When we entrust our loved ones to the care of a nursing facility, we want to be sure that they are being looked after to the highest standards of dignity and respect. Unfortunately, some elder care facilities or employees fall short of these standards or are criminally negligent in their care of the vulnerable people in their charge. Abuse and neglect are very common in California nursing homes.

There are laws that protect your loved ones from this awful treatment, however, and if you suspect they are suffering abuse, the Fremont personal injury attorneys at OnderLaw can help you seek the proper compensation and hold the guilty parties to account. Call us now to discuss your case.

What is Nursing Home Abuse/Neglect?

Abuse or neglect of vulnerable individuals in a nursing home can take several different forms, including physical harm, sexual assault, emotional or verbal debasement, or financial mismanagement. Alternatively, the abuse could result from a general neglect of the care that the facility owes to the resident.

A staff member striking, slapping, or treating a resident roughly can cause severe physical injury or even death. Nursing home patients are often physically frail, and it may not take much strength to injure them permanently. Staff who care for these residents must be particularly gentle so as not to cause injury.

Mental abuse is also possible. Residents are sometimes in a vulnerable psychological or emotional state, and staff members who torment them or cause them fear or anxiety may be inflicting long-term harm.

Nursing homes may also be guilty of financial abuse. If a facility or staff member has access to a resident’s bank account or credit cards, they may be able to steal all or a large portion of the person’s savings.

Sexual assault is unfortunately not uncommon in nursing home abuse cases. A staff member inappropriately touching or taking advantage of a person in their care is abusive and can cause lasting physical and emotional damage.

Abandonment can occur when staff, whether intentionally or unintentionally because of staffing shortages, fail in their duties to some patients. For those who are immobile, if staff do not turn the resident at appropriate times, bedsores may result. If a resident is unable to physically move themselves and is left in a wheelchair for hours on end, that can be abandonment.

Nursing home facilities take on many responsibilities in agreeing to care for residents, and failure to properly meet their needs, such as for food, shelter, clothing, hygiene, and medical care, might be considered neglect. A shortage of staff or lax enforcement of policies can lead to an elderly individual developing dangerous medical issues due to neglect of medication, cleanliness, or other necessities.

Signs of Nursing Home Abuse/Neglect

There are warning signs you may wish to look out for during a visit if you suspect that a loved one is suffering from abuse or neglect. California law requires nursing facilities to allow outdoor visitation at a minimum. Indoor and in-room visitation must also be permitted, but there may be restrictions related to COVID risks, such as testing or vaccination. Here are a few red flags to be aware of that could indicate a deeper problem:

  • Sudden shift in personality
  • Insomnia
  • Dehydration
  • Bedsores
  • Bruises
  • Change in weight
  • Burn marks
  • Problems with personal hygiene
  • Poor nutrition
  • Broken bones

Some of these signs may indicate health issues besides abuse. You should speak with an experienced lawyer if you believe abuse or neglect is occurring.

What to Do if You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse/Neglect

If you notice one or more signs that your relative is being abused or neglected in a nursing home, you should take steps to ensure their well-being and safety.

  • If there is an emergency medical situation, call 9-1-1. Remove the resident from the facility if you believe they are in immediate danger.
  • Speak with your loved one about the situation, and ask if they feel threatened or were harmed.
  • Carefully observe how staff treat residents, and talk to the families of other residents about their experiences.
  • Document everything, including conversations with staff and with your loved one. Take pictures of any physical harm they’ve experienced.
  • Understand your loved one’s rights. Nursing home residents have a comprehensive list of rights in the State of California. A few of these include the right to receive necessary care and services, the right to be treated with dignity, the right to food of sufficient quantity and quality, the right to be free of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, and the right to a safe, clean, and home-like environment. There are also many rights detailed regarding the nursing home contract, medical decision-making, refusal of treatment, and access to medical records.
  • File a complaint with the California Department of Public Health. The California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform website has helpful resources for filing a complaint. After you file, DPH must begin an investigation within ten working days.
  • California nursing home abuse hotlines:
    • Long-term Care Ombudsman CRISISline: 1-800-231-4024
    • CA Department of Social Services: 1-844-538-8766
    • Division of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse: 1-800-722-0432
  • Speak with an attorney. An experienced nursing home abuse lawyer can advise you on the best way to make sure your loved one is properly cared for and what legal remedies exist to obtain compensation for wrongdoing by the facility or its staff.

In these situations, it can be easy to become upset and lose patience. It is important to remain calm, however, and refrain from making assumptions. Speak with staff and administrators about your concerns, and make notes about your interactions. If those in charge fail to remedy the problem, talk to your lawyer about the best course of action.

Compensation For Nursing Home Abuse/Neglect Claims

Proving abuse or neglect in a nursing facility can be difficult, but the compensation available may be significant. Compensation may come in the form of a settlement out of court or as the result of a lawsuit. The seriousness of the effect on the victim’s health could play a large part in the amount of compensation available. If the resident was sexually abused or assaulted, or their health was impacted by medical errors or neglect, the compensation may depend on the resulting harm to the patient.

Compensation for financial crimes, such as theft or fraud, is easier to calculate because it would likely be based on the amount of money stolen or other defined amounts. Detailed records and receipts can be helpful in this calculation.

If the resident passes away as a result of the neglect or abuse, a wrongful death suit could recover compensation for the person’s mistreatment by the staff or facility.

Other factors can play a role in the amount of compensation available, such as the defendant’s ability to pay, the strength of the evidence, and the amounts awarded in similar cases.

Nursing Home Abuse Statistics (State and National)

The National Center for Victims of Crime categorizes nursing home abuse complaints by frequency:

  • Physical abuse: 27.4%
  • Abuse from other residents (physical and sexual): 22.1%
  • Psychological/Mental abuse: 19.4%
  • Blatant neglect: 15.3%
  • Sexual abuse: 7.9%
  • Financial wrongdoing: 7.9%

There are about 1,230 licensed long-term care facilities in the state of California, including free-standing nursing homes and those that operate as part of a hospital. More than 400,000 Californians are cared for in long-term facilities. Occupancy rates in California facilities are around 87 percent.

A study in 2020 by the World Health Organization found that 64 percent of nursing home staff members admitted to committing abuse or neglect in some fashion.

24.3 percent of residents experienced at least one incidence of abuse while in a nursing home, according to Nursing Home Abuse Justice.

Almost one in three staff members admitted to emotionally abusing residents, according to a WHO study.

A 2015 study found that residents 79 years or older are more likely to be sexually abused.

Elderly individuals who have suffered abuse have a 300 percent higher risk of death, according to the National Council on Aging.

11 percent of all elder abuse cases in the nation occur in California, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse.

Why Choose OnderLaw ?

Our experienced eldercare facility attorneys have been protecting the rights of California residents for many years, and we have been recognized by such organizations as Super Lawyers, the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, and Rue Ratings Best Attorneys of America. The accolades that we consider most important, however, come from our clients. Read about some of our successful cases here. We understand that what matters most to you is getting help for your loved one, and that is the goal we work toward every day.

Contact OnderLaw About Nursing Home Abuse/Neglect Now

If a family member or loved one is suffering abuse or neglect in a nursing facility, you need someone on your side who knows the law and knows how to protect their rights. It may seem like you and your family are trapped in a terrible situation, but we help families seek compensation for injustices like this every day. Our nursing home abuse lawyers can guide you and your family toward the best solution for their care, and we can help you seek compensation from those who subjected them to abuse.

Call us today, or fill out our contact form to get started with a free consultation.