According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), at least 10 percent of older Americans are affected by elder abuse each year. Many suffer this abuse in nursing homes and other facilities where we expect our elderly or vulnerable adult relatives to be attended to with the highest degree of care, professionalism and compassion and treated with dignity and respect. When that does not happen, the results can be tragic.
As elder law attorneys, we help victims of abuse and their family members by holding those who have caused harm responsible for their actions. For more than 20 years, we have successfully represented clients in lawsuits regarding neglect or abuse, including:
- Nursing home abuse: According to one report “13 percent of all complaints to the California Office of the State Long Term Care Ombudsman involved abuse, gross neglect, or exploitation, over twice the national rate of 5 percent.” We work to ensure justice for you or your family member harmed in a skilled nursing facility.
- Assisted living abuse: Similar to nursing home abuse, those living in assisted living facilities may be harmed either physically, mentally, financially or even sexually. We help get compensation for those who were abused or neglected.
- Home health abuse: Increasingly, older Americans seek to receive health care and assistance in their own home. According to a report by AARP, many elderly people who suffer abuse or neglect by home health care aides are afraid to report it for fear they will end up in a nursing home, while others who suffer dementia may not remember the abuse.
- Residential care abuse (RCFE): An RCFE is a Residential Care Facility for the Elderly, including memory care or continuing care retirement (assisted living may also be an RCFE). Like other facilities for the vulnerable elderly, patients are too often subject to abuse or neglect.
Signs of abuse or neglect
Abuse is causing willful and deliberate harm, while neglect is a failure to provide care either intentionally or because the caretaker is undertrained or overwhelmed by duties. Abuse can be emotional, psychological, physical or sexual. It can also be financial abuse, which is defined under California Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act 15610.3 as happening when a person “takes, secretes, appropriates, obtains or retains real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult for a wrongful use or with intent to defraud, or both.” Signs of physical abuse or neglect include:
- Pressure sores: Also called bed sores or decubitus ulcers, these occur when an elderly patient with limited mobility is not repositioned by the nursing home staff or caregiver, or when clean, dry bedding and clothing is not provided. Pressure sores are most often found on heels, ankles, hips or the tailbone. Left untreated, dangerous and even life-threatening infections may occur.
- Falls: Broken bones, contusions, lacerations and bruises are often the result of falls. Even a fall from a short distance can be dangerous for elderly patients with fragile bones. Falls may be caused by medical conditions such as balance, blood pressure or heart problems. They may also be the result of careless transferring from bed to toilet, wheelchair or walker. It is the nursing home’s responsibility to ensure that caregivers are trained to transfer patients and, if they lack the physical strength, that they have assistance from another staff member.
- Choking: Many forms of abuse or neglect can lead to choking, including failure to monitor eating and drinking, lack of attention to medication and medication side effects, allowing a patient to become dehydrated or improper maintenance of breathing tubes.
- Sepsis: This is a life-threatening condition that occurs when an infection causes inflammation, thereby damaging multiple organs. “Septic shock” causes blood pressure to drop to dangerously low levels with the potential to cause heart failure or stroke. Bed sores and other infections, left untreated or inadequately treated, can cause sepsis.
- Wrongful death: Whether through neglect or abuse, an elderly patient who dies because of the action or inaction of a nursing home, assisted living facility or home care giver because of infection, falls, unsanitary conditions, medication errors or inattention to the patient’s needs may be guilty of wrongful death.
How we can help
Nothing can turn back the clock on abuse or neglect, but for victims or their families, there can be compensation for the damage done. Proving negligence or abuse requires that we show that:
- The victim was 65 or older or an otherwise “dependent adult”
- That the defendant (whether individual or institution) abused the victim
- That the abuse or neglect resulted in damages to the victim
We fight to get maximum compensation for those harmed by abuse or neglect, including medical bills and hospital expenses, psychological counseling, medical equipment, emotional distress and pain and suffering, as well as recovering costs for attorney and associated legal fees.
Get justice for harm caused by nursing home or caretaker abuse or neglect
We hold offenders accountable for their actions. To learn more about how we can help the elderly and their families get justice and compensation, please contact us online or call us at (760) 249-7776 to schedule a free, confidential consultation with Keehn Law.