Senior Citizen Nursing Home Abuse. California has several hundred thousand senior citizens living in nursing and assisted living homes. Most older residents enjoy living communally with other elder. But some experience abuse and neglect by facility staff. The abuse comes in many forms, including physical or mental, or both. It is intentional or negligent. Sadly, as many as 6 out of 10 residents at some facilities are victimized during their stay. To make matters worse, many do not report it out of fear that things will only get worse by doing so. For a victim to stop the problem, it is imperative to get help from the outside.
The alarmingly high statistics highlight the need to educate the public on the basics of these crimes. The first step is for family members with a parent or grandparent who may be in danger need to learn how to identify it. If any is suspected, reach out to an attorney for help immediately.
California Nursing Home Neglect Basics
Elder abuse is physical or mental harm perpetrated on a senior citizen. Anyone over the age of 64 is considered to be in the category of senior citizen. It not limited to only obvious assault or failure to help an elderly person in danger. Some very common types also include abandonment, financial exploitation and forced isolation.
- Abandonment happens to older people suffering from lack of mobility and who rely on someone else to move about. Abandonment occurs when someone is left for any amount of time without the help that they need to carry out basic life functions and/or enjoyment activities. If basic hygiene and chores appear not done, this is a sign of abandonment.
- Financial Exploitation happens where a person is able to extract money from a senior citizen by threat. This is just as oppressive as physical harm or abandonment and can also lead to financial stress to the victim. If money starts going missing, it is important to inquire with the parent or grandparent as to its whereabouts. It could be a financial exploitation scenario.
- Forced Isolation is simply placing an elderly person on time out. This withholds social time to the elder. Social interaction is absolutely necessary for the health and well-being of a human being. Missing interaction with others is almost like being trapped in solitary confinement. Some would categorize such confinement as cruel and unusual punishment. Where your parent or grandparent becomes shut down emotionally, it could be that they are missing their social time. Ask whether they are seeing their friends enough. It is an important to question to idenitfy forced isolation.
Identify Common Perpetrators
Identify those who perpetrate these crimes because it is just as important as recognizing their occurrence. Most commonly, perpetrators are caretakers and/or employees. Question management and staff indirectly about your loved one is good way to narrow down perpetrators. Be sure to inquire with staff about suspect behavior. Speak with staff that has little direct contact with your loved one about other staff members who serve your loved one directly. This may provide valuable insight into the character of potential perpetrators without alerting them. Alerting perpetrators could lead to retaliation before more significant steps can be implemented. In severe situations management should be notified immediately.
California Assisted Living Home Regulations
The CA Penal Code has declared that crimes against elderly people deserve special consideration. This is similar to special protections afforded to minors. The state has very specific laws which regulate the operation of assisted living homes. The laws are aimed to increase ethical behavior. Even still, new cases remain prevalent.
Assisted living homes are required to provide clean and sanitary living conditions for all residents. They must provide daily nutritious meals and snacks for all residents. They must also accommodate dietary needs with specific conditions. They are also required to be licensed by the Health Board for qualified medical personnel on staff. Homes must provide social and physical activities. These include games, books, entertainment, and exercise opportunities. Staff members are required to notify residents before there are changes in the resident’s treatment, healthcare plan, or facility alterations.
California has a statue of limitations on prosecuting cases of elder abuse. The complaint must be filed at the appropriate venue within two years. It is therefore imperative to pursue legal rights timely via an attorney. Delay in doing so could cost the entire case and leave your loved one in jeopardy for years to come.
Consequences and Damages
California has strict laws and regulations to specifically protect senior citizens. Perpetrators may face both civil and criminal charges. According to CA Penal Code, a criminal charge for such cases may be either a misdemeanor or a felony. More severe instances will command a greater punishment. A felony case can result in large fines, probation, and a state prison sentence. Civil charges against nursing home employees and administrations can result in the guilty party paying great sums of capital in the form of damages. The victim and/or the victim’s family members can collect pain and suffering and actual financial losses. If a home facility is found in violation of state elder law and fails to remedy the situation, the facility may be shut down permanently.
Punitive damages are also possible under state law. In 1990 California ratified the law to allow elders and their family members to obtain punitive damages in limited circumstances. Punitive damages are awarded to the victim or the victim’s family. These are a form of punishment used to discipline and make an example of the guilty party. Awarding punitives displays to society a policy of no tolerance. In order to recover punitive damages, the offense must be relatively severe. A case of mere negligence do not qualify for this remedy.
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Seeking an Attorney to Fight Elder Abuse
A nursing home employee or staff member may NEVER punish a patient in any way, physically or mentally. This means that any physical force, neglect, hurtful or demeaning words, deprivation of daily necessities or denial to access of required activities or services is unlawful and considered an act of elder abuse.
If you have any suspicion that a nursing home facility is acting in an abusive or negligent way towards residents, you have to power to help. The most important thing that you can do is take note of any signs of neglect and report immediately to an attorney who can conduct further investigation. Seek advice and guidance from an attorney to learn about your options to stop it and to recover the compensation for your relative. At The Napolin Law Firm, we are here to stop the abuse and to help you prove your case, starting with a free consultation. Call to speak directly with an attorney today about options to recover damages and pain and suffering, free of charge.