Allegations of Emotional Elder Abuse at San Diego County Facility

Shower headOver the past couple of years elder advocates have been paying a significant amount of attention to physical abuse and neglect at nursing homes in the San Diego area. It is important to remember that nursing home abuse can take many forms, including emotional and psychological abuse. According to a recent report from ABC 10 News, allegations of elder abuse at a Vista facility have resulted in an investigation by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. The article indicates that an employee at the LifeHOUSE Vista Healthcare Center has been “accused of using her cellphone to take footage of a patient getting in the shower, and then posting it on the internet.”

Elder Abuse Investigation in Vista

The elder abuse investigation in Vista got underway after someone who viewed the online video “took a screen grab” of it and sent it to ABC 10 News. The video was taken on Snapchat. According to the report, “it shows a partially nude woman from the shoulders up,” and there is an employee “standing behind her laughing.”

After learning about the video, the news station contacted LifeHOUSE, and the facility’s executive director contacted the employee who is alleged to have posted the video. The employee admitted that she “was helping to give the elderly woman, who has dementia, a shower then the photo was taken.” However, she denied taking photos or video recordings of the elderly patient. Both employees accused in this incident of elder abuse have been suspended from their jobs, and they also are facing elder abuse charges. According to the viewer who called in the tip to ABC 10 News, the employees were both laughing in the video. However, it will be difficult to prove the allegations of elder abuse given that Snapchat “videos and photos are erased within 24 hours.”

The LifeHOUSE Vista Center released in its own statement in response to the allegations, emphasizing that it “takes any allegations of patient abuse very seriously.” The facility noted that it is currently conducting its own investigation into the incident. The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the California Department of Justice will also be investigating since LifeHOUSE Vista is licensed by the state. But this might not be the first instance of elder emotional abuse at this facility. Based on the star ratings from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), LifeHOUSE Vista has a “below average overall rating, with 2 stars out of 5.” The facilities have also been cited for 19 deficiencies, which is significantly higher than the state average of 10.5 and the national average of 6.8.

Understanding Emotional and Psychological Abuse

According to an article in the journal Aging Well, psychological abuse is much more common than it may seem. Experts predict that it is “the most common of all types of elder abuse, with a reported incidence rate of 54.1 percent.” It is often difficult to detect (and to prosecute) because it does not produce objective evidence such as bruises or lacerations. Yet it is a serious form of elder abuse that can involve the following:

  • Threats;
  • Humiliation;
  • Fear;
  • Manipulation; and
  • Other forms of cruel emotional conduct.

Emotional abuse can come in the forms of both verbal and nonverbal conduct, and it often includes harassment, insults, and other forms of denigration.

Our elderly loved ones deserve to be treated with proper care and respect. If you have concerns about a senior’s safety in a Southern California nursing home or have worries about emotional abuse, you should discuss your case with a San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer as soon as possible. Contact the Walton Law Firm today to learn more about how we assist seniors and their families.

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Distinguishing Elder Abuse from Common Injuries

Nursing Home Workers’ Strike Raises Questions About Care