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San Diego Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

While average lifespans continue to increase thanks to improved access to life-sustaining healthcare, time still takes its toll on every human being. Many seniors eventually struggle to care for themselves, especially as their physical capabilities deteriorate, and decide (often in consultation with their families) to move into a nursing home to have around-the-clock access to care and support.

The choice to reside in a nursing home requires a leap of faith. Elderly residents and their families trust that the home will provide the expected level of care and support. Few betrayals of trust feel more cruel than when a senior-citizen suffers abuse and neglect at the hands of nursing home staff or other residents. Contact a San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer today.

If you suspect or know of abuse or neglect of a resident in a San Diego-area nursing home, act now to protect that resident’s physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing by contacting the experienced San Diego home abuse lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys today.

Types of San Diego Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing home abuse takes many forms, all of them devastating to a San Diego nursing home resident and the resident’s family. Below, we summarize the major types of nursing home abuse, and list the warning signs that may indicate ongoing abuse at a San Diego-area nursing facility.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse entails any harmful use of physical force against a nursing home resident.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), signs of physical abuse can include:

  • Bruises, black eyes, welts, lacerations, and rope marks;
  • Bone fractures, broken bones, and skull fractures;
  • Open wounds, cuts, punctures, untreated injuries in various stages of healing;
  • Sprains, dislocations, and internal injuries/bleeding;
  • Broken eyeglasses/frames, physical signs of being subjected to punishment, and signs of being restrained;
  • Laboratory findings of medication overdose or underuse of prescribed drugs;
  • A nursing home resident’s report of being hit, slapped, kicked, or mistreated;
  • A resident’s sudden change in behavior; and
  • A caregiver’s refusal to allow visitors to see a San Diego nursing home resident alone.

A nursing home resident who has suffered from physical abuse may also show fear at the presence of an abusive staff member or resident.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse of a San Diego nursing home resident consists of any non-consensual sexual contact or activity affecting that resident, including sexual touching, forced sex acts, and showing residents pornography. Some elderly nursing home residents remain sexually active even as their capacities decline, making this form of abuse potentially difficult to identify.

According to the NCEA, signs may include:

  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area;
  • Unexplained venereal disease or genital infections;
  • Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding;
  • Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing; and
  • A resident’s report of being sexually assaulted or raped.

As above, a San Diego nursing facility resident who has been sexually abused may display fear of the abuser. for more legal assistance contact a San Diego sexual abuse lawyer.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional (or psychological) abuse constitutes intentional infliction of distress, fear, upset, anxiety, and similarly-harmful emotional states, such as by denying or attempting to deny visits from loved ones, and belittling, taunting, or bullying the resident.

The NCEA advises loved ones of nursing home residents to keep an eye out for the following potential signs of emotional abuse:

  • Emotional upset or agitation;
  • Being withdrawn and non-communicative or non-responsive;
  • Unusual behavior usually attributed to dementia (e.g., sucking, biting, rocking); and
  • A resident’s report of being verbally or emotionally mistreated.

As above, a nursing home resident subjected to emotional abuse may display fear or agitation in the presence of an abusive staff member or resident.

Neglect

Every San Diego nursing home has a duty to look after its residents and to provide them with an appropriate standard of care and support.

Even without intending to cause harm, nursing facility staff may yet commit abuse by failing to meet that standard of care for a resident, such as by:

  • Failing to provide physical assistance with day-to-day activities, such as getting out of bed or using the bathroom;
  • Failing to maintain a hygienic environment;
  • Failing to provide appropriate hydration and nutrition;
  • Failing to recognize and treat adverse health conditions; and
  • Operating facilities without enough or properly trained staff.

San Diego nursing home neglect goes dangerously and tragically underreported, often because people mistakenly pass off inappropriate levels of care as minor problems or as an inevitable aspect of operating a busy nursing facility (particularly one that is not high-end). The world’s elderly population has grown dramatically in recent years, including right here in San Diego, and that puts additional pressure on nursing homes to staff up.

Neglect, however, is never acceptable at any San Diego nursing facility, no matter its size, cost, or number of residents.

