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Los Angeles Nursing Home Abuse Law Blog

Signs of elder abuse

Elderly people in California may be the victims of abuse from caregivers, physically, financially or emotionally. The loved ones of elderly people who are in the care of others might need to be aware of the signs of elder abuse so they can take measures to stop it.

Some signs of abuse are blatant and require little investigation. When people witness things such as name-calling, threats, withholding of food or medication, or inappropriate intimate contact, they should take immediate action by contacting authorities. In many instances, however, the abuser will not commit abuse in the presence of a witness. In some situations, the elderly person will also be either afraid to report the abuse or unable to do so.

Nursing home facility evaluations in California

Families in California with loved ones in nursing homes may be curious as to how nursing homes are evaluated. Nursing homes are generally evaluated by the Licensing and Certification Division of the California Department of Public Health, and evaluations are composed of multiple parts.

The Licensing and Certification Division is required to survey a nursing home facility at least every two years under California state law. A facility may also be surveyed after a complaint is made against it. Typically, surveyors will look into any past complaints, past investigations and the facility's background before performing a survey.

Elder abuse in long-term nursing facilities

Many California families face decisions over placement of a loved one in a full-time nursing care facility. With about 1,260 such facilities statewide, choosing one may be daunting. In addition, 25 large for-profit chains own 50 percent of the available beds. While state and federal regulatory agencies are responsible for inspections, studies have shown that chain nursing homes like chains in other industries have similar problems despite their location.

Using statewide statistics, two of the largest chain nursing home providers performed below average in quality of care and staffing. Quality of care measures the incidence of falls, infections and bedsores in a facility while staffing looks at the rate of nursing turnover.

How can someone avoid a telemarketing scam?

Although anyone living in California may become the target of a telemarketing scam, this type of fraud is most often perpetrated against the elderly. Telemarketing scams usually involve an attempt to get money from an unsuspecting victim by using a phone call disguised as a legitimate offer. Knowing how to spot the signs of fraud is a good way to avoid getting scammed.

The best way to avoid being victimized by a telemarketing scam is to be aware. Paying attention to the content and tone of a telemarketing call is a good tactic for spotting a scam. For example, telemarketing calls from legitimate companies will be clear and direct about their product or service and the telemarketers themselves will be willing to answer questions. A telemarketer who provides very little information, avoids answering direct questions or who seems in too much of a hurry to get payment information may be part of a fraud scheme.

Seniors often target of telemarketing fraud

California residents may know telemarketing consumer fraud is often targeted at Americans over 60. Seniors are loathe to believe someone is trying to steal their money and often give individuals the benefit of the doubt. Combine this with the fact that many seniors find it difficult to be anything but polite, and they become vulnerable to fraudulent practices. Consumer agencies geared toward protecting older Americans from fraud say seniors must be made aware that some telemarketers are criminals. This knowledge allows them to avoid consumer scams and fraud as well as help authorities stop this type of crime.

Agencies such as the FBI urge seniors to eschew offers of money and prizes, particularly when the caller asks the recipient to pay a fee ahead of time to get the gift. Many such calls act on a principle of urgency suggesting if action is not taken immediately, the gift, loan or sale item will no longer be available. Family members are also warned to be aware of signs that someone in their family has fallen prey to unscrupulous telemarketers. These include not being able to pay household expenses or being the recipient of trinkets from unknown companies.

Oversight problems with California nursing homes

Reports indicate that a severe backlog exists in connection with the oversight of long-term care sites in California. The California Department of Public Health has at least 11,000 open complaints still waiting for investigation, and there aren't any practical solutions in sight for reducing the backlog. The auditor reporting on the issue indicates that the backlog is an issue throughout the state.

The report indicates that the complaints at issue are serious. At least 40 percent of the cases are considered high in priority due to the potential harm to residents of nursing homes and other facilities. In a particular incident, a complaint registered in April 2012 had not been assigned an investigator until August 2013. In the case, a certified nursing assistant allegedly slapped a resident, an abusive action. The resident, the only witness in the situation, was no longer at the location when the case was investigated. The alleged abuser only received a warning, and the case was closed.

An overview of elder financial abuse

Family or friends of elderly California residents may worry about areas in which those loved ones may be vulnerable, especially with regard to finances. The financial abuse of those who are 65 years of age or older can result in both criminal and civil consequences.

Such abuse is deemed to be criminal in cases involving forgery, fraud, embezzlement, or theft at the expense of an elder when the perpetrator should recognize that the victim is in that category. Punishment could include up to $2,500 in fines along with jail time of up to one year if the money or value of property wrongfully obtained is in excess of $950. Lower fines might be applicable if the damages to an individual are less than $950. Civil law addresses elder financial abuse when an individual takes or assists in taking property with an intent to misuse it or to defraud the owner. It is also deemed elder financial abuse when an individual uses undue influence to take property.

Nursing home abuse

California nursing homes are governed by a strict set of federal and state laws and rules that regulate the treatment the facility must provide to its residents and the actions which they may not take in the course of care. These regulations supplement the rights and privileges that all nursing home clients enjoy, such as the freedom from physical coercion.

Although it is common practice for Californian nursing home residents to have some sort of contract with the home, the right to quality care and the right to seek compensation for improper treatment has been well established even for residents without formal arrangements. Under no circumstances is it acceptable for a nursing home to present a patient or client with violence. Not only is this against several sets of rules, it may rise to the level of assault and battery.

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.

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Kevin P. Kane, Esq.

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