Long Beach Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
Our elderly loved ones often require constant care we are unable to provide, and nursing homes and assisted living establishments help families by providing daily medical care and assistance to older adults. Unfortunately, some elderly individuals suffer abuse at the hands of the people charged with their care. When nursing homes fail to properly vet employees, provide inadequate supervision, or otherwise enable employees to abuse residents, they are liable for these incidents. Speak with a qualified Long Beach nursing home abuse lawyer to learn more about your available legal options if your loved one has suffered at the hands of nursing home staff.
Nursing Home Abuse Statistics
There’s no way to know for certain how many people are abused each year in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. People are either reluctant or unable to self-report in many cases. Those who work in the industry are mandated reporters but are frequently afraid to report for fear they will lose their job, or often lack the education or awareness necessary for accurate reporting.
- According to the Elder Abuse Issue Brief from the University of California, Irvine Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse and Neglect, every three minutes an elder or dependent adult in California is abused.
- The 2010 census found that there are 4.2 million people who are 65 or older in the state of California. Not including financial abuse, it’s estimated that 10 percent of the elderly population has experienced some form of abuse.
- There was a 20% increase in reports of elder abuse in California between the years of 2006 and 2011. Between 2001 and 2011 there was a 32% increase in reports of financial abuse.
- It’s estimated that as few as one in every 23 cases of abuse is brought to the attention of law enforcement or Adult Protective Services (APS).
The lack of oversight and reporting necessitates that friends and family members of elderly nursing home and assisted living facility patients remain especially vigilant for their loved ones.
Types of Elder Abuse
Neglect is a failure to provide for the basic needs of care. Within a nursing home or assisted living facility, this may include withholding medication, insufficient or non-existent hygiene or incontinence assistance, failure to protect from falls or wandering off, and inadequate or insufficient nutrition. Neglect can be intentional or unintentional. Understaffing of facilities is a common cause of neglect in facilities.
Symptoms of neglect include skin breakdown such as pressure ulcers (bedsores), rashes, untreated illness or injury, weight loss, poor hygiene such as body odor, unclean clothes, unwashed or uncombed hair, dirty teeth, dehydration, unclean bedding.
Psychological or Emotional Abuse
Psychological or emotional abuse can take the form of direct threats or ridiculing the patient. Unintentional emotional or psychological abuse occurs when poorly trained staff speak about the patient’s condition in their presence. This happens most often with patients who have cognitive impairment.
Saying critical things within earshot of the patient or scolding them when they soil themselves are examples of emotional abuse. Emotional or psychological abuse is particularly insidious as it’s difficult to spot and prove. Signs of this type of abuse may include not allowing you to be alone with the patient for very long and coaching the patient to offer misleading responses. You may notice signs from the patient if their demeanor or behavior changes around certain care staff.
Physical abuse is the easiest type of abuse to spot as elderly patients have very delicate skin and bruise easily. This type of abuse includes anything that causes physical harm to the patient such as: kicking, slapping, punching, shaking, spanking, choking, burning, pulling hair, and twisting of limbs.
Withholding medication and the use of restraints are also types of physical abuse. Obvious signs of physical abuse are bruises, scars, broken bones, sprains, skin tears, and injuries from falls. More subtle signs of abuse may be unexplained crying, fear and anxiety around certain staff members.
Financial abuse is any use of an elderly person’s assets without their consent. Coercion to consent is not consent. Cashing checks without permission, stealing money or property, manipulating them into giving away items or money, having them sign papers to change their power of attorney, and coercing them into signing a new will are all forms of financial abuse. In a nursing home setting this may look like property or cash that’s missing. Financial abuse can be overt such as stealing a wedding ring or cash.
This type of abuse can also be more subtle. A staff member who tells their woes to the patient and manipulates them into providing a gift or a loan to “help” may be an example of such financial abuse. Best practice is not to keep anything valuable in a facility. If there is an item of value, such as a wedding ring, take detailed pictures and make sure it’s on the written inventory that you provide to the facility. Keep a copy of the inventory for your records along with a current appraisal. If you suspect any type of financial abuse, report it to law enforcement immediately. Do not wait for the facility to conduct their own internal investigation.
Although less common, sexual abuse does happen. Signs of sexual abuse include infections, pain when sitting or walking, bruising on the inner thighs or buttocks, bruising around the chest area, and bruising that could indicate the signs of restraints. For cognitively impaired women, resisting incontinence care can be a sign as well, if it’s a new behavior.
