• Suspect nursing home abuse or neglect?
  • KNOW THE SIGNS
  • KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
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Does race play a role in evaluating a loved one’s risk of nursing home abuse? According to a recent article from New America Media, Latino/a seniors may be at greater risk of elder abuse once they enter a nursing home or assisted-living facility due to cultural differences and discrimination.

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The Pew Research Hispanic Center Project emphasizes that Latinos are “the nation’s largest minority group and among its fastest growing populations.” To be sure, the Latino population made up 17 percent of the U.S. population in 2012, and it “accounted for more than half of the nation’s population growth” between 2000 and 2010. Given that California has a particularly high Latino/a population (with Los Angeles featuring the largest Hispanic population in any U.S. metropolitan area), it’s important to consider the ways in which nursing home abuse and neglect might distinctly affect these older adults.

Physical Abuse and Discrimination

In many cases, Latinos in nursing homes suffer physical abuse due to discrimination. In the case of Esther González, a Guatemalan immigrant at a nursing home in Culver City, the caregiving aide repeatedly hit and struck the patient. The abuse began when the aide pushed González, but quickly escalated. González recalls the caregiver “using a hook from a plastic bag” to strike her legs.

In addition to the physical abuse, González also suffered from psychological and verbal abuse.  The latter suggests that the caregiver may have discriminated against González. The patient recalled the caregiver using offensive language toward her on multiple occasions. While a number of Latinos in nursing homes, like González, don’t have perfect English-language skills, it’s important to consider the role that racial discrimination might play in these incidents.

Cross-Cultural Approaches to Combating Elder Abuse

In response to stories like González’s, many elder abuse advocates across the country have begun to consider new ways to address nursing home abuse and neglect. In particular, advocates may want to consider cross-cultural approaches that take into account the growing number of Latino elders in these facilities and methods to address language barriers.

The Administration on Aging (AOA) predicts that, between 2008-2030, the elderly Latino population (those aged 65 years and older) will increase by 224 percent. In contrast, the AOA predicts that the elderly non-Hispanic white population will increase by only 65 percent during that same period.

In addition to facing issues of discrimination, one of the primary problems for addressing elder abuse against Latinos is simply knowing about that abuse. According to the National Hispanic Council on Aging and Casa de Esperanza, members of the elderly Latino community in California and elsewhere face many barriers to seeking help for abuse. For example, some of these barriers include:

  •      Fears of the police, fears of the judicial system, and fears of deportation;
  •      Lack of knowledge about the U.S. legal system or misinformation about the U.S. legal system;
  •      Language barriers;
  •      Anti-immigrant sentiments and racial discrimination; and
  •      Economic challenges.

Advocates also emphasize that elderly victims in the Latino community can have cultural values that discourage them from reporting abuse, even if they don’t face some of these other barriers.

If you have an elderly loved one who may have suffered an injury because of nursing home abuse or neglect, you should always contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer. Elder abuse can happen to anyone at any time. Contact the Walton Law Firm to learn more about our approach to elder abuse cases.

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Hospice Mistreatment and Federal Sanctions

Rising Number of Falls and Dangerous Injuries Among the Elderly

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We know that California assisted-living facilities need to be better regulated by the state. After all, many of the serious and life-threatening injuries sustained by patients in nursing homes and residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs) are preventable. But what happens when similar incidents of elder neglect occur at home? According to a recent article in The Atlantic, there’s a significant regulation problem—lack of regulation, to be precise—with California’s in-home supportive services (IHSS) program.

As the article explains, this program “pays people to look after seniors,” but without sufficient regulation, many older adults end up sustaining severe injuries as a direct result of elder abuse and neglect.

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State-Funded Care at Home

What is the in-home supportive services program? As the California Department of Social Services explains, it helps to pay for services provided to seniors so that they can “remain safely in [their] own home.” In order to be eligible based on age, you must be over the age of 65. The program also provides services to certain disabled persons. As the Department emphasizes, it’s an “alternative to out-of-home care, such as nursing homes or board and care facilities.”

