California nursing home abuse claims are much more prevalent than they should be. The elderly are an easy target for abuse. Declines in mental, emotional and physical functioning can easily set the stage for victimization. While there are older Americans in California who are fortunate enough to have responsible and loving caretakers to see to their needs, there are countless others who must live out the rest of their lives in situations where they are subjected to everything from negligence, sexual harassment and blatant disregard of their needs to financial exploitation, verbal bullying and outright physical abuse.
These aging men and women are at the mercy of caregivers on whom they depend. Although many caregivers do provide impeccable and compassionate care, there are many others who do not. Abuse can happen in any kind of elder-care situation from assisted-living facilities to home care-giving by the family, but it seems to be most prevalent in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
What Is Elder Abuse?
Abuse of the elderly in nursing homes can take many forms. The abuse can be physical, mental, emotional, financial or even sexual. Often, the abuse is physical or results from neglect. It can appear as:
- Unexplained injuries
- Bedsores, pressure sores and skin ulcers that don’t heal
- Unexplained infections and ineffective infection control
- Septic shock
- Clogged breathing tubes
- Errors in medications
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Unsupervised wandering or leaving the facility
- Unexplained falls
- Rapid weight loss
- Urinary tract infections
- Agitation and emotional withdrawal on the part of the patient
- Inability of caregivers to explain a condition or an accident
Common types of physical abuse include:
- Inappropriate use of drugs or restraints
- Forced feeding
Verbal abuse can include:
- Yelling, screaming and hollering
Abuse of the elderly can also involve stealing from patients or asking them for money. It can even include sexual abuse without consent such as:
- Inappropriate touching
- Showing the patient pornography
- Forcing the patient to undress without reason
Physical abuse might also be failure or refusal to provide needed services, such as not dispensing prescribed medications or not performing needed therapies.
Does California Legislation Protect The Rights Of The Elderly In Nursing Homes?
Yes. California Welfare And Institutions Code §15600 provides legal protection and recourse for elderly who have suffered abuse under the Elder Abuse And Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act. This law acknowledges that older Americans are at risk for neglect, abuse and abandonment, and it recognizes that criminal prosecutions of the offenders are often unsuccessful. An elderly person suffering abuse may not be in a condition or a position to defend themselves or to seek legal help. He or she might feel hopeless about “taking on the system,” or they may not even realize that they are being abused. Another problem is that abuse can be very difficult to prove. Obtaining evidence of abuse and bringing charges against the company or corporation that owns the nursing home can be almost impossible without specialized and experienced legal representation.
What Can Be Done To Protect An Elderly Family Member Or Loved One?
Sadly, patient abuse has become so common in nursing homes that the term “nursing home” has become synonymous with “elder abuse.” Elder abuse is defined as “intentional or neglectful actions and the failure to act so that an elderly person is hurt by a caregiver who has a trust relationship with the elder.” Unfortunately, the frequency of elder abuse is expected to increase in coming years as baby boomers age. The California Welfare and Institutions Code 15600 does provide protection for the elderly under the law, but in order to prevail, an elder abuse claim is best handled by an experienced California personal injury lawyer.
Are Victims Of Elder Abuse Entitled To Compensation?
Yes. You or your loved one have the right to live in a safe, nurturing, stable and caring environment. You also deserve to be compensated for any loss of enjoyment of life and/or pain and suffering that results from negligence, improper care or any other type of abuse.
Why Should I File An Elder Abuse Claim?
There is no excuse for abusing the elderly, especially those who are without any recourse for defense. You have entrusted yourself or your loved one into the care of health care professionals who are accountable for the services they provide. Besides seeking damages for abusive treatment, you owe it to yourself or your loved one to do all that you can to ensure that ongoing, high-quality care defines the services received.
When you file a claim for damages, you are not only helping yourself or a loved one, you are also helping other elderly patients. When nursing homes are forced to be responsible for their actions and to pay for their transgressions, they are pressured to raise their standards of care. Sometimes the owners or managers of a nursing home are unaware that abuse is going on. When you take steps to file a claim and seek financial redress, the owners of these facilities then have an opportunity to institute corrective measures.
How An Elder Care Abuse Attorney Can Help
You can file a claim against a nursing home yourself, but you will probably not get very far without help. Companies and corporations that own nursing homes retain experienced, in-house legal counsel and insurance representatives who are employed to protect the financial interests of the owners of the nursing home. Unless you can afford to go the distance, your claim will most likely be shot down before it even gets to court. If you do manage to get anywhere at all with your claim, these legal eagles will try to get you to accept the smallest possible settlement.
If you are to prevail, you will need experienced and effective legal counsel. Many personal injury attorneys provide free consultations to determine whether you have a case. If an elder abuse lawyer agrees to represent you, you will only be charged a fee if you are awarded a settlement. This is called a contingency or no win-no pay arrangement. If you suspect elder abuse and wish to file a claim, you must act quickly. There is only a certain amount of time during which you can file a case. The time limits are complicated and strictly enforced by the courts. If you think you have a valid claim, consult with an elder care abuse attorney as soon as possible.
What Remedies I Can Expect If I Win My Case?
Under the Elder Abuse Protection Act, you or a loved one are entitled to compensation for any type of abuse, negligence or recklessness on the part of the nursing home caregivers. You are also entitled to file for damages against each healthcare provider who was involved in the abuse. The Elder Abuse Protection Act is weighted in favor of elderly victims, but in order to prevail in court and collect the maximum financial settlement you are due, it’s best to seek the help of an experienced California nursing home malpractice attorney.
Additional Resources: A Citizen’s Guide to Preventing and Reporting Elder Abuse, California Dept. of Justice