Some signs that may point to nursing home neglect include:

  • Dehydration, malnutrition, or unexplained weight loss;
  • Untreated bed sores or other injuries suggestive of a resident not having been moved;
  • Poor personal hygiene;
  • A resident developing new health problems that go untreated.
  • Frequent falls getting out of bed, navigating a lavatory, or other preventable accidents;
  • Hazardous or unsafe living condition/arrangements;
  • Unsanitary and unclean living conditions; and
  • A resident’s report of being mistreated, ignored, or left alone for extended periods of time.

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse involves any misappropriation of a nursing home resident’s funds, assets, property, or legal rights. It may accompany other forms of abuse, which serve to coerce a San Diego nursing home resident into surrendering control over bank accounts, retirement checks, credit cards, and other financial property.

Signs of financial abuse may include:

  • Sudden changes in bank accounts or banking practices, including unexplained withdrawals from accounts and adding new persons as account signatories;
  • Abrupt changes in a will or other estate planning documents;
  • Unexplained disappearances of valuables;
  • Unpaid bills in the resident’s name;
  • New loans or credit accounts in the resident’s name;
  • Sudden participation by “long-lost” family members or strangers in the resident’s financial affairs;
  • The resident being charged for unnecessary or fictitious nursing home or other services; and
  • The resident reporting financial exploitation.

What to Do if You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse

At Gomez Trial Attorneys, we urge all family members and loved ones of San Diego residents to check in on them on a regular basis whenever possible, to keep a look-out for potential signs of abuse.

If you see signs that you suspect could speak to abuse, then we suggest following two simple rules of them (keeping in mind that individual situations vary widely):

  • If you suspect an immediate threat to a resident’s safety, then take whatever steps you deem necessary to protect the resident right away. They may include calling law enforcement or simply arranging for the resident to move immediately to a different facility. Then, contact an attorney as described in the next bullet.
  • If you do not suspect an immediate threat to the resident’s safety (or after addressing any safety concerns as above), then call an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse attorney immediately to discuss what to do next. The steps you take to respond to suspected abuse—whether that means complaining to nursing home management, calling a state agency, or calling on law enforcement—can have a material impact on the nursing home resident’s privacy and legal rights. Rest assured that calling a lawyer will not slow you down. The team at Gomez Trial Attorneys understands the urgency of these situations and has the resources and know-how to size-up the options to make sure the resident’s interests remain protected while someone takes action to address the suspected abuse.

Bear in mind that some people have a legal duty under California law to report suspected instances of nursing home abuse. You should know whether you are a mandatory reporter, but if not, an experienced attorney can help you figure that out. At Gomez Trial Attorneys, we have the knowledge and experience to work with anyone who suspects that a loved one has been victimized in a San Diego nursing home, even mandatory reporters who have a deadline for taking action under California law. Contact us today to learn more.

Nursing Home Abuse Victim’s Legal Rights

San Diego nursing home residents who suffer harm from any of the types of abuse described above have important legal rights, which often include the right to take legal action seeking compensation for their injuries from their abusers and anyone who has legal responsibility for the abuse.

Every San Diego-area nursing home abuse case we handle at Gomez Trial Attorneys has its own unique facts, but generally speaking, residents who have suffered abuse may seek to recover damages for:

  • The cost of medical care to treat any injury or health complication suffered because of the abuse;
  • Restitution of financial harm inflicted by the abuse; and
  • Physical pain, emotional suffering, and diminished quality of life resulting from the abuse.

Multiple individual and corporate parties may face legal liability to a San Diego nursing home resident who has been victimized by abuse or neglect.

As above, every case differs, but frequently the team at Gomez Trial Attorneys will investigate whether the actions or decisions of any of the following parties caused or facilitated acts of abuse:

  • Individual nursing home staff members;
  • The corporate management or ownership of a nursing facility;
  • Contractors and others who provide services to San Diego nursing facilities and their residents, especially doctors and other healthcare workers; and
  • Individual nursing home residents (particularly in cases involving sexual abuse).