What kinds of services will the state pay for? The type of care that elderly residents receive through IHSS looks a lot more like the kind of care provided in RCFEs. For example, IHSS services can include housekeeping, meal preparation, and personal care assistance. Services authorized through IHSS do not include, for instance, any kind of medical services.

Why does the state pay for such services? According to the article in The Atlantic, it “saves the government money.” At the same time, though, it “offers many people a greater sense of comfort and autonomy than life in an institution.” But if the caregivers who provide services through this program aren’t properly trained, the elderly people who use these services could be at serious risk of injuries from neglect. To be sure, these “caregivers are largely untrained and unsupervised, even when paid by the state, leaving thousands of residents at risk of possible abuse, neglect, and poor treatment.”

Rise in Publicly Funded Caregiver Programs

California’s creation of the IHSS program isn’t specific to the state. Indeed, many states across the country have turned to publicly funded caregiver programs. Residents’ use of these services in California, however, ranks among the highest in the country. It’s a 7 billion dollar program, and its caseload has reached nearly half a million since 2001.

Most of the caregivers work for low pay, however (approximately $10 per hour), and they don’t receive much scrutiny from the organizations that monitor nursing homes and other facilities in the state. Based on information from police departments and court records, these caregivers’ in-home lapses “lead to preventable injuries and death.” To be sure, caregivers aren’t even required to learn CPR or basic first-aid techniques, let alone methods for addressing other specific needs of California’s elderly population.

While in-home programs might seem preferable to older adults and their family members, they can come with serious risks of elder abuse and neglect. If you suspect that your elderly parent or loved one has been abused or neglected, you should contact an experienced San Diego elder abuse attorney as soon as possible.

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Nursing Home Complaints and Fraud Allegations

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Are our elderly loved ones receiving proper end-of-life care at California hospices? A recent article in the Huffington Post reported that, unlike other healthcare facilities that receive Medicare funding, hospices aren’t being punished sufficiently when they commit elder abuse and violate rules related to patient health and safety. To be sure, when a hospice fails to provide the promised comfort and care at the end of a person’s life, “it almost always escapes sanctions.” Why isn’t the federal government punishing these hospices for failing to do their jobs?

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Inspections Don’t Yield Sanctions

One of the primary issues, the article suggests, is that federal regulators just aren’t doling out sanctions to hospices in the same way that they often do for nursing homes. The problem isn’t that the federal government isn’t investigating claims of abuse, neglect, and patient mistreatment at hospice facilities. Indeed, “inspections do occur and problems are identified,” yet inspectors often tend to accept “hospices promises that they’ll reform.”

The statistics seem to prove this point. Medicare’s federal regulator, according to the Huffington Post researchers, “has punished a hospice just 16 times in the last decade, despite carrying out 15,000 inspections and identifying more than 31,000 violations.” To put those numbers in perspective, only .05 percent of identified violations have resulted in a sanction. And what do these sanctions look like? Federal law only has one available for hospice violations—terminating the hospice’s license. In these cases, the loss of a license typically results in the close of the hospice facility.

While all of the identified violations haven’t been serious—some, for instance, have involved minor issues like a dead battery in a smoke detector—other violations have been life-threatening. For example, federal inspectors have listed violations such as “administering the wrong dose of medicine in error and killing a patient as a result.” Medicare pays a majority of hospice claims, yet signs of serious problems don’t seem to be limiting that funding in a salient way.

Medicare “Bankrolls” For-Profit Hospices

Given that Medicare pays a large portion of claims from hospices, it’s especially disconcerting that federal investigators aren’t issuing more sanctions for obvious violations. But what’s more problematic, perhaps, is that much Medicare funding appears to be “bankrolling” a number of for-profit hospice facilities that have cropped up over the last decade.

In recent years, the federal government has cracked down on a number of these for-profit facilities, but not because of patient safety issues. Rather, many for-profit hospices have engaged in Medicare fraud, taking on patients who are “not close enough to death to qualify for the service,” such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients, or “boosting them to extra-expensive levels of care they didn’t need.”

