care in a skilled nursing facility in San Diego?

California and Federal Law Prohibits Unnecessary Restraints

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NAMI_logoWhat do you know about mental health and nursing home neglect?

According to an article in Psychology Today, mental illness has become “the biggest economic burden of any health issue in the world, costing $2.5 trillion in 2010” alone. By 2030, that cost is expected to nearly triple to $6 trillion. However, despite the prevalence and costliness of mental illness—approximately 450 million people across the world currently suffer from some form of mental illness—the article emphasizes that mental health conditions continue to carry a stigma that prevents us as a society from talking about them openly and honestly. Unsurprisingly, the continued stigma of mental health or mental illness also makes its way into nursing homes, where patients who suffer from a mental health condition often becomes victims of nursing home abuse or neglect.

What can we do to prevent elder neglect among mental health patients?

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file000790132663Throughout the San Diego area, residents are aging and requiring care in nursing homes. According to a fact sheet from the California Department of Aging, our state is “projected to be one of the fastest growing states in the nation in total population” of seniors. By the year 2020, the California Department of Aging predicts that around 14% of California’s population will be aged 65 and older, totaling nearly 16 million people. Given that so many adults in California will need to think about long-term care, it is important that they, along with their families, have the right tools for choosing the best nursing facilities and avoiding situations of elder abuse.

What goes into choosing the right nursing home for your elderly parents? What questions should you ask? What should you look for at the facility to determine quality of care? A fact sheet from the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) provides helpful information for selecting a facility.

Thinking About Medicare and Medi-Cal

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Snapchat_LogoOver the last several months, states across the country have been contending with incidents of nursing home abuse that involve social media. Now, according to a recent report ABC 10 News San Diego, federal authorities are “stepping in to make sure elderly residents of nursing homes and senior care facilities are not abused on social media.” The investigation, according to an article from NPR, comes after ProPublica released a series of reports that showed nursing home employees taking “demeaning photographs and videos of residents and post[ing] them on social media.”

Will an investigation by federal health regulators actually be able to put a stop to this kind of elder abuse?

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Issues Memo Regarding Social Media Abuse

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PET_scan-normal_brain-alzheimers_disease_brainWe often read news stories about nursing home abuse and dementia patients, but are elders who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia at greater risk of elder abuse? According to a fact sheet from the University of California, Irvine’s Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse and Neglect, advocates generally agree that seniors who suffer from dementia “are thought to be at greater risk of abuse and neglect than those of the general elderly population.” What else should you know about dementia and its connection to nursing home abuse?

Growing Number of Americans with Dementia

As the fact sheet notes, the total number of elderly Americans is expected to grow substantially in the coming decades. As the total population of America’s seniors grows, the total population of elders with dementia will also increase. Currently, around 5.3 million seniors in our country have Alzheimer’s disease. Of those people, a little over 5 million are aged 65 or older, while about 200,000 people under the age of 65 suffer from this disease. By 2030, however, the Center predicts that approximately 7.7 million elders will have Alzheimer’s disease. Any by year 2050, that number will grow to around 16 million older adults with Alzheimer’s.

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file3451272140532How often does the California Department of Public Health fine nursing homes and assisted-living facilities for elderly patient injuries and deaths? When facilities do receive significant fines as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect, are those fines sufficient to protect other residents in the future? According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Daily News, the California Department of Public Health issued a $75,000 fine for a Southern California nursing home due to neglect resulting in a patient’s death.

Fatal Injuries Caused By Nursing Home Neglect in Canoga Park

As the article explains, Topanga Terrace, a nursing home in Canoga Park, was issued a $75,000 fine “after staff there failed to monitor a resident who kept removing his own breathing tube, resulting in death.” The patient needed a tracheostomy tube in order to breathe following a surgery in 2013. In addition to the use of the tracheostomy tube, the patient also “suffered from multiple illnesses including dementia, chronic respiratory failure, and tuberculosis.” Despite his medical needs, however, the facility did not have a treatment plan that included methods to prevent or deter the patient from removing his breathing tube.

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William_Albert_Ackman_signatureFor more than a year, mandatory arbitration agreements have been illegal in California nursing homes. Instead, patients at facilities in San Diego can only be asked to sign voluntary binding arbitration agreements. Over the last year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has been working on a federal rule that would prohibit forced arbitration agreements in nursing homes across the country, permitting facilities instead to have only voluntary binding arbitration agreements (like those in California). Yet according to a recent article in The New York Times, even voluntary binding arbitration agreements can put a nursing home resident in a vulnerable position in relation to a facility. Should we be talking about banning all arbitration agreements if we want to ensure patients get justice when nursing home abuse happens?

No Legal Recourse for Harmed Patients in Arbitration?

As the article in The New York Times explains, federal rules concerning forced arbitration agreements in nursing homes will soon be finalized. However, are those protections sufficient to ensure that nursing homes are held accountable when nursing home abuse or neglect occurs? As a brief reminder, arbitration agreements—both those that are “forced” or required for a patient to enter a nursing home, as well as those that a patient agrees to voluntarily upon entering a facility—require patients and their families to settle legal issues “through private arbitration rather than through lawsuits.”

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file000356994816Allegations of Elder Neglect and Abuse Resulting in Patient Deaths

According to a recent report from The San Diego Union-Tribune, concerns about elder abuse and preventable injuries in assisted-living facilities in Southern California still loom large. A 2013 special report from The San Diego Union-Tribune highlighted the dangers of nursing home neglect in assisted-living facilities across the state, emphasizing that regulators needed to do more to address serious allegations including but not limited to:

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800px-Woman_readingOver the past several months, California residents have been hearing news about nursing homes in our state and throughout the country evicting patients for whom it is more difficult to provide care. For example, an article in Modern Healthcare emphasized that nursing home patients who are “targeted for eviction are frequently poor and suffering from dementia.” Numerous lawsuits have been filed in relation to such evictions, and a recent press release from the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) suggests that elder safety advocates may be gaining ground.

Modesto Elder Care Center Cited for Evicting ‘Long-Term’ Residents

According to the press release, Avalon Care Center, a Modesto-area nursing home, has been cited for illegal patient eviction practices. The press release notes that the California Department of Public Health (DPH) recently levied “a whopping 29 citations” against the care center in Modesto “for engaging in a reprehensible and systematic illegal eviction program to force out undesirable ‘long-term’ residents.” Why did the facility evict these residents? It was not actually for some of the same reasons noted in the Modern Healthcare article mentioned above.

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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