Nursing home abuse, in our experience, rarely reflects the actions of a single person, but rather often involves perpetrators and people or organizations that either look the other way or fail to exercise reasonable care to prevent abuse from occurring. At Gomez Trial Attorneys, we work hard to make sure that all parties who perpetrated nursing home abuse, or who should have stopped it but did not, are held accountable for their actions.

Criminal and Regulatory Aspects of Nursing Home Abuse Cases

Our team also works with San Diego nursing facility abuse victims and their families to help them navigate other legal aspects of these cases that often run in parallel with the process of seeking compensation from legally-liable parties.

Many instances of abuse constitute criminal acts, for instance. Law enforcement authorities will often investigate cases of abuse, and may seek the nursing home resident’s help in pursuing criminal charges against the perpetrator(s). Our team works with injured San Diego nursing home residents and their families in navigating the process of participating in a prosecution (if they choose to do so), while also protecting their legal rights to seek compensation from wrongdoers and those legally-answerable for their actions.

Similarly, the team at Gomez Trial Attorneys advises injured San Diego nursing home residents and their families about aspects of the administrative response to an incident of nursing home abuse. Nursing care is a heavily regulated industry in California. Reports of nursing home abuse often trigger investigations by state (and even federal) regulators tasked with making sure facilities abide by strict guidelines in their operations. Like criminal prosecutions, these investigations often happen in parallel with a nursing home resident seeking compensation for injuries. Our team works to make sure a resident’s legal rights and privacy stay protected while any administrative or regulatory investigation runs its course.

Criminal and administrative proceedings, necessary as they are to individual and public safety, can complicate the process of seeking compensation for abuse injuries suffered by a San Diego nursing facility resident. That is why we strongly urge anyone who suspects abuse at a San Diego nursing home to contact our experienced team at Gomez Trial Attorneys immediately, before making any sort of formal or informal complaint (other than in cases involving safety emergencies, in which you will want to call 911). We act quickly to take stock of the situation and plot a course forward that puts the victimized resident in the best possible position to stay safe and to recover much-deserved compensation.

San Diego Nursing Home Negligence FAQ

Are you concerned about your loved ones in a San Diego nursing home? Here are the answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) we receive about nursing home negligence in our area.

What is nursing home negligence?

Negligence in general is the failure to exercise a reasonable degree of care. Nursing home negligence is the failure to exercise a reasonable degree of care toward residents of a nursing home.

California’s Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act outlaws “the negligent failure of any person having the care or custody of an elder or dependent adult to exercise that degree of care that a reasonable person in a like position would exercise.”

Acts of nursing home negligence can vary in type and scope. The failure to see that a resident receives proper medication potentially constitutes negligence. Dropping the ball on seeing-after patients’ personal hygiene or medical needs may also amount to negligence. The core issue is whether a nursing home exercises a reasonable degree of care looking after a resident.

What are some signs of nursing home negligence?

Given the somewhat loose and variable definition of negligence, family and friends of nursing home residents should learn the warning signs to keep their loved ones safe.

Here are some (but by no means all) conditions that may serve as red flags warning of potential negligence at a San Diego nursing facility.

  • Infections;
  • Bedsores;
  • Falls during everyday activities;
  • Broken bones;
  • Dehydration;
  • Wandering unattended;
  • Getting caught in bed rails or other equipment;
  • Not treating a resident with dignity;
  • Sudden weight loss or other signs of poor nutrition;
  • Failure of tube feeding;
  • Unsanitary living conditions;
  • Lack of personal hygiene;
  • Room temperature too hot or too cold;
  • Not having needed assistive devices like hearing aids or walkers;
  • Lack of necessary items for comfort;
  • Unsafe environment (insufficient lighting, pests, rodents, etc.); and
  • Untreated or ignored health issues.

Negligence can also occur on the administrative level. Nursing home administrators may fail to staff the facility with qualified people, or provide for enough coverage, or both. Many acts of neglect stem from inadequate or unqualified supervision.

How widespread is nursing home negligence?

While there are no specific statistics on San Diego nursing home negligence, approximately 10 percent of people aged 60 and older are subject to elder abuse, according to the National Council on Aging.

What is the relationship between negligence and elder abuse?

