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Los Angeles Nursing Home Abuse Law Blog

California nursing home residents have rights

For California nursing home residents, complete awareness and understanding of their rights as nursing home inhabitants is vital to maintaining their health, safety, and quality of life. The law requires that residents be informed of their rights, and it is crucial these elderly residents clearly grasp the issues to ensure their stays in the nursing homes are comfortable.

As chilling tales of nursing home abuse have come to public attention, the rights of nursing home patients have become more important. Some of these rights include the right to privacy, the right to raise grievances and the right to have them resolved in a timely manner, the right to be free from mental and physical abuse, and the right to not be kept away from other residents. Residents also cannot be restrained unless the restraint serves some necessary medical purpose.

Reporting elder abuse

Elder abuse is a big problem in California and all over the country. There are anywhere from 500,000 to 1 million reported cases of elder abuse in the United States each year. However, some researchers believe that the number of elderly victims is actually much higher, and 13 cases of elder abuse go unreported for every reported case.

People who work in certain fields have a legal obligation to report elder abuse to the appropriate authorities when they see it. These professionals include law enforcement, social workers, medical personnel and elder care facility workers. Requirements vary by state, but any workers who are in constant contact with the elderly usually have a legal obligation to report abuse.

Elder abuse may take many forms

As California residents may know, there are different forms of elder abuse. Some are obvious but others are subtle and require discovery. Whatever the form, it is important it is reported and corrected. Emotional abuse may not be readily noticed on a casual basis. It includes intimidation, verbal assaults, humiliation, behaving as if the senior citizen is a child and using threats or isolation. Whatever format is used, the results can be quite harmful.

Neglect is another form of elder abuse. Providing adequate food and hydration is essential for seniors. Neglect may involve both nursing homes and individual caregivers who have the obligation to provide proper nutrition. In addition, neglect may refer to the absence of clean clothing, surroundings and medical care. Abandoning an older person is also abusive.

DENIAL OF THE RIGHT TO RETURN: FINANCIAL ELDER ABUSE?

Recently, I have been contacted concerning this scenario: elder is a nursing home resident with a "squeaky wheel" daughter who complains a lot about the care; elder is sent to the ER at the local hospital for some reason; while the elder is in the ER, nursing home contacts hospital and says: "Do not send him/her back here. We are unable to provide the necessary care for him/her;" elder lingers in the ER for months and is eventually sent to another nursing home. The message for residents is far from subtle. Do not complain too much, or you go on the RTR (refuse to re-admit) list and face eviction when you need the ER.

Problems with malnutrition and dehydration in nursing homes

As the country's more than 17,000 nursing care facilities deal with approximately 1.6 million residents, malnutrition and dehydration are surprisingly common. California residents may be among the one-third of individuals in nursing homes who are affected by these conditions. Loved ones who are concerned about the care provided in such a facility may want to evaluate issues such eating schedules and staff ratios to ascertain whether nutritional needs are being adequately met for a resident.

High turnover rates in the staffing of nursing homes is a serious concern as this interferes with consistency in care because new staff must be trained in institutional practices while becoming familiar with patient needs. Ratios of CNAs to residents can also play a profound role in the lack of proper nutrition because as one CNA oversees the mealtime activity of more residents, one-on-one attention wanes. A typical CNA must assist approximately nine residents during mealtime activities, a number that may increase by up to 67 percent for evening meals. The ideal ratio of one CNA to every two or three residents with special nutritional needs is difficult to meet.

Resident conflicts and elder abuse in nursing homes

Many California families are shocked to see a cut or bruise on their loved one who resides in a nursing home. Such signs may be the first indication of abuse. Although some abuses are certainly perpetrated by staff, many abuses occur due to conflicts with roommates or with other residents also residing in the facility.

According to a study completed by Cornell researchers, one in five nursing home residents are abused. Despite these shocking numbers, researchers believe the incidence of abuse may actually be significantly higher as the study relied on random number dialing. Some elderly patients are unable to reach a phone or are unwilling to answer questions about being abused in a truthful manner.

Emotional abuse of elderly individuals in California

Because emotional abuse leaves no visible injuries or signs of distress, it may be difficult to identify. However, this type of abusive behavior can be just as devastating as physical injuries for a loved one. It may be important to work with a professional who is experienced in pinpointing emotional abuse issues with elderly individuals if you suspect that a parent or other loved one is being treated inappropriately.

A common argument of caregivers is the fact that an individual has not suffered physical harm. However, unkind treatment is not justified by an elderly person's possible lack of awareness. Additionally, it is important to recognize that psychological or emotional damages are not necessarily easy to quantify. However, the effect of emotional abuse can be devastating. An elderly individual who depends on a caregiver for basic necessities such as being fed or having medications administered may feel that the issues will worsen if they report such behavior.

California nursing home charges

Residents of nursing homes in California have several rights, including the right to be informed of all charges they may incur at a nursing home. Nursing homes are required to fully disclose the charges a resident may have while living at the facility.

The nursing home must first inform potential residents about what portion of the home's fees will be paid by Medi-Cal for people who are eligible for it. The home must additionally inform residents about what services will not be covered by Medi-Cal and what the cost for those services or the cost for non-covered items will be. They must provide a complete listing of the services and items that are covered by the daily rate as well. Nursing homes must provide information about applying for Medicare and Medi-Cal.

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.

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Kevin P. Kane, Esq.

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