In addition to identifying fraudulent practices at for-profit hospices, it’s important for the federal government to take a closer look at patient safety in both for-profit and non-profit facilities. Will elder care at hospices become a more important concern in 2015? In 2014, Americans took a close look at assisted-living facilities in California and called for more action to prevent elder abuse and neglect. We’ll need to wait and see whether violations at hospices will be handled in a similar manner this year.

If you have concerns about elder abuse, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced San Diego elder law attorney today. A dedicated elder justice advocate at the Walton Law Firm can answer your questions today.

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Rising Number of Falls and Dangerous Injuries Among the Elderly

Fines to Increase at Assisted-Living Facilities

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Many of us know that nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs) in California made national news over the last year for undesirable reasons related to elder abuse and neglect. Even more recently, an audit report exposed serious elder abuse investigation delays within the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Now, according to an article in the Pasadena Star News, the Los Angeles County Public Health Department has been accused of falsifying the dates on which it received complaints about nursing home abuse.

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Why would the department do this? According to two employees, pressure had increased to “meet state deadlines for launching investigations,” and when the department couldn’t comply, it changed the dates of the complaints it had received.

Allegations of Abuse, Falls, and Pressure Sores

When the Los Angeles County Public Health Department decided to change the dates on some of the complaints it received—making it look as if the complaints had arrived to the department later than they actually had—the department didn’t select lower priority cases. Indeed, according to a letter drafted by inspector Kimberly Nguyen, the department shifted the dates of 11 different cases in its computer system, and those cases “involve alleged abuse, falls, and pressure sores.”

Nguyen emphasized the seriousness of these allegations against the department. She explained, “in my belief, falsification is a serious matter and unlawful and our department should know better to not manipulate paperwork to mislead others and the public.” By how many days were some of the dates changed? According to Nguyen, some of the dates of received complaints were altered by as much as 79 days. In other words, some of the fraudulent recordkeeping changed the dates on complaints by nearly 3 months.

Information about the fraud came to light back in early August, but the issue wasn’t properly addressed. Sharon Geraneo, who works as an assistant supervisor in the department, drafted an email to her supervisors citing the problems with the date alterations. In her letter, she accused the department of fining nursing homes for fraudulent recordkeeping while her department was committing similar violations.

Laws Concerning Investigation in California

Under California law, investigations into allegations of elder abuse much begin much more quickly than the department allowed for some of the serious complaints it received. State law requires that “investigations must be started within 10 days of receipt of a complaint.” In the case of an allegation that involves serious harm or the threat of imminent death, the investigation must begin within 24 hours of receiving the complaint.

What’s the relationship between the Los Angeles County Public Health Department and the CDPH? The department in Los Angeles has a contract with the state requiring it to “investigate potential problems at nursing homes.” Nguyen indicated that the department’s investigation practices are “putting patients in harm’s way,” and she emphasized that it should be “held accountable” for injuries that have resulted from its delays.

Have you filed a complaint about nursing home abuse in southern California? Are you concerned about your elderly loved one’s safety in a nursing home or assisted-living facility? Contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer today to learn more about how we can assist you.

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Elder Care Risks and Quality of Life

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We recently discussed the growing problem of severe and fatal injuries resulting from falls among the elderly population, as reported in an article in the New York Times. As most of us know, falls are a type of preventable injury. But what, precisely, can we do to prevent older adults from falling? And should residents in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities undergo greater education about the risks and dangers of falls?

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Education About Fall-Related Accident Prevention

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released statistics showing that the number of fall-related deaths and life-threatening injuries has risen drastically over the last decade, a number of facilities for the elderly began to think about ways to prevent falls and to ensure that elderly residents aren’t being neglected.

Do some methods work better than others when it comes to preventing falls among the elderly? The National Institute on Aging recently partnered with the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to conduct a 5-year study that will spend $30 million to determine the best routes to fall prevention among seniors who currently live independently. It will be the largest study of its kind to date, but it won’t provide a substantial amount of information about falls in facilities where elderly residents can be monitored.

