Our Sacramento nursing home abuse lawyers take great care in representing elders and those with special needs who have been abused or neglected by nursing home facilities. Because of their vulnerability, our elders and disabled members of our community are unfortunately the most likely to suffer injury and illness by neglectful and abusive caregivers. These clients are very special to us, and we are proud of the results we’ve obtained in our elder abuse lawsuits and nursing home abuse cases. If you or a loved one has a case resulting in injury or neglect in a nursing home, our personal injury lawyers may be able to help.
Elder Abuse and Neglect
Elderly patients often are the most likely people to suffer injury and illness because of the neglect or abuse of nursing homes, hospitals, or home caregivers. For example, failure to provide adequate food and water or assistance with eating and drinking can lead to dehydration and malnutrition, leading to other complications such as urinary tract infections and life-threatening conditions such as sepsis. Neglect often leads to bed sores, decubitus ulcers, and other similar avoidable injuries.
Injuries can result from physical and emotional neglect or abuse of the elderly. Examples of nursing home or caregiver neglect include:
- Failure to provide healthy foods: Failure to provide healthy and sufficient food, or neglecting special needs regarding eating and drinking can lead to malnutrition and food reactions, which can be serious and life threatening.
- Failure to provide sufficient water: Failure to provide an elderly patient with sufficient water may lead to dehydration, frequent urinary tract infections, gall bladder and kidney stones, or life-threatening conditions such as sepsis.
- Failure to care for daily personal hygiene: Neglect in caring for daily personal hygiene can lead to serious complications, may worsen mental deterioration, and in extreme conditions may lead to death.
- Failure to provide early and effective medical treatment: Failure to provide timely medical treatment can worsen an existing medical condition and lead to death.
- Isolation or confinement of an elderly patient: Isolation or confinement of an elderly patient often leads to bed sores, decubitus ulcers, and other similar avoidable injuries.
Sometimes nursing home abuse or caregiver neglect can be difficult to recognize because elderly patients may be unable to communicate due to dementia, confusion, or even fear of retaliation by their abusers. This makes it critical for friends and family members to be vigilant about looking for any signs of possible neglect, elder abuse, financial abuse, or mistreatment of nursing care patients.
How Common is Elderly Abuse?
- Over 90% of nursing homes in America lack necessary staff to care for their residents
- 1 in 3 nursing homes have been cited for violations that had the potential to harm patients
- About 10% of all facilities have been cited for violations that have actually caused harm
- More than half of nursing facility staff members reported being guilty of mistreating elder patients in their care at one time or another
- Patients at the age of 80 and older are three times more likely to suffer from abuse and neglect
Examples of Elderly Neglect and Abuse
- Inadequate housing or shelter
- Lack of supervision
- Insufficient food or water or failure to provide assistance with eating or drinking, which can lead to weight loss, dehydration or malnutrition
- Delay or denial of medical care
- Failure to prevent or treat bed sores
- Failure to carry out doctor’s orders
- Lack of assistance with bathing or hygiene
- Unnecessarily keeping the elder restrained in bed or in a chair
- Inadequate assistance to help the elder move around, either in bed or within the house or facility
- Failure to provide access and assistance to the toilet, which can lead to urinary track infections (UTIs)
- Unnecessary or needlessly prolonged catheterization, which can lead to severe UTIs
- Failure to change the elder’s diapers or disposable briefs, which can lead to skin damage from sitting in urine and feces, as well as loss of dignity
To identify more intimate signs of neglect, it may be necessary to discretely examine undergarments or skin in intimate areas, to see if they are soiled with urine or feces. Helpless elderly patients who are left to lie in their bodily waste for extended periods of time are likely to develop painful and dangerous bed sores that are entirely preventable with good patient care.
Malnutrition and Dehydration
If an elderly loved one in a nursing home, hospital, or with a home caregiver is losing weight or unusually listless, it may be that the patient is not receiving sufficient nourishing food to maintain good health, and may be suffering from severe malnutrition. Dry or cracked skin and lips, may be signs of lack of water or other fluids, causing dehydration. Dehydration can lead to other complications, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Urinary Tract Infections in the Elderly
Elderly patients are at greater risk to develop urinary tract infections (UTIs) because of age-related changes affecting the urinary tract.
