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Los Angeles Nursing Home Abuse Law Blog

Who is most at risk for elder abuse?

Elder abuse in Los Angeles can occur in a variety of settings, and it can affect both male and female people over the age of 65. According to data collected by the National Center on Elder Abuse, elderly females are at a higher risk of being abused than elderly males.

Caregivers in nursing homes, long-term care facilities and private homes can all be guilty of elder abuse. However, a national study found that 90 percent of abusers were close family members of their elderly victim. These abusers were often spouses, partners and adult children. The study also determined that family members with mental illnesses, substance abuse problems or feelings of being overburdened by their responsibilities to provide care were more likely to engage in elder abuse.

Reckless neglect in California nursing homes

Reckless behavior implies action that is done without care or thought regarding the potential outcome of a given situation, and the abuse or neglect of a loved one in a care facility may occur without a perpetrator's concern for the impact such actions will have on the victim or family. In many cases, elderly and disabled people in such institutions are among the most vulnerable, unable to protect themselves or speak up about the issue.

Under California law, recklessness is defined as the conscious disregard for another's rights. Incidents involving neglect or abuse include poor nutrition, dehydration and development of bed sores. Wounds and sores can become infected due to poor care for the hygiene needs of an individual such as leaving that person in soiled bedding or clothing. Isolation of an individual or leaving them unattended for excessive amounts of time can also reflect neglect or abuse. Improper medical care such as failure to diagnose the onset of an illness and inadequate medical treatment are also examples of serious situations that can occur in a nursing facility.

Senior citizens may be targets of fraudulent schemes

California residents may know that consumer fraud and scams are plentiful today. Many target older Americans who may be more unsuspecting since they were raised in a gentler time. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has advice on how to be vigilant and avoid becoming a target of fraud.

One reason that con artists target older people, according to the FBI website, is because they may not understand that these are reportable crimes, or they may feel ashamed that they were scammed. They may not wish to appear that they allowed a disreputable person to swindle them and steal their money. In addition, they do not want to have their family think they have lost the mental capacity to think clearly about finances.

California chain of nursing homes sued in class action

A class action lawsuit against California's biggest nursing home provider is demanding the investigation of dozens of institutions, alleging neglect and abuse. Brius Healthcare Services and its 43-year-old owner are the defendants in the case. In 2012, the owner and his brother were recipients of the UCLA ICON Award for Visionary Leadership in Business and Philanthropy. That same year, Larry King, who praised the man's philanthropic actions and business acumen, also interviewed him.

Understaffing is at the core of the lawsuit. The plaintiff alleges that BHS failed to disclose the understaffing at 57 nursing homes when admitting residents, according to the 90-page lawsuit. The lawsuit seeks to force them to report suspected or actual cases of neglect or abuse that occurred over the last three years. The plaintiff also has requested that the judge in the matter order BHS to survey the nursing home residents quarterly to ensure the absence of mistreatment. The suit is seeking damages and class certification for fraud, consumer law violations, violation of residents' rights and unlawful business practices.

85-year-old former priest victim of sweepstakes scam

An elderly retired priest in California was talked into handing over his life savings in a scam. After receiving a fake letter claiming that he had won $1.6 million from the Publishers Clearing House, the 85-year-old man was instructed to pay $40,000 in order to avoid being taxed on his prize. After paying the sum, the priest never received his purported winnings.

The priest realized that he had been tricked by a scam when the contact number he was given became disconnected after he paid his fee. A second letter the man had received informed him that he would be given an activation code for the $1.6 million check after paying $40,000 to the Internal Revenue Service. When no one could be reached to give him the activation code, the priest called the Elder Abuse Unit of the San Diego County District Attorney's Office to report the financial abuse.

California tightens nursing home regulations

After years of oversight of the state's nursing homes, California has finally attempted to rectify the situation by enacting tighter regulations of assisted living facilities. California's previous regulations for nursing homes resulted in extreme cases of abuse and neglect as well as many otherwise preventable deaths of elderly and disabled residents.

Under the old scheme, fines handed out for abuse that led to death were very low, averaging only $150. Even when fines were handed down, the state rarely attempted to collect them. The new regulations now provide a fine of up to $15,000 against nursing homes in which abuse or negligence causes the death of a resident, a significant improvement.

Protecting the elderly from exploitation

California elders can be susceptible to various types of exploitation, making it important for loved ones to consider strategies for protecting them. Statistics indicate that approximately 1,000 elderly citizens of the United States suffer various types of financial and other abuses on a daily basis. An estimated 10 percent of elderly adults suffer some type of abuse, and estimates for financial exploitation are even greater. Further, it is estimated that as few as 4 percent of cases are actually reported. Leadership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is challenging others to help cut back on such elder abuse activities.

It is important to understand that exploitation can take many forms. For example, the illegal or improper use of financial resources of an elderly person could occur through forging a signature or cashing a check without permission. It could involve actual theft of belongings. Coercing someone into signing a document is another form of elder abuse and exploitation. Those given powers such as guardianship can exploit an elderly person by misuse of that position. In fact, an estimated 90 percent of those financially abusing seniors are trusted individuals such as family members, bankers and lawyers.

Elder abuse prevention legislation signed into law

California Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed 13 bills passed by the legislature that provide greater protection for those living in assisted living facilities. One bill signed on Sept. 29 received the most fanfare due to its stiffening of financial penalties for such facilities that fail to properly supervise residents. The fine for causing the death of a resident was increased from $150 to $15,000.

Fines for violating state regulations that lead to a serious injury to a resident have been increased to $10,000. Another noteworthy piece of legislation provides a bill of rights for those living in assisted living facilities. This bill of rights is comprised in a similar manner to rights nursing home residents enjoy. In addition to these fines, training requirements for nursing home staff have been increased.

Caregivers convince elderly woman to spend her entire savings

The family of an elderly woman in California is claiming that a couple victimized the great-grandmother and is now squatting in a house she owns. Five years previously, two caregivers befriended the 87-year-old woman while she was recovering from an injury to her shoulder. The couple later convinced the woman to purchase a house as an investment, and they have continued to live in the Cathedral City home rent-free.

According to the elderly woman's son, the financial abuse of his mother by the caregivers was ongoing. The man says that he was unaware his mother had purchased a home until he looked at her tax records in June. When he saw the purchase, he visited his mother and discovered that she had also bought a new van for the couple and written them a check for $20,000.

How to identify elder abuse

The holiday season is when many California families travel to spend time with a parent or grandparent. Since these special occasions only occur several times a year, family members may not realize any problems the elderly relative may be dealing with. According to a recent report, approximately 10 percent of elderly Americans suffer from abuse or neglect. The National Center on Elder Abuse has suggested ways by which people can discover if an elderly loved one is in that category.

Visiting relatives should observe the needs of their loved one and discuss those concerns with him or her. Safety needs, the type of services a caregiver renders, socialization needs and plans in regards to declining health and management of finances are some of the topics to be discussed. In situations where relatives realize that their elderly loved one needs more help, they could contact local elder agencies, doctors and attorneys for advice.

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Kevin P. Kane, Esq.

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