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Suing a Nursing Home

Suing Nursing Home In California

The state of nursing homes in California was already suffering before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, with many investigations into abuse complaints lagging far beyond the 180-day timeframe required by state law. California state regulators receive around 10,000 official complaints of nursing home negligence each year. Since the Covid pandemic hit, California received even more complaints, and the state now says it will investigate those complaints in about 578 days.

Part of the blame for the increase in nursing home negligence complaints, says Carole Herman, the founder and CEO of Foundation Aiding The Elderly (FATE), is that pandemic restrictions prevented family members and others from visiting facilities to monitor the care their loved ones received. At the same time, about one-fifth of all Covid-19 deaths were nursing home patients, and about 10 percent of nursing home patients died of Covid-19 since early 2020.

Pandemic or not, skilled nursing home facilities have the responsibility to provide a reasonable level of care to facility residents, and those residents have rights under federal and state law to be cared for in a manner that does not harm their quality of life. If nursing home negligence injured your loved one, find an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer to help figure out how to recover the compensation you deserve. Read below for more information about nursing home abuse cases.

How Common Is Nursing Home Negligence in California?

According to the California Department of Justice, the state’s elderly population has increased faster than any other state. It expects that 6.4 million senior citizens aged 65 and older will live in California by 2025. An estimated 110,000 elderly Californians reside in the state’s roughly 1,300 licensed nursing homes, and about 150,000 more live in residential care facilities for the elderly.

At least 150,000 elderly individuals live in unlicensed assisted living facilities that improperly care for them, as many suffer from dementia and receive psychotropic drugs as a form of sedation and chemical restraint. The number of complaints of nursing home abuse, neglect, and exploitation in California nursing homes and residential facilities is over twice the national average.

Types of Nursing Home Negligence that Results in Injury

Nursing home negligence is the failure of a nursing home to provide the level of care a reasonable, competent nursing home would in similar circumstances. There are several different types of nursing home negligence, as discussed below.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse might be the first thing that comes to mind when one hears about nursing home abuse. However, this type of abuse is relatively rare, as it accounts for less than 3 percent of all reports of nursing home abuse. Physical abuse refers to actions taken by staff members, such as slapping, punching, or pushing a resident. It also encompasses the failure to take appropriate action if another staff member or resident abuses you or your loved one. Physical abuse can also refer to physically restraining the resident or medicating them to the extent that they can’t move about the facility at will.

Signs of physical abuse include injuries such as fractures, bruises, or cuts, especially if a nursing home cannot explain them or if the explanation they provide does not seem to add up. Signs of physical restraint include bruising on the wrists or ankles.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse, also commonly referred to as psychological abuse, is the most common type of abuse reported in nursing homes, accounting for more than 11 percent of all nursing home abuse reports. This form of abuse is often verbal, involving threatening, intimidation, or humiliation of a resident. Emotional abuse can also involve isolating the resident from social events or preventing them from visiting with family members alone.

Signs that your loved one is subject to emotional abuse in a nursing home include fear or disinterest in activities the elder formerly enjoyed, social isolation, refusing to visit with family members, or becoming unexpectedly agitated.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse involves any non-consensual sexual act to a resident, including fondling, penetration, or making the resident watch pornography. Sexual abuse accounts for nearly 7 percent of the nursing home abuse complaints filed across the nation.

Signs of sexual abuse include unexplained STD or other infections affecting the genitals, bruising of the genitals or breasts, stained or torn underwear, or vaginal or anal bleeding unrelated to a medical condition.

Neglect

Although neglect accounts for only about 4 percent of all reported nursing home abuse cases, experts believe this is actually the most common form of nursing home abuse, as it encompasses so much of the resident’s daily life. Neglect is the failure to meet the resident’s basic daily needs or special needs, as provided by the resident’s care plan.

Some examples of neglect include:

  • Failing to provide the resident with adequate nutrition and hydration.
  • Neglect with medications, including failing to give the resident needed medication, or providing the resident with the wrong dose of medication or another resident’s medication.
  • Failing to obtain adequate medical care for the resident.
  • Failing to prevent known hazards that the resident’s care plan identified, such as fall or bedsore prevention.
  • Failing to prevent the resident from wandering away from the facility.
  • Failing to assist the resident in accomplishing self-care tasks such as toileting, eating, or bathing.

Signs of neglect can include poor hygiene, hunger or thirst, or unsuitable weather attire. Nursing home neglect can also present as visibly unsafe living conditions and unanswered phone and nurse call buttons.