California Nursing Home Laws
Nursing homes in California are regulated by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Licensing and Certification Division (L&C) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Assisted living facilities are regulated by the California Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing Division. Each regulatory agency has its own process of investigation and oversight. The Long Term Care Ombudsman Program also provides oversight to nursing homes and assisted living facilities in California.
Suspected abuse needs to be reported. It’s not enough to remove the patient from the environment. If one person is being abused, others are too. If you suspect abuse, your loved one needs to be protected and deserves to be compensated for the abuse. The abuser needs to be held responsible.
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are responsible for the actions of their employees. There are state regulations regarding the hiring, training, and oversight of employees who work in long-term care facilities. Too often, these regulations are not properly adhered to and the agencies designated to regulate such facilities are not funded well enough to provide competent oversight.
It’s essential to report abuse and neglect claims quickly so evidence is preserved. The victim of the abuse needs an experienced Long Beach nursing home abuse lawyer to ensure their rights are protected and they are appropriately compensated.
Spotting Nursing Home Abuse in Long Beach, CA
Nursing home abusers may not leave any physical evidence, and not all abuse is physical. When visiting your elderly loved one, be vigilant for any sudden changes in his or her behavior. If he or she seems skittish or distracted, your loved one may be worried about something in the facility. If your loved one avoids certain topics or seems uncharacteristically withdrawn or emotionally unstable, it could be a warning sign that he or she is scared of the caregivers or has been intimidated in some way.
Nursing home abuse includes physical abuse, but some nursing home employees choose to exploit their patients financially. It’s not uncommon for nursing home patients to have their identities stolen, or for caregivers to write themselves checks out of their patients’ checkbooks. In some situations, an abuser may threaten an elderly individual if he or she refuses to provide the abuser with money or whatever else the abuser wants.
Aside from financial exploitation and physical abuse, some nursing home residents face emotional distress from caregivers. Caregivers who humiliate, ridicule, terrorize or otherwise emotionally attack their patients, are emotionally abusive. Additionally, any unwanted sexual contact with an elderly patient is sexual abuse, and these situations may entail emotional and physical injuries as well as sexual violation.
Neglect arises quite often in nursing home abuse cases as well. Many elderly patients have impaired mobility or may be unable to get out of bed. Caregivers must regularly reposition these patients, or the constant pressure can create painful and potentially life-threatening bedsores. If your loved one complains of bedsores, it’s a sign that he or she is not receiving proper care and you should consider speaking with a dedicated Long Beach personal injury attorney with experience in nursing home abuse cases.
How Can I Help?
If you know an elderly person living in a nursing home or assisted living facility, there are some important steps that you can take to help them:
- Unpredictable visits. Don’t visit in a predictable pattern and don’t let the facility know when to expect you. Visit on different days and at different times. This allows you to see how different shifts interact with your loved one and how well they are cared for when no one is expected to arrive.
- Check their room. Each time you visit, check their room. Look for signs of neglect such as odors and soiled bed linens. Check for the presence of hygiene products such as a toothbrush. Is the bathroom stocked with soap, toilet paper, and clean towels? Is clothing neatly folded and hung up properly? Take pictures of belongings and the condition of the room so you can compare from day to day.
- Talk privately. Insist on time alone to speak privately. Ask open-ended questions and give them time to respond. If there’s cognitive impairment, getting accurate responses can be tricky. People with dementia might be talking about something that happened many years ago or a dream they recently had. Ask if you can help them change their clothes or come in the evening and help them into their pajamas. This will give you the opportunity to examine their body and skin for any signs of abuse.
How to Report Nursing Home Abuse in California
Depending on your situation, your loved one may be suffering due to the actions of one or a few individuals, or an entire organization. If you suspect nursing home abuse, you can report the problem to the state’s hotline or contact a nursing home abuse attorney in Long Beach, CA. It’s important to act quickly. Not only must you meet the statute of limitations for filing a complaint, but also remember that the longer you wait, the more abuse your loved one may face.
Your attorney will advise you to remove your loved one from the dangerous facility as soon as possible. Once he or she is safe, your attorney will assess the evidence of your case and determine the best course of action. In some cases, a nursing home abuse lawsuit may only have one individual as a defendant. Other cases may involve multiple defendants or the nursing home organization itself.
Free Consultation with a Long Beach Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
The attorneys at Harting Simkins & Ryan, LLP want to help our clients in the Long Beach area overcome nursing home abuse. We understand how devastating these situations can be, which is why we go to whatever lengths are necessary to secure appropriate compensation for our clients and to hold guilty parties accountable for their actions. We’ll try to help settle your case quickly, but we won’t avoid intense litigation if necessary. Contact our legal team to schedule a consultation about your nursing home abuse case, and we’ll let you know what we can do to help.