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Los Angeles Nursing Home Abuse Law Blog

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.

Two men accused of bilking $500,000 from elderly

Two San Fernando Valley men are accused of preying on elderly residents of Southern California, including Northridge, Sherman Oaks, Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica. The pair, who worked as unlicensed contractors, now face 40 counts of committing consumer scams and fraud from 2012 to 2014.

It is alleged that the older of the two would contract with senior citizens to remove pests from their homes. Once there, he would claim that the properties had additional problems to be resolved, such as termites or mold. He allegedly would then offer to enter into a second contract where he was paid large sums of money for work that was not needed and did not occur. The younger man reportedly advertised work cleaning air ducts. He is accused of also "finding" other issues with the homes once on-site, then charging elderly homeowners for work that he did not perform. This contractor is also accused of opening a line of credit in one customer's name and forging signatures on checks.

Inappropriate use of antipsychotics with the elderly

Nursing home concerns in California can vary, and families with relatives in such institutions may be concerned about signs of abuse and neglect. A disturbing trend across the nation in nursing homes involves the overuse of antipsychotic medications as chemical restraints. In one instance, a Ventura woman who was admitted for rehabilitation of a broken hip ended up dying within weeks of her discharge. Her prescriptions were minimal at the time of admission, and her daughter indicated that drugs may have been used to facilitate her submission. The institution was sued in May for use of antipsychotics without the informed consent of patients or their representatives.

According to experts, the practice of using such medications to manage resident behavior is common, affecting possibly 20 percent of all nursing home residents in the nation. The law demands that patients or their family members consent before such prescriptions may be administered, but this requirement is often ignored. The issue may be attributed to poor staffing levels, minimal training of personnel and the high level of attention required by many patients. In some cases, pharmaceutical companies are endeavoring to market antipsychotics as solutions to these care issues. However, these medications may be dangerous for the elderly.

Elder abuse more prevalent among the poor, study finds

In California, cases of elder abuse are not unheard of. One such example was that of a woman who lived alone in her Hayward home on a fixed income. When her grandson moved in, he reportedly confined her to a back room and began selling illegal substances out of the home. Luckily for the woman, however, her niece, officials with Adult Protective Services and local police were able to work together to end the abuse, which also allowed her to stay in the home that she owned.

Throughout the nation, elder abuse is prevalent. A 2010 study revealed that approximately 11.2 percent of the elderly participants experienced some form of abuse, whether it be physical mistreatment, psychological, sexual or financial abuse. In low-income households, however, the rate of abuse is much more prevalent, with another study revealing that 28.6 percent of low-income participants experienced abuse. Among elderly Hispanics and Latinos, the rate was found to be even higher.

Anti-psychotics being prescribed in nursing homes

Recent reports of prescription misuse have been made public by concerned family members who have their loved ones in nursing homes in California and around the country. The nursing home abuse charges stem from situations in which patients have been sent to a nursing home without any mental health issues and been prescribed anti-psychotic medication for what their families believe are unneeded.

In one situation, a woman went to a nursing home with a broken pelvis. Before her admission to the home, she only used prescriptions to treat and manage her cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as an inhaler for pulmonary disease. When she was discharged 18 days later, her daughter says that she was unrecognizable. She was in a wheelchair, withdrawn and had garbled speech. She died a few weeks later. She was given a number of strong medications, including anti-psychotics. Her daughter says that she was given these drugs so that she would be more submissive to the nursing home workers.

Being aware of signs of elder abuse may help prevent it

As is the case nearly everywhere in the country, many California residents know someone who requires the assistance of a caregiver. Recognizing the signs that elder abuse, whether financial, mental or physical, is occurring may be difficult.

In the U.S., approximately 5 million older individuals are victims of elder abuse each year. Not all cases are reported, and authorities estimate that the number of reported incidents is roughly one in 23 cases. The reasons for the lack of reporting can vary from the older person's physical or mental inability to report the abuse or fear that they may cause problems for their caregiver. Some may fear retaliation by their caregiver, and others are embarrassed by what is happening to them.

Understanding California's standard nursing home agreement

Los Angeles residents who have a family member entering a nursing home may be interested in some information about the nursing home agreements that must be signed prior to admission. A standard agreement in California helps to take some of the confusion out of the process.

In 1997, California implemented a standard nursing home admission agreement. The agreement is available online, and includes both the standard agreement and 10 supplemental attachments which cover various related issues. The standard agreement also includes a bill of rights for nursing home patients. It is against the law for nursing homes to modify this agreement, though they may provide their own copy to the prospective patient.

Raising awareness of elder abuse

California residents may be interested in an article discussing the prevalence of elder abuse in American and the efforts underway to help stamp it out. Increasing knowledge about the problem is one way to increase prevention.

June 15 marked the third annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in Sonoma County. The county government used the lawn outside of its administration building as a stark reminder of how widespread the issue is. Four thousand purple flags were planted, each representing a report of Sonoma County elder abuse in 2013. This number represents just a fraction of the 2.1 million senior citizen victims, according to federal government estimates.

Understanding, identifying and preventing elder home abuse

On June 15, Father's Day coincided with World Elder Abuse Day. Los Angeles residents may be interested in an article detailing some of the finer points about identifying and preventing elder abuse.

Elder abuse is defined as an act against a vulnerable adult that causes or risks causing harm to him or her. Elder abuse encompasses several categories that include behavior such as inflicting pain, unwanted sexual contact, causing emotional distress, and neglect and abandonment. Every state has its own elder abuse laws, however, so not all states recognize all causes of action. Estimates vary, but the number of reported cases of elder abuse in the U.S. measures more than 250,000.

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Kevin P. Kane, Esq.

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