Exploitation

The exploitation of a nursing home resident involves taking the resident’s personal belongings or accessing their financial accounts without their permission or through deception. Signs that your loved one is the victim of financial exploitation include missing belongings, particularly those of high monetary value; unusual financial transactions, such as unexplained withdrawals; new names added to the elder’s bank account signature card; or unexplained ATM withdrawals.

Causes of Nursing Home Abuse

There are many reasons behind nursing home abuse, with understaffing being the most common factor. National standards recommend a staff-to-resident ratio of 1:3 during meals and 1:6 during non-meal times. However, it is not unusual for a nurse’s aide to care for 15 or even 30 residents at a time. This often leads to injuries to residents, as there are not enough staff members to provide adequate monitoring and assistance.

Other causes of nursing home abuse impacting residents’ rights include:

  • Improper training of new staff members.
  • Failure to establish policies designed to prevent injury to residents.
  • Failure of the facility to conduct thorough background checks of incoming employees to ensure that they do not pose a danger to residents.
  • Poor facility management, including a high turnover rate among staff administration and failure to set high accountability measures with staff to ensure quality care.
  • Residents with high needs, including those with cognitive illnesses that can make it difficult for the resident to communicate with staff or physical disabilities that require additional care.

California Nursing Home Residents’ Legal Rights

Federal and state laws establish several rights for nursing home residents, which inform the nursing home’s expected standard of care.

These rights include:

  • The right to be treated with dignity and respect, to determine their own schedules—such as bedtimes and mealtimes—and to decide which activities to participate in.
  • The right to be free from discrimination based on color, race, national origin, disability, age, or religion.
  • The right to be free from abuse and neglect.
  • The right to be free from physical and chemical restraints.
  • The right to make complaints about the nursing home without fear of being punished for it.
  • The right to obtain adequate medical care, including the right to select one’s own physician, to be fully informed of one’s health status and medications that have been prescribed, or to make decisions on the types of treatments one is willing to receive.
  • The right to have a personal representative notified if the resident is injured, their physical or mental status worsens, a change in treatment is necessary, or if the resident is being discharged or transferred to another nursing home.
  • The right to obtain information about the services that are being provided to the resident at the facility, other services that are available to them, and the cost of the services provided or available.
  • The right to manage their own money.
  • The right to privacy and to keep and use their own belongings while living at the facility.
  • The right to have visitors whenever the resident chooses, as long as those visits do not interfere with the privacy and care afforded to others.
  • The right to obtain professional assistance such as counseling, assistance in dealing with conflicts with other residents, legal and financial services, and discharge planning.
  • The right to leave the nursing home for short visits or to move out.
  • The right to be informed if there will be a room transfer or facility discharge, including the right to appeal such decisions.
  • The right to involve one’s family in care and participate in social groups in the facility.

Get Legal Help if Your Loved One Has Been a Victim of Nursing Home Negligence

If a nursing home failed to provide adequate care and protection and injured your loved one, you can bring a legal claim against the facility to seek compensation.

For a successful outcome to your claim, you must prove:

  • The at-fault party (staff or facility) owed your loved one the duty of care to meet their basic needs.
  • The at-fault party breached their duty of care, which means some actions the at-fault party took were contrary to the care the resident was due.
  • The breach resulted in your loved one suffering an injury and the expenses and impacts for which you claim compensation.

Compensation for injured residents can include:

  • Medical expenses for the treatment of abuse injuries
  • The cost of moving to a different nursing home that is better able to meet the resident’s needs
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress

If a resident dies from nursing home negligence, family members—such as the decedent’s surviving spouse, children, or grandchildren—can seek compensation through a wrongful death claim.

Compensation in a wrongful death claim may include:

  • The cost of medical expenses for the treatment of the deceased’s final injury
  • The cost of funeral services and burial or cremation
  • Loss of love, care, guidance, nurturing, and support that was provided by the deceased to their family members
  • The deceased’s spouse’s loss of loss and intimacy

70 percent of California state health and safety inspection surveys miss deficiencies that can lead to the injury of residents, including fifteen percent that represent actual harm to a resident and place them in immediate jeopardy. The lack of oversight and supervision in California nursing homes was bad before the pandemic and has only worsened. If you feel that you or your loved one is suffering abuse, you may need to take matters into your own hands.

If negligence in a nursing home injured your loved one, contact a skilled nursing home abuse attorney to learn more about your legal options.


Gomez Trial Attorneys
655 West Broadway, Suite 1700
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: (619)-237-3490

 

Posted in: Elder Abuse
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