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Los Angeles Nursing Home Abuse Law Blog

Father and daughter indicted for financial elder abuse

On Jan. 8, a father and daughter were taken into police custody for allegedly running a scheme that targeted elderly people in multiple California locales. The 65-year-old man and his 40-year-old daughter were each charged for 60 alleged felonies, including conspiracy, money laundering, financial elder abuse, burglary and forgery.

The father and daughter own a company called GreenWorksUS that is based out of Richmond. Prior to the indictment, sales representatives from the company would make home visits to sell 'Safeguard Tubs" and other home products for the mobility-impaired to customers whom they perceived as vulnerable. The Riverside County District Attorney's Office alleges that the sales representatives would make false claims about the way that the company's bathtubs were designed.

Making caregiving arrangements for parents in California

According to a survey by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, only 10 percent of respondents said that parental care was shared equally among family members or without conflict. While sibling battles are common, it is possible to get on the same page when trying to provide care for an aging parent. The first step may be to hold a family meeting to discuss what to do in the event that a parent's health declines.

Holding such a meeting ahead of time makes it easier to take action if something does happen to a parent. It also avoids having to make tough decisions during a time of stress. When creating a plan, it is important to keep an open mind and to be reasonable about what everyone's role in the caregiving process is. In addition to providing physical care for a parent, someone needs to pay that parent's bills and help keep the house looking nice.

Elder abuse in California

It is likely that California families have or will have at least one elderly family member who relies on another person or a nursing home staff member for their care. While most caretakers take their job seriously and care for their patients to the best of their ability, elder abuse can occur if caretakers are not properly trained or if they have too many patients to take care of.

In several major studies, it was found that many participants had suffered some sort of elder abuse within the previous 12 months. The rate of abuse for both men and women who became disabled was high, with 67 percent of female participants suffering physical abuse and 55 percent of male participants suffering physical abuse. Approximately 55 percent of elderly female participants also reported incidents of sexual abuse.

Malnutrition and dehydration common in nursing homes

As California residents may know, the number of elderly individuals in nursing homes has increased dramatically, and studies show that up to 85 percent of nursing home residents have some degree of malnutrition. According to one study, this is partly the result of several factors including a lack of adequate staffing and high staff turnover rates. It is seen as a continuing and pervasive problem.

There are about 17,000 nursing homes in the United States where 1.6 million older adults are residents, and up to 50 percent are underweight. Part of the problem, according to the study, is that each nursing aide assists almost five to six times the ideal number of residents. This disparity is a major factor leading to malnutrition and dehydration, the report concludes.

Protecting the independence, comfort and safety of the elderly

There is a growing national trend in elder care. Increasingly, people are choosing to keep their independence and the comforts of home by hiring caregivers to help them at home instead of moving to a nursing home facility. In California, people receiving in-home care outnumber those in residential facilities by at least four to one, a figure that is expected to continue going up for the foreseeable future.

When it works well, the benefits include lower costs and higher quality of life for the elderly and disabled. However, when things go awry, it can be a perfect storm of problems that lead to horrifying and sometimes deadly levels of neglect. Many caregivers, including those paid for by the In-Home Supportive Services program, a state-funded initiative, are not intended to be medical caregivers. They are intended to provide assistance with basic tasks of daily living, such as feeding, bathing and dressing.

Advocating for California seniors affected by reckless neglect

If you placed your aging parent or other relative in a California nursing home, you probably did so under the belief that the staff at the facility you chose would provide the type of care your loved one needs to stay happy and healthy. Unfortunately, many nursing homes are understaffed even as they take in too many patients. The staff in some of these facilities often engage in the reckless neglect of the people placed in their care.

Many elders living in nursing homes develop bed sores, suffer from the effects of insect infestations or are left in isolation in their rooms for extended periods of time without social contact. You may have noticed injuries to your loved one that are exacerbated by unsanitary conditions in their living area. Staff may have left your parent in soiled bedding or clothing or they may have neglected to provide your parent with food or water.

How to recognize and avoid a home improvement scam

As most elderly California homeowners know, a dependable home improvement company is an asset to maintaining a house. With everyday costs on the rise, homeowners may be inclined to hire a contractor who offers a low bid for the work. However, homeowners should beware that a number of home improvement companies are really scams.

These home improvement scammers often show up in groups within a community, making personal visits to unwitting homeowners and proposing their services. They begin by informing homeowners of their urgent need to tend to their home's particular repairs, such as a broken sidewalk or a damaged roof. Oftentimes, they begin establishing their services by performing an affordable repair for one neighborhood resident, hoping to get more referrals from other neighbors who may think they represent a reputable home remodeling company. Then, once the phony home improvement group completes the work for other victims, they produce a bill that is considerably more than their original price while using poor quality materials.

How do I report elder abuse?

Californians may know that elder abuse might happen in the home or in a long-term care facility. When warning signs appear, an individual who recognizes them may report abuse to the appropriate agency or law enforcement. Not reporting abuse may subject the elderly individual to escalating consequences associated with abuse.

Some warning signs include isolation of the individual from family and friends or being unable to interact without the caregiver's presence. Sometimes, the individual may appear confused or hesitate to answer questions. Consideration might be given if the individual seems unduly depressed, angry, frightened or expresses feelings of helplessness.

Psychological abuse of the elderly

Relatives of elderly individuals in California nursing homes or other care situations may worry about the level of care received, especially if a loved one seems to display significant changes in demeanor or health after spending time in that situation. It is important to understand that psychological abuse is defined as nonphysical acts that are malicious and explicit. In the case of the elderly, these actions are typically carried out against dependent individuals. It might occur in conjunction with physical abuse, but this is not always the case.

Psychological elder abuse may take advantage of an individual's vulnerability through controlling behavior or humiliation. Actions might include the denial of food or medication. Basic care might be delayed for long periods. An individual's personal effects such as dentures or glasses might be withheld. A perpetrator might also fail to follow safety recommendations or other specific directions related to medical needs or therapy.

The financial exploitation of elders

With one of every nine seniors having reported situations involving neglect, abuse, or exploitation in the last year, loved ones of elderly California residents have good reason to be concerned. Financial exploitation is one of the most prevalent issues with approximately 5 percent of elderly individuals noting some type of mistreatment related to their finances in recent times. These problems can come from numerous sources, including family members and care givers. They can also be perpetrated by other trusted individuals ranging from friends and neighbors to lawyers and pastors.

Vulnerability is one of the reasons that elderly individuals are at risk of financial abuse. In 90 percent of such cases, the abusers are trusted individuals. The occurrence of a situation can place an individual who is already financially vulnerable in dire conditions that lead to the need to access government benefits such as Medicaid, a situation that occurs in an estimated 10 percent of elder exploitation cases.

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Kevin P. Kane, Esq.

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