One of the problems in facilities is that a majority of the residents refuse to accept that they’re at greater risk of a fall-related injury. Many nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have offered educational sessions specifically for residents that provide information about “avoiding falls and improving balance and fitness.” Yet these kinds of sessions haven’t done a lot to prevent falls. Why? Most residents “will not go near them” until they’ve actually sustained a serious injury in a fall-related accident. In short, education doesn’t seem to be the path on which elderly residents can learn to take steps to help themselves. So what should facilities do?

Making Senior-Specific Physical Changes to Facilities

People of any age can suffer injuries in a slip and fall accident. Yet prevention methods are different depending upon the age of the likely victim. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), common ways to prevent falls in your residence include some of the following:

  • Storing objects within your reach so that you don’t have to use a ladder;
  • Keeping walkways clear of objects;
  • Making sure electrical cords aren’t in footpaths;
  • Adding handrails to staircases;
  • Using non-skid bathmats to prevent a water-related slip and fall accident in the bathroom;
  • Cleaning up liquid spills as soon as they occur.

However, when we’re talking about older adults, the causes of falls aren’t the same as they are for younger people. For persons over the age of 65, falls often happen because of problems with balance, eyesight, and general stability. As such, a number of nursing homes and other elderly facilities have taken some of the following steps to make bedrooms, bathrooms, and hallways safer for residents:

  • Changing stairway carpeting so that it’s not a uniform color. Placing bright stripes on alternate stairs can help older adults with blurred vision and limited depth perception to see the distinction among stairs.
  • Ensuring that the shower lip is a different color than the tile. For older adults, it can be difficult to see a shower lip when it’s the same white color as the tile. Changing these lips so that they’re black, for instance—and thus standing out against the white tile—can help to prevent an elderly resident from tripping when getting out of the shower.
  • Making sure that carpeting isn’t deeper than an eighth of an inch—any softer and it can prevent a serious tripping hazard for older adults who tend to shuffle when they walk.

Nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have a duty to keep residents safe. If your parent or elderly loved one recently sustained injuries in a preventable fall, it’s important to discuss your case with a San Diego nursing home abuse attorney.

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For elderly adults who live on their own or in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, falls can result in serious and life-threatening injuries. While falls are not the result of elder abuse, they can occur when there is a clear issue of nursing home neglect. A recent article in the New York Times emphasized that the number of reported falls among older adults—many of those accidents leading to serious and sometimes fatal injuries—is a number that is “soaring.”

Nursing Home Regulations file000289604980Aimed at Preventing Falls

How can nursing homes take steps to prevent dangerous falls? The New York Times article discusses the policies put in place recently by a retirement community which require that, during mealtimes, residents who use walkers to get around must have their walkers “valet parked” after they find a seat at the table. In addition, they are not permitted to use their walkers during the meal—they must stay in their seats while staff members serve them. While many residents of the facility argued that the policy “infringed on [one’s] freedom of movement,” it prevented a number of serious falls at the buffet.

What about at non-mealtimes, when nursing home and assisted-living facility residents might not be under such close monitoring? Many of these facilities are struggling to balance residents’ freedoms with the risk of a serious fall. In particular, most of the rulemakers at these facilities—in California and across the country—know that, when an elderly resident suffers an injury during a preventable fall, that resident may be able to file a claim for nursing home neglect.

Experts indicate that nursing homes throughout the U.S. are beginning the process of creating rules and regulations aimed specifically at preventing falls, given that the number of fall-related injuries have risen dramatically in recent years. For some facilities, this means trying to anticipate hazardous conditions, and hiring architects and designers who can outfit a facility in a way that is safer for elderly residents.

Structural and design changes can take the form of automatic floor lighting that helps to guide seniors from the bed to the restroom, for instance, or energy-absorbing floors that reduce the impact from a fall. For other facilities, changes take the form of rules like the one that prevents residents from using their walkers during mealtime.