Weakened bladder muscles can lead to less efficient bladder emptying, or incontinence. Also, with age, the kidneys become less efficient in removing waste and producing secretions that help prevent infection. Bacterial growth can increase if the bladder is not voided regularly, which in turn can lead to UTIs and other more severe complications, such as sepsis, a potentially life-threatening infection of the bloodstream.
UTIs are often difficult to diagnose in the elderly as they often don’t cause painful urination. In fact, a sudden change in behavior is one of the best indicators of a UTI in the elderly. Some common warning signs include:
- Urinary incontinence
- Inability to do tasks the elderly person could easily do a day or two before
To help prevent UTIs, it is important for nursing home staff and caregivers to make sure the elderly drink plenty of water to help flush out the urinary tract and assist them in using the bathroom more frequently to empty their bladder.
Unnecessary or needlessly prolonged catheterization can also contribute to severe UTIs in the elderly.
Bed Sores and Skin Ulcers
Bed sores, also known as pressure sores and skin ulcers, are painful and dangerous open wounds that develop when a bedridden elderly patient has remained in the same position in bed for a prolonged period of time.
Bed sores occur when pressure on the bony points of the body such as the tailbone, elbows, heels, or buttocks causes the skin to break down, crack, and become infected. Bed sores or skin ulcer wounds can progress through the skin and down to the bone, causing bone infection and, in severe cases, requiring amputation. Still, with proper medical care and treatment, bed sores are preventable.
Causes for Bed Sores
- A bedridden elderly patient remains in the same position for a prolonged period of time. If an elderly bedridden patient cannot move without assistance, the caregiver is responsible for preventing bed sores by making sure that the patient changes position every two hours. A good mattress and additional padding can also aid in the protection of pressure points and prevention of bed sores.
- Moisture. To prevent bed sores, it is vital that elderly patients receive good personal hygiene care, including keeping skin clean and dry, and free from urine and feces. If your loved one suffers from incontinence (loss of bowel or bladder control), the bed sheets must be kept clean and dry to prevent bed sores, and the patient should be taken to the bathroom regularly.
- Poor nutrition affecting skin health. Elderly people generally have poor skin quality, which makes them more susceptible to developing bed sores. If a caregiver is not providing good nutrition to the elderly patient, bed sores are more likely to develop.
Warning Sign of Bed Sores
An early warning sign of a bed sore is a reddened area, especially at a pressure point such as the tailbone, buttocks, elbows, or heels. If you observe reddened areas on your loved one, talk to the caregiving facility about your concerns. Always investigate thoroughly.
If you do not receive good answers to your questions, you may need to report your concerns to the appropriate California department or agency.
Emotional Abuse of the Elderly
Examples of emotional abuse and neglect of the elderly include:
- Not attending to elder’s calls for help or ignoring moans indicating pain or discomfort
- Failure to provide for the elder’s need for friendship or affection
- Failure to provide necessary psychological care, such as medication for depression
- Isolating the elder, including restricting phone calls, mail, visitors, and outings
- Verbally abusing, yelling at or belittling the elder
Elder Exploitation and Financial Abuse
Financial abuse of a person over the age of 65 is a crime in California. According to California State Welfare and Institutions Code, Section 15610.30, financial abuse is “a situation in which a person, including but not limited to, one who has care or custody of or who stands in a position of trust, of an elder or dependent adult, takes, secretes, or appropriates their money or property, to any wrongful use, or with the intent to defraud.”
Elder financial abuse, or the financial exploitation of the elderly, occurs when a person takes or uses the money or property of an elder for any wrongful use, or with the intent to defraud the elder. Elder financial abuse can occur whether the elder is a resident in a long-term care facility, such as a nursing home, or is living in a private residence.
Who commits elder financial abuse?
