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Investigation Reveals Abuse and Neglect in California Nursing Homes

Nursing home abuse and neglect are widespread problems throughout California and the United States. A California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform report indicates as many as one in four patients in state nursing homes are administered antipsychotic medications, often as a chemical restraint to make these patients easier to deal with. Other common examples of nursing home abuse include neglect, financial abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse or verbal abuse, explains a California personal injury lawyer.


An article in the Los Angeles Times covered an investigation conducted between January 2010 and March 2012 in which the California Attorney General sent investigators into nursing homes throughout the state to assess incidents of elder abuse and of Medi-Cal Fraud.  


The reports from the investigations were requested by the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform and were released as per the requirements of the California Public Records Act. The documents, while not posted on the Operations Guardians or the Attorney General’s website, reveal “inexcusable elder abuse and neglect”: improper treatment for bedsores, incorrect administration of medication, over-medication or chemical restraint, and residents sitting in feces or urine for hours.  The reports also showed that nursing homes were not in compliance with nurse-to-patient ratios, engaged in fraudulent billing, and provided poor end-of-life care, as well as that patients were being incorrectly diagnosed and that there were insufficient protections in place to prevent patients from falling. 


Elder Abuse Laws


According to California Penal Code section 368-368.5, elders, like minors, are entitled to special protections under the law. Under the provisions found in 368(b)(1), it is a criminal offense to inflict, permit or allow physical or mental harm that could lead to the injury or death of a dependent adult. This means if a nursing home takes on the care of an elderly patient and neglects that patient, sets up a situation where the patient could suffer harm or causes the patient harm, the nursing home may be guilty of a crime. 


The Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act also establishes civil penalties for victims of elder abuse, creating a cause of action for physical abuse, financial abuse, neglect, abandonment, abduction, isolation, deprivation of care or services, and other acts or abuses that harm an elderly person. 


These laws are intended to protect individuals who are suffering from abuse and to hold nursing homes accountable for abuses that they inflict upon their patients. In addition, any person who suspects nursing home abuse or neglect can also file a complaint with the Licensing and Certification Division of the California Department of Public Health (DPH). The Department or various social services agencies can launch an investigation into allegedly abusive or neglectful practices. 


Notifying local law enforcement of potential or suspected elder abuse is also advisable when there is a reasonable suspicion of abuse, neglect or fraud.  


Finding a Nursing Home


The California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform provides resources for consumers interested in learning more about nursing homes and residential care facilities throughout the state. Information on nursing home complaints can be found on the website of the California Department of Public Health, and CalQualityCare.org provides ratings on residential care facilities throughout California to help the public make an informed choice.  


Additional information on elder and nursing home abuse, as well as on recourse for victims through the civil justice system, is available to the public free of charge through our office’s Preferred Friends and Clients Program.


To request one of these free resources, or to speak with a California personal injury lawyer, feel free to call 866-981-5596.

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