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Los Angeles Nursing Home Abuse Law Blog

Defining elder abuse

Families in California may benefit from learning more about how the National Center of Elder Abuse describes and outlines the issues regarding elder abuse in the United States. The agency claims the propensity of abuse has been increasing with time, but that there are signs that can help indicate if an elder is being victimized. Anyone who witnesses or learns of elder abuse is urged to contact the appropriate authorities for assistance.

The federal government began defining the term with guidelines implemented in amendments to the Older American Act during 1987. States also operate under their own laws concerning elder abuse. Domestic elder abuse occurs when the perpetrator has a personal relationship with the victim, someone like a friend, caregiver or family member. Institutional abuse occurs at nursing homes and other types of residential facilities. The perpetrators in these crimes are often employees who are contractually or legally obligated to provide an adequate degree of care and protection for the residents.

How we can help identify financial elder abuse

The issue of elder abuse is not foreign to California. While more common forms include neglect and physical abuse by unscrupulous caretakers, financial abuse is also a virulent problem affecting many senior citizens in the state. Victims often possess valuable assets in the form of home equity. Deceitful individuals aim to take advantage of them, exploiting the senior citizens for their own financial gain. The culprits of this abuse are not only professional scam artists but even the senior citizens' own family members in some troubling cases

If you suspect that a loved one might be the victim of financial abuse, there are potential warning signs to look for. You may notice an increases in bills, frequent changes to wills and ownership documents, unprecedented activity with investment accounts, missing assets and secretive loans to unfamiliar individuals. Another sign is when family members mention that they were the subject of a request to provide blank checks or personal information dealing with their bank accounts or social security number. Furthermore, in the sudden event that a senior citizen can no longer afford the necessities of daily life, such as clothes or food, it is plausible that financial abuse has taken place.

California insurance agent charged in multimillion-dollar scam

A 59-year-old man was taken into custody and charged with felony financial elder abuse after allegedly scamming five people out of $2 million. The licensed insurance agent allegedly convinced his victims to sell and surrender annuity products with the promise of investing the money into accounts with higher returns. However, the Palm Desert resident did not make any new investments with the money nor did he return the money to his victims, investigators say.

Part of the scam involved the man making minimum payments to those who gave him their money as well as producing fake financial documents. These tactics were used to convince his victims that their money was safe. The California Department of Insurance is still conducting an investigation into the man and ask that anyone who may have been involved with him to come forward.

What are the signs of elder abuse?

Many California residents may have heard stories about how the elderly are often victims of abuse. While there are many reputable nursing homes and assisted living centers out there, those who have parents that rely on others for their care should be aware of certain signs and symptoms that can alert them to any potential abuse that may be occurring.

The main types of abuse are physical, mental and financial. Physical and mental abuse have very similar symptoms. For example, if an elderly parent is losing weight, suffering from depression when they have no history or prior depression, will not talk openly or even show fear of their caregivers, abuse may be occurring.

More common signs of physical abuse include unexplained injuries or recurring injuries, new injuries and injuries that are in the process of healing or that are being poorly treated. Financial abuse may include banking activity that is unusual or does not make sense, unknown signatures on financial documents and valuables that are suddenly lost or misplaced.

What are different types of elder abuse?

California families with relatives who are senior citizens may not be entirely aware of what constitutes elder abuse. There are several main types of elder abuse ranging from physical harm to coercion.

Physical abuse consists of acts of physical force that could result in injury, such as slapping or kicking. Since senior citizens tend to be more vulnerable to injury, even small acts of physical contact, with the intent to harm or intimidate, could be considered elder abuse. Sometimes the result of physical abuse, psychological abuse consists of acts that cause emotional pain or anguish, such as humiliation or threats, and is typically verbal. Any sort of sexual act without consent, whether it is unwanted or the individual is incapable of giving it, can be considered sexual abuse.

Legislation pending for improvements in assisted living

Approximately 175,000 residents live in the more than 7,500 assisted living establishments in California, and they might receive protection if 15 bills make it through the legislature and into the governor's hands by August 29. Reforms have not been made in almost 30 years, and many feel that it is dangerous not to do so.

Assisted living homes range from small facilities that house just a few individuals to larger ones that have 100 beds or more. Less costly than traditional nursing homes, they are a less institutionalized way or seniors to live and still receive help with their everyday tasks. However, reports of neglect have mounted. If a resident of an assisted living home dies due to neglect or abuse, the facility is currently only fined $150, and inspections currently take place only every five years. This, advocates believe, needs to change.

Important issues with a nursing home complaint

Individuals concerned about loved ones housed in California nursing homes may wonder about how to file and prove complaints. It is important to compile and evaluate evidence of issues involving nursing home abuse that are connected to one's concerns. There are several areas in which monetary compensation might be obtained if a nursing home complaint is successfully proven.

Alleged damages may include expenses that have already been assessed as well as those that might be expected in the future for medical care, lab work, medications and other supplemental equipment. Pain and suffering already experienced as well as that anticipated in the future are also important. The mental and emotional impact of possible mistreatment may also be included in a complaint. Both mental and physical pain, for example, may result in the recovery of damages. An incident could produce physical pain, but it might also induce fear or anxiety about the future. In some instances, post-traumatic stress disorder might even result from an issue in a nursing home. Additional areas in which damages may be obtained include disfigurement, interference with the enjoyment of one's life or a shortened expected life. Standard tables are typically used in determining life expectancy. Issues involving reckless actions or malicious behavior toward a nursing home resident may result in punitive damages based on deprivation of statutory rights.

Elder abuse in California: Protecting seniors from common scams

A study conducted in 2013 calculated that between 700,000 and 1.2 million elderly people were subjected to some form of abuse each year. In analyzing another recent study of 2,600 financial planners conducted by Consumer Reports, 56 percent of them reported knowing an older person who was the victim of financial abuse, and the average loss was $140,500.

In many cases, an individual targets the retirement or savings accounts of seniors by posing as individuals who have won a contest or the lottery. The scam involves asking the intended victim to give out personal information such as a bank account number or Social Security number to transfer the nonexistent winnings. Scam artists may make contact with their victims over the phone, through the mail or even online.

Financial elder abuse

As the percentage of the population of the United States represented by persons 65 years or older continues to increase, so does the incidence of mistreatment of the elderly, often by those in a position of trust. While such mistreatment can take many forms, including physical, psychological and emotional, a particularly pernicious form that is rapidly growing in California and around the country is financial elder abuse.

Research has shown that more than 10 percent of seniors have reported being exploited within the past 12 months, with the overwhelming majority of the perpetrators being family members or those who the victims have looked up to or trusted, such as caretakers, clergy or neighbors. Financial elder abuse can include using a financial power of attorney given by the victim to a family member to access bank accounts, or a potential heir refusing to procure needed medical care for the victim in order to keep his or her assets available. Another form involves investments, with trusted financial advisers promising unrealistic rates of return or pressuring seniors into taking out inappropriate loans.

Institutions fight for the rights of senior citizens globally

California residents who have senior citizen family members may be interested in one way in which some institutions are attempting to fight elder abuse. This widespread problem may require institutional changes at the government level to see real progress.

A group of three universities from the U.S. and China have joined together to craft "The Chicago Declaration on the Rights of Older Persons," a document laying out measures to curb instances of elder abuse. It also includes provisions proposing obligations for world governments as well as ways to avoid institutionalized discrimination against the elderly. The authors also seek to give the elderly more freedom in directing their own medical care. The document is set to be presented to the United Nations in August.

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Kevin P. Kane, Esq.

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