Because negligence is the failure to exercise an ordinary standard of care, acts of elder abuse constitute a subset of nursing home negligence under California law.

Elder abuse can result from deliberate acts taken with bad intent, such as striking a nursing home resident or stealing from them. However, it is also possible for a person or organization to act negligently without intending to do harm, or without demonstrating the pattern of elder abuse.

What is elder abuse, exactly?

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines elder abuse this way: “intentional act, or failure to act, by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult.”

The CDC divides elder abuse into five categories:

  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Neglect
  • Sexual abuse
  • Financial abuse

Any or all of these types can occur in a nursing home.

How can I know if intentional elder abuse is happening in a nursing home?

Intentional elder abuse shows many of the same warning signs as negligent elder abuse. The CDC identifies the following symptoms of intentional elder abuse:

Physical abuse. Physical abuse is any action (or failure to act) that causes the resident pain, injury, or physical harm.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • Unexplained injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Bruises
  • Cuts
  • Burns
  • Welts
  • Fresh wounds
  • Scars of old healed wounds
  • Symptoms of inadequate or no medication
  • Symptoms of overmedication
  • A resident seeming afraid or anxious of a specific person, such as a staff member
  • Lack of bathing or clean clothes
  • Sudden personality or behavior changes
  • Refusal to have visitors

Emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is wide-ranging. It can include inflicting psychological pain or distress by words, actions, or insults. It can also mean isolating the older person from social connections or physical care.

Signs include:

  • Sudden changes in the resident’s personality or behavior
  • Depression
  • Agitation, anxiety, or being upset
  • Unusual behavior
  • Unresponsiveness or being withdrawn
  • Refusal to have visitors
  • Fear of caregiver
  • Weight loss

Sexual abuse. Elder sexual abuse consists of any sexual behavior or contact with a resident that is nonconsensual and unwanted.

Signs include:

  • Personality or behavior changes
  • Distress, including anxiety and depression
  • Refusal to have visitors
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or genital infections
  • Genital bruises or bleeding
  • Torn or stained clothing, including underwear

Financial abuse. Elder financial abuse encompasses any improper, illegal, or unauthorized use of a resident’s assets. This can include cash, credit cards, or checkbooks, but it can also include access to social security payments, investment or retirement accounts, or other assets.

Signs include:

  • Missing cash, checkbooks, credit cards, or debit/ATM cards
  • Missing funds from bank and other accounts
  • Missing items and property
  • Forged signatures on financial and related documents
  • Sudden changes to a will
  • Misleading fees or services

Doesn’t California have a mandatory reporting system for negligence and abuse?

Yes, California does have a mandatory reporting system. According to the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act, some people have a legal obligation to report any “incident that reasonably appears to be physical abuse…, abandonment, abduction, isolation, financial abuse, or neglect, or is told by an elder or dependent adult that he or she has experienced behavior, including an act or omission, constituting physical abuse…, abandonment, abduction, isolation, financial abuse, or neglect, or reasonably suspects that abuse” either by telephone or via the internet.

The people mandated to report include nursing home administrators, supervisors, licensed staff, custodians, health professionals, and clergy. Staff of any adult protective services agency and local law enforcement must also report suspected San Diego nursing home negligence.

Unfortunately, however, some instances of negligence may go unreported. People may fear losing their jobs or making supervisors or administrators angry. In fact, the American Council on Aging estimates that only one out of every 14 instances of abuse gets reported—or just 7 percent. That makes knowing the signs of abuse and negligence even more important, so you can identify and stop it.

What should I do if I believe a loved one is a victim of nursing home negligence?

First, if the signs indicate that your loved one is in immediate danger, take steps to remove them from the situation immediately. A nursing home resident who is severely hurt, dehydrated, or disoriented, for example, could need emergency, life-saving medical attention. You can always call 911 in these situations.

Second, if you strongly suspect a crime, such as assault and battery, theft, or rape, consider reporting it law enforcement. Depending upon the circumstances, you may have the opportunity to speak with your loved one about the suspected crime and how your loved one wants it handled. Always err on the side of keeping your loved one safe, however.

