Elder Abuse and Neglect: Domestic vs. Nursing Home

Unfortunately, responsibility for the most vulnerable individuals in society, like the elderly, too often falls to individuals who are incapable of providing adequate care. It is important to note that in the state of California the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Protection Act is intended to protect elders, individuals aged 65 and over, and dependent adults between 18 - 64 years old whose physical or mental conditions have put them in a position where they require assistance and care for their most basic needs. Those that feel they are the victim of elder abuse may have suffered physical abuse, neglect, financial abuse, abandonment, deliberate isolation, abduction, or psychological abuse. Elder abuse can occur domestically or in skilled nursing facilities and assisted living homes.

Domestic elder and dependent adult abuse, which includes all the aforementioned types of elder abuse, is not an area of practice for the attorneys at Belgum, Fry & Van Allen. Individuals seeking immediate action to remediate a domestic elder or dependent adult abuse or neglect situation should call County Adult Protective Services. The County Adult Protective Services is responsible for investigating, criminally prosecuting, and developing a service plan to help the elderly maintain their safety and independence. To aid investigators, concerned loved ones should gather as much evidence as possible to build a successful case. Evidence that can include calling the police when a harmful situation arises, taking pictures of any injuries, keeping all documents and records, and maintaining meticulous records of communication with the abuser. Additional information on elder abuse specific to the state of California can be found on our blog.

The lawyers specializing in nursing home neglect and abuse at Belgum, Fry & Van Allen assist victims in a professional custodial environment by recommending they take these proactive steps outlined in this article. These actions will ultimately help build a stronger case if the situation or case were to ever end up in litigation to prove elder abuse. All this to say, the sooner the lawyers specializing in nursing home neglect at Belgum, Fry & Van Allen can be contacted, the better.

Voice All Complaints

Voicing complaints is an initial step to formally request discontinuation of an act or put more effort into the care of an elderly loved one, for any issue that doesn't immediately require police or legal action. If the situation does not get resolved, it is to your advantage to seek legal from lawyers specializing in nursing home neglect early and often.

Do not be afraid to raise complaints about treatment or lack thereof to everyone at the facility, including staff, fellow residents, and concerned family members. While complaints should be voiced to everyone possible at the nursing home or care facility, it is important to speak with the Director of Nursing and the Administrator. Both the Director of Nursing and the Administrator are responsible for making structural changes to how care is administered and regarding the daily interactions of residents and employees.

Maintain Documentation

As advised for victims of domestic elder abuse, those who have suffered elder abuse at the hands of a nursing home or special care facility should also keep meticulous records. Record any instances of neglect and anything that could pose risks to safety through photo documentation. This can include injuries caused by mistreatment, environmental hazards, and even improper or substandard care.

For the greatest impact, keep written records of complaints, such as email or text messages, or even a journal. When writing the journal make sure to keep things strictly fact-based. Include the complaint or issue, names of who the complaint was shared with, the person’s response, and whether or not any change occurred. It’s important to keep this journal fact-based, and not opinion-based because it is far more useful as a record of what occurred. Elder abuse lawsuits can take a few years to reach a resolution and the memory of the victims can fade. Having a written history of complaints can help establish a timeline, which can be useful for cross-referencing against specific events or counter-narratives.

Do not destroy, lose, or throw away any documents the facility has provided in regard to the residency at the nursing home or assisted care facility. This includes important documents, such as the explanation of benefits from the insurance company, bills paid to the care facility, brochures detailing amenities by the care facility, letters or papers sent to relatives from the care facility, and so on. Concerned loved ones would benefit from either keeping or making copies of any of these documents, which can then be used as evidence if the case is taken to court.

Contact the Nursing Home Ombudsman

If poor conditions or mistreatment persist, despite complaints, reach out to the ombudsman with problems related to daily care, health and safety, and preferences. Nursing Homes are required to respect your wishes and produce an environment that will enable residents to enjoy life to the best of their personal circumstances. An ombudsman is a part of the state’s Long-Term Care Program brought in to ensure the core rights of elders are maintained and the standard of care for each resident is appropriate. They are concerned with violations of dignity, safety, housing, care, personal property, privacy, and expression. The ombudsman will interview the victim, investigate the complaints, interview nurses, and document their interactions. Seeking out an Ombudsman is always a good idea for those with minor concerns that need to be addressed immediately so they don’t turn into major concerns.

File a Complaint with the California Department of Public Health

In the event that conditions continue to persist, contact the California Department of Health and Human Services for all matters concerning assisted living facilities, or contact the California Department of Public Health for nursing home matters. These departments are responsible for upholding and enforcing laws related to the Elder Abuse and Dependent Protection Act of California.

Submit any records to be reviewed by the investigator of the California Department of Health and Human Services. The investigator will also visit the facility to determine if it has violated any state or federal laws with respect to the way they’re supposed to conduct business and treat residents. During their visit, they will also survey and interview care providers and the victim of abuse on top of looking at any other issues with respect to the victim's care. Then they may issue a deficiency or citation which will go in the public record and provide future residents information on whether or not the facility is running properly and treating its current residents properly. For those in immediate danger, they may even call Adult Protective Services to extricate the victim from the facility.

For individuals seeking a nursing home abuse attorney in Orange County and the Greater Los Angeles and Inland Empire areas, the elder abuse lawyers at Belgum, Fry & Van Allen can provide legal guidance on how to seek justice and prove elder abuse. To get started the lawyers specializing in nursing home neglect at Belgum, Fry & Van Allen urge victims of elder abuse or concerned loved ones to fill out a free case evaluation to determine if their case is viable or not and provide advice to navigate this complex process.