Family Members and Care Providers
Unfortunately, the people most likely to commit elder financial abuse usually are the people closest to their elderly victim — family members and care providers who are in regular or daily personal contact with the elder.
An Estranged Family Member
Sometimes, elder financial abuse is committed by family members who have not been close to the elder in the past, but suddenly appear and claim an interest in his or her health and welfare, as well as his or her money and property.
Long-Term Caregivers, Unscrupulous Telemarketers, Contractors
Outside of the family, elder financial abuse is often committed by unscrupulous telemarketers, contractors, and others who convince the victim to give them personal and financial information which can be used to steal money and property from the elder. These same dishonest people may try to sell goods or services to the elder, with no intention of providing the services or delivering the goods.
Finally, elders who live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities, may be victims of financial abuse by their direct caregivers or even by the administrators of the nursing homes.
Signs of Elder Financial Abuse
- Cashing checks without permission of the elder
- Preventing the elder from having access to his/her money and bank accounts
- Forging the elder’s signature on checks and other documents
- Adding an additional name to the elder’s bank account and withdrawing funds without permission of the elder
- Theft of money or property
- Theft of ATM cards or credit cards
- Deceiving or forcing an elder to sign a financial document, such as a will, a loan application, or some other document
- Improperly using an elder’s power of attorney or conservatorship
- Selling an elder unnecessary or overpriced goods or services
- Stealing an elder’s identity or financial data in order to steal the elder’s money or property
- Deceiving an elder to invest in an overpriced scam
- Deceiving an elder into borrowing money on a home with terms that guarantee he or she will default and lose equity
Nursing Home Falls
Each year, one in three American senior citizens (65 and older) falls and about 30 percent of those falls require medical treatment that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), costs more than $19 billion. People often ask the question, if a disabled or elderly patient fell and injured himself, does it constitute abuse or neglect? The answer is that it certainly can, depending on the situation.
Causes of Nursing Home, Elder Falls
Elderly nursing home patients usually use canes, walkers, wheelchairs or staff assistance to walk or move about the facility. Responsible nursing homes take precautions to protect their patients by carefully assessing the likely risk of falling for each individual patient.
A few of the common causes of nursing home falls in the elderly:
- Dementia can interfere with a patient’s ability to see and avoid an obstacle while walking with a walker or cane.
- Patients with reduced mental capacity may wander off, become confused in unfamiliar surroundings, and fall.
- Bathroom transfers from a wheelchair to the toilet can easily cause a fall in the absence of thoughtful, concerned, and well-trained caregivers.
Nursing homes must be strict about keeping the facility free of dangerous conditions that might cause an elderly patient to slip or trip and fall. It is the nursing home’s job to recognize these risks and take reasonable measures to prevent patients from falling.
When an elderly person falls, the health risk is much greater than that of a younger, healthier person. The risk of broken bones, particularly a broken hip, is significantly increased for an elderly patient and it takes longer to heal. Sometimes such injuries require long hospitalizations that result in overall loss of physical and mental capacity.
Falls may result in injuries that cause:
- Loss of consciousness (brain injury)
- Broken bones
- Muscle strain and sprain
- Severe pain
These injuries can often be hard to identify as being caused by a fall, and, absent appropriate medical care, mistaken or ignored as another type of pain.
Sacramento Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
The best way to stop the neglect and abuse of our most vulnerable population is to make sure that the facilities and people who victimize the elderly and disabled are held responsible for their behavior and are appropriately punished. Our nursing home abuse attorneys have experience representing the elderly, dependent adults and their families in cases of elder and nursing home abuse or neglect.
If you believe that you or a loved one is the victim of elder abuse or nursing home neglect, our experienced elder abuse lawyers can help you investigate your claim, take legal action against the perpetrators, and improve the quality of life for your loved one.
We would be happy to answer any legal questions you may have, free of charge and obligation. Contact our experienced injury attorneys toll free at (866) 527-4278 or fill out the form on this page to speak with a nursing home abuse lawyer today.
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