Articles Posted in Dependent Adult Abuse


didier-weemaels-36055-copy-300x251
If you file a nursing home abuse lawsuit in Rancho Bernardo, can you be eligible to receive punitive damages? Punitive damages represent a particular type of remedy that is not awarded in many cases, including in lawsuits concerning nursing home abuse allegations. However, according to a recent opinion from the California Court of Appeals, Jarman v. HCR ManorCare (2017), there are indeed cases of elder abuse in which punitive damages are appropriate.

This case is important for nursing home residents in Rancho Bernardo and throughout the state of California as it makes clear that the court system will hold nursing facilities accountable for egregious acts of elder abuse. What else do you need to know about punitive damages in order to understand the weight of this decision?

What are Punitive Damages and Why are They Important?

olia-gozha-179577-300x199If you have an elderly loved one who lives in a nursing home in Oceanside or elsewhere in Southern California, do you need to be concerned about the risks of nursing home sexual abuse? According to a recent report from CNN News, “vulnerable seniors are being raped and sexually abused by the very people paid to care for them.” Allegations of rape and sexual abuse are arising in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities across the country. Despite the fact that it is difficult to know precisely how many cases occur each year, the CNN News report suggests that “this little-discussed issue is more widespread than anyone would imagine.”

What are some of the significant findings in the report? What should you know about the signs and symptoms of sexual abuse in nursing homes?

Nursing Homes May be Negligent in Reporting Sexual Abuse and Assault

tuyyno_vdp0-sam-wheeler-300x199If you have an elderly loved one who recently required care in a hospital and now will need long-term care in a nursing home in Escondido, how do you know which facility will provide the best quality of care and does not have a history of nursing home abuse or neglect? According to a recent article from NPR, a potential change to the rules concerning Medicare and hospitals’ rights and responsibilities toward patients could mean that more hospitals, which often see elderly patients in Southern California and throughout the country, could provide helpful information to families struggling to select a quality nursing home in their budget.

Hospitals Required to Provide ‘Unrestricted’ Information About Nursing Homes

Up to this point, why have hospitals in San Diego County avoided giving patients and their families information about certain nursing homes that they believe can provide quality care? The article explains that “hospitals have long been reluctant to share with patients their assessments of which nursing homes are best because of a Medicare requirement that patients’ choices can’t be restricted.”

LAFD_ambulanceWhen an elderly loved one in San Diego requires nearly constant medical care, many family members are at their most concerned when that loved one has to be hospitalized. However, according to a recent article in California Healthline, one of the most dangerous periods for elderly patients actually starts after they leave the hospital, and perhaps not for the reasons you might think. The problem is not that the elderly person does not receive sufficient care after a hospital visit, but rather that the patient failed to receive proper care while in the healthcare facility. Does this rise to the level of elder neglect?

Problems Associated with Poor Transitional Care

The time between leaving the hospital and receiving care either from a home caregiver or staff members at a nursing home in Southern California is known as a period of “transitional care.” As Alicia Arbaje, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine explains, “poor transitional care is a huge, huge issue for everybody, but especially for older people with complex needs.” While “the most risky transition,” Arbaje explains, “is from hospital to home with the additional need for home care services,” since it is the type of situation about which the least is known, injuries resulting from poor transitional care can also happen when the patient goes from a hospital to a local nursing home.

Patch_of_the_San_Diego_Police_DepartmentLaw enforcement officials are often in a unique position to recognize signs and symptoms of elder abuse in the San Diego area. Yet, as an article from In Public Safety points out, police officers frequently are not sufficiently trained in recognize nursing home abuse and neglect, and as such they inadvertently miss the symptoms that could help to prevent future injuries and, in some cases, deaths. Since nursing home abuse cases also can coincide with calls concerning assault and domestic violence, it is important for law enforcement officers to be trained to recognize the signs of elder abuse.

Getting Law Enforcement Officials in California Involved in Elder Abuse Awareness

One of the first things we can do, the article suggests, to change the ways in which police officers evaluate whether someone has been the victim of elder abuse is to require specific training about nursing home abuse and neglect. In our state, the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) does have required training for mandatory reporters, but not all law enforcement officials understand the extent of elder abuse in the community and the ways that we can work together to help prevent it.

file000430141928Nursing home abuse is a serious problem in San Diego. For a number of years, elder safety advocates have been looking for new ways to prevent nursing home abuse, as well as to properly identify it when it does happen. According to a recent article from USC News, “doctors, first responders, and other health care professionals can use techniques inspired by law enforcement to better identify and address cases of elder abuse.” This new methodology for detecting nursing home neglect arose from a clinical study at USC’s Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.

When we say that healthcare providers and emergency responders should take a cue from law enforcement when looking for signs and symptoms of elder abuse, what, precisely, do we mean? In short, the study suggests that a “forensic lens” approach can help those not trained in law enforcement to determine where there is “cause to believe neglect or abuse [has] taken place.”

Looking for Clues in Two Different Case Studies

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?

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.

file000790132663If an elderly California resident is declared incompetent and placed under a conservatorship (also known in many places as a guardianship), can that senior actually be at greater risk of elder abuse? According to a recent article in Forbes Magazine, conservatorships and guardianships are “ideally a protection for older adults.” However, as the article explains, a conservatorship “is a drastic measure often prompted by warring relatives, nursing homes that want to get paid, or a ‘friend’ who gains the trust of an older adult in order to take advantage of him or her.” While these typically are worst-case-scenario examples, it is important to think carefully about the potential links between conservatorships and nursing home abuse in Southern California.

What is a Conservatorship?

The California Courts make clear that a conservatorship involves an adult (the “conservatee”) who either “cannot care for himself or herself or manage his or her own finances” and a responsible person or entity (the “conservator”) to care for that adult. The Court’s website explains that general conservatorships, like the scenario described above, often involve an elderly person.

red_coatWhen an elderly California resident requires care in a nursing home, it is often because he or she can no longer live at home and requires more care than a place such as a residential care facility for the elderly (RCFE) or assisted-living facility might be able to provide. However, according to a recent article from the Associated Press, nursing home patients who are more challenging and for whom it is more difficult for staff members to provide care are being targeted for eviction. The topic of nursing home evictions and elder abuse has been an issue for several months now, with advocates arguing that nursing homes and other facilities are refusing to readmit patients following hospital stays. For example, an NPR report emphasized the severity of these allegations and the implications for senior health and well-being.

Yet now, according to an analysis conducted by the Associated Press, it looks as though patients at skilled nursing facilities who require more extended care than other patients may also be subject to wrongful evictions. When elderly patients who need nursing home care are evicted without warning and for reasons beyond the resident’s control, are we looking at situations of nursing home abuse?

Seniors with Dementia Alleged to be Targeted by Skilled Nursing Facilities