Facts and Figures Concerning Elderly Falls

Based on figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a shockingly high number of older adults sustain fatal injuries in fall-related accidents. In 2012, about 24,000 seniors died from injuries they sustained after a fall. That number has doubled over the last decade. And the numbers are even higher for emergency room visits linked to serious falls. In 2012, more than 2.4 million adults over the age of 65 received emergency room treatment for injuries connected to a preventable fall. That number shows a 50 percent increase from 2002.

Over the last ten years, more than 200,000 seniors have sustained fatal injuries in preventable falls. Indeed, falls are “the leading cause of injury-related death in that age group.”

If your parent or elderly loved one suffered a serious fall at a nursing home or assisted-living facility, you should contact an experienced San Diego elder abuse lawyer. You may be able to hold the facility liable.

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When we think about nursing home abuse and neglect, most of us imagine a scenario in which a healthcare professional or nursing home employee mistreats an elderly resident. However, a recent study conducted by Cornell University Weill Medical College found that many facilities actually see “a high level of resident-to-resident elder mistreatment.”

Nursing home abuse can take many different forms, and it can result in serious and life-threatening injuries to your elderly loved one. If you believe that your parent has been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, do not hesitate to contact an experienced San Diego elder abuse lawyer.

file0001780974018Aggressive Encounters with Fellow Residents

According to the study out of Cornell, about 20 percent of all residents were “involved in at least one aggressive encounter with fellow residents” during a one-month period. The study involved more than 2,000 nursing home residents, and it also included data from interviews with staff members, internal nursing home reports, direct observation, and responses to a questionnaire given to both residents and staff members. The researchers presented their findings at the Gerontological Society of America Annual Scientific Meeting earlier this month.

Karl Pillemer, a lead researcher on the study and a member of the faculty at Weill Cornell Medical College, indicated that “these altercations are widespread and common in everyday nursing home life.” And many people are not aware of this form of elder abuse. Indeed, Pillemer explained, “despite the acute urgency of the problem, resident-to-resident mistreatment is underreported.” What can we do to stop it? Pillemer suggests “increased awareness and the adoption of effective interventions.” Pillemer conducted the study with Mark S. Lachs, a professor of clinical medicine as well as the medical director of the New York City Elder Abuse Center.

Pillemer and Lachs’ study is the first of its kind in many ways. While other researchers have explored the issue of elder-to-elder abuse in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, the recent study newly included direct observations of the residents and interviews with those residents in order to “determine the prevalence and predictors of elder mistreatment between residents in nursing homes.”

Determining Which Elderly Residents Are at Greatest Risk of Abuse

Who is at greatest risk of elder-to-elder abuse at nursing homes? The study came to the following conclusions about the types of residents who may be more likely than others to be involved in this form of abuse:

  • Younger residents;
  • Residents who show some signs of cognitive disability, but who are “less cognitively and physically impaired” than other residents;
  • Residents who are “prone to disruptive behavior;” and
  • Residents with the ability to physically move around the facility

Interestingly, the study found no clear distinction between male and female residents. It did, however, discover that white and Latino residents were more likely to be involved in elder-to-elder abuse than were African American residents. It is important to note, however, that the study did not differentiate between victims and perpetrators.

Has your elderly parent shown signs of nursing home abuse or neglect? You should contact an experienced California nursing home abuse lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case.

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Statistics in Southern California suggest that elder abuse is an extremely underreported crime, which means that many older adults suffer injuries while their abuses go unpunished. A recent article in the Los Angeles Daily News reported that Los Angeles officials recently indicated that the city will take greater efforts to protect the elderly from nursing home abuse. How will these new measures work? In short, millions of dollars in funding are going to flow in from the Department of Justice and the Verizon Corporation.

DSC_5767Elder Abuse Prevention Grants to the City of Los Angeles

Will San Diego be able to get the kind of funding that Los Angeles recently received? Grants totaling $1.6 million were provided in Los Angeles primarily to train police officers to recognize signs and symptoms of elder abuse—a skill that officials hope will lead to more abuse and neglect reporting. Last year, the Los Angeles Police Department saw a shockingly low number of elder abuse reports—only 100. To place that number in perspective, the LAPD received more than 11,000 claims of domestic violence reports in 2013.