Third, carefully document any harm or dangerous condition you perceive as evidence of potential negligence. If you have a smartphone, for example, you may want to take pictures of your loved one’s bruises, cuts, or unhygienic conditions. Be aware, however, of the importance of maintaining your loved one’s privacy and dignity.

If the circumstances don’t lend themselves to pictures (such as social withdrawal or reluctance to see visitors), take notes on what occurred, what made it unusual, and when it occurred. Keep your notes.

Do you notice negligent or neglectful behavior on the part of a specific person or people? Note their names and positions.

For all events that seem negligent or abusive, carefully note the time and date.

Fourth, except in emergencies, we strongly encourage you to speak with an experienced San Diego nursing home negligence attorney right away. The steps you take next to address suspected negligence can substantially affect your loved one’s privacy and legal rights. Different situations call for different approaches to keep your loved one safe, informed (if possible), and legally protected.

Our experienced San Diego nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys can advise you about your options, which may include filing a complaint with government regulators, addressing the situation informally with nursing home management, coordinating with law enforcement, or taking formal legal action in court.

Rest assured that seeking this advice will not slow you down. Lawyers who represent nursing home residents and their families understand the urgent nature of these situations, and have the resources and know-how to take stock quickly and to recommend a sound and appropriate path forward tailored to the specific needs of the nursing home resident.

Can I take legal action against a negligent nursing home?

Oftentimes, yes. Again, however, we strongly advise you to speak with an experienced San Diego nursing home negligence and abuse attorney right away before deciding on any course of action. The success of any lawsuit for damages against a nursing home, for instance, may depend on the early steps you take to protect your loved one.

What about the coronavirus and negligence in nursing homes?

The coronavirus (or COVID-19) ravaging the United States and the world poses a danger to nursing home residents. The pandemic first gained a foothold in the U.S. in a Seattle-area nursing home, and outbreaks have now occurred in every other state, inflicting tragedy on nursing home residents and their families.

San Diego nursing home residents are both at heightened risk of:

  • Contracting COVID-19 symptoms, because of the confined setting of many nursing facilities and shortages of personal protective equipment for nursing home staff; and
  • Suffering severe complications from the disease, because many nursing home residents are elderly and have underlying health conditions.

The CDC has issued (still evolving) directives for nursing homes to follow to keep residents as safe as possible from the disease. Current guidance urges nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to develop and execute a plan for the identification and management of coronavirus in their populations.

In taking the steps recommended by the CDC, many nursing homes have cut down significantly on family member visitation, or have prohibited visits altogether. For the moment, this may represent an essential strategy for controlling the spread of the virus in nursing facilities. Indeed, nursing facilities undoubtedly worry that any failure to implement these measures may itself constitute negligence.

Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

John Gomez, Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

These measures, however, also come with downsides. One notable risk factor: isolating residents from visitors makes it difficult for families to spot and address signs of San Diego nursing home negligence. This is concerning, because although the coronavirus pandemic represents an extraordinary new risk to San Diego nursing home residents, it has not made other negligence and abuse risks go away. Negligence and abuse will continue to harm nursing home residents as it did before the pandemic, and we worry it will go even more unreported while the crisis continues to rage.

That is why we recommend trying your best to keep in touch with your loved ones in a nursing home during this unusual and stressful time. Can you telephone or video chat through Skype, Zoom, or other services, for example? See them through the window in their rooms? We know these represent less-than-ideal solutions, but anything you can do to stay on top of conditions in the nursing home can help to keep your loved ones safe.

Our San Diego lawyers for nursing home residents and their families will continue to monitor the evolving medical, moral, and legal obligations nursing homes owe to their residents. If you have questions about your loved one’s health, safety, or legal rights as a resident of a San Diego nursing home, then contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse and neglect attorney today.

Contact a San Diego Nursing Home Attorney Today

If you suspect abuse or neglect has occurred at a San Diego nursing home, act now. Contact the San Diego personal injury lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys immediately online or at (619) 237-3490 to discuss the situation and how we might help.


655 West Broadway, Suite 1700
San Diego, CA 92101

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