Why do police officers need to receive such special training? First, elder abuse often is committed at the hands of the elderly person’s family members and caregivers. Without outside assistance, those older adults may continue to suffer injuries from elder abuse. And in cases where family members call the police to investigate claims of abuse and neglect at nursing homes, it is extremely important that those officers know what to look for. City Attorney Mike Feuer explained that there are “gaps” in the elder abuse focus on Los Angeles, and the funds are intended to help close those gaps.

Identifying Signs and Symptoms of Elder Abuse

What will these new programs that are supposed to help law enforcement officers identify signs of elder abuse and nursing home neglect look like? Both private sector and nonprofit organizations are partnering up to “help law enforcement attune to impalpable signals that could indicate mistreatment of this vulnerable population.”

What are some signs and symptoms of elder abuse that might not be obvious? According to the Administration on Aging (AoA), bruising or other signs of physical injury such as pressure marks, abrasions, and burns can all create cause for concern. In addition, it is important to keep an eye out for a change in an elderly person’s behavior. If your parent suddenly seems withdrawn from normal activities, seems less alert, or appears depressed, you may be dealing with an emotional abuse situation. In addition to abuse, you should learn to identify symptoms of neglect, which can range widely from severe bedsores to poor hygiene.

Elder abuse is much too common, and many cases go unreported because loved ones are not able to recognize the signs and symptoms of nursing home neglect or abuse. If you have reason to believe that your parent suffered an injury because of elder abuse, contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse attorney today to learn more about how we can help.

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Earlier this month, the Sacramento Bee ran a story that exposed the lack of oversight from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) when it comes to nursing home abuse allegations. What is going on? According to the article, the CDPH is “weighed down by a backlog of more than 11,000 open complaints” with “no clear path to dig its way out.”

Evidence of this serious problem became cID-10045437lear after an audit report was released toward the end of October 2014. In short, the CDPH appears to have failed elderly adults in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities by failing to manage its investigations of elder abuse complaints received.

Numerous Problems “Up and Down the State”

While the Sacramento Bee was among the first newspapers to run the story about the recent CDPH audit, the report makes clear that the investigation problems exist far beyond northern California. Indeed, from San Diego up through Mendocino County, it looks as if the CDPH has not taken proper care with the elder abuse complaints it has received. To be sure, the audit showed that, “up and down the state,” a number of different district offices “were found to be inconsistent and haphazard in their handling of complaints, investigations, and corrective action plans.”

The report showed that department officials readily acknowledged the problems the CDPH has had with regard to investigating complaints, and many of those officially actually agreed with recommendations that came out of the audit. However, the CDPH has shown tremendous resistance when it comes to establishing a time frame for completing the investigation of a complaint. The CDPH indicated that it “recognizes the importance of timeliness,” but it rejected the notion of setting a specific time limit for investigation on each complaint.

Serious Problems that Were Not Investigated

The backlog of complaints—those cases that are still open—involve allegations of elder abuse that could have very serious repercussions. As the article emphasizes, many of these complaints are “not trivial.” Indeed, the auditor discovered that “40 percent of the unresolved concerns and allegations had been given high priority by the department,” which means that “the reported problem had caused or was likely to cause harm to a resident.”

For example, the Sacramento Bee described one case of elder abuse that was reported in April 2012. According to the auditor’s report, the state of California failed to even assign anyone to investigate the complaint until August 13, which was nearly a year and a half after the incident. By that time, the injured resident had left the nursing home, and the certified nurse assistant who had been implicated in the abuse got away with a mere warning. And this case represented a “high-priority” case for the CDPH.

Lower priority cases went unresolved for particularly long periods. The audit suggests that, for those cases not marked as high priority, the average time between complaint and investigation was about 3,500 days on average—or, in other words, ten years.

If you suspect that your elderly parent has been the victim of elder abuse at a long-term care facility in California, it is extremely important that you contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer.

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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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