Even Seniors Face Crippling Student Debt

While not an absolute rule, seniors or the elderly tend to be the predominant residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Naturally, with age this part of the population is more likely to encounter situations of illness or physical or mental disability. A major challenge for seniors and their families is not only finding the right nursing home that is suitable for the patient resident’s needs, but also the task of finding one that is affordable.

Nursing homes can cost a fortune, and by that alone they should be expected to provide the absolute best quality of care to their residents. It is also important to find a home that one can afford, typically through private insurance or public plans like Medicare or Medicaid. This is not always so easy, though, and seniors are often left out in the cold or struggling just to pay the care bills. An added burden occurs where seniors already have existing debt for other things, which can drain their finances and make it tougher to find the right care.

The Student Loan Problem

Fines to Increase at Assisted-Living Facilities

New Bill Raises Penalties for ElderSacramento_Capitol Abuse and Neglect

Is the state of California taking seriously the problems with nursing home abuse and elder neglect at assisted-living facilities?  According to a recent article in UT San Diego, Governor Jerry Brown just signed into law a bill that will impose “a 100-fold increase in the top fine for violations of state regulations at assisted-living homes for the elderly.”  Before Governor Brown signed the bill, the highest fine for a violation that results in the death of a resident was only $150.  Now, the top fine rose drastically to $15,000.

Fines for elder abuse and neglect resulting in the death of an older adult are not the only penalty increases.  To be sure, the bill will also raise the maximum fine for “violations leading to serious injury or abuse from $150 to $10,000.”  And the new law will not just apply to assisted-living facilities, as was originally proposed in the bill co-authored by Assemblyman Brian Maienschein of San Diego.  It will “apply to all community care facilities in the state.”

Governor Brown already signed 13 different bills related to reforming assisted-living homes in California.  The legislature is working to effect change in our state, and new laws will apply to more than 7,500 facilities across California.  According to the article, these bills represent the “most sweeping overhaul of the industry in nearly three decades.”

Legislation Aimed at Residents’ Rights

In addition to increasing penalties for violations, the new legislation also provides residents in assisted-living homes with a statutory bill of rights.  It looks a lot like the bill of rights that currently exists to protect patients in nursing homes.

What else will the bills bring?  Staff at assisted-living facilities must now meet “stiffer training requirements.” For instance, administrators will face a training mandate of 80 hours, which is double the 40-hour training time required before the new laws. Staff trainings will also provide greater information about caring for residents who suffer from dementia.

Additionally, the owners of these facilities “will pay higher licensing fees.”  In fact, licensing fees will see a “20-percent hike,” which is “enough to provide much needed funds to the Department of Social Services” as it regulates assisted-living facilities throughout the state. The new laws will also require that a staff member trained in CPR “be present at the homes at all times,” and employees will be freer to call 911 for assistance with residents who need medical treatment.

According to Patricia McGinnis, the executive director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, the new reform package signed by Governor Brown is “a major victory for assisted living residents.”  Yet, she emphasized that there’s still more work to be done.  “We look at it as a good start,” she explained, “but we’re not finished by any stretch of the imagination.”

Do you have an elderly loved one who currently resides in an assisted-living facility?  It is very important to know the signs and symptoms of elder abuse and neglect.  If you suspect that an older adult has been the victim of abuse, contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer today.

See Related Blog Posts:

Nursing Homes and Federal Reporting Requirements for Elder Abuse

Elderly Conservatee Rights Violation

Photo Credit: Sascha Brück via Wikimedia Commons

Fines to Increase at Assisted-Living Facilities

New Bill Raises Penalties for ElderSacramento_Capitol Abuse and Neglect

Is the state of California taking seriously the problems with nursing home abuse and elder neglect at assisted-living facilities?  According to a recent article in UT San Diego, Governor Jerry Brown just signed into law a bill that will impose “a 100-fold increase in the top fine for violations of state regulations at assisted-living homes for the elderly.”  Before Governor Brown signed the bill, the highest fine for a violation that results in the death of a resident was only $150.  Now, the top fine rose drastically to $15,000.

Fines for elder abuse and neglect resulting in the death of an older adult are not the only penalty increases.  To be sure, the bill will also raise the maximum fine for “violations leading to serious injury or abuse from $150 to $10,000.”  And the new law will not just apply to assisted-living facilities, as was originally proposed in the bill co-authored by Assemblyman Brian Maienschein of San Diego.  It will “apply to all community care facilities in the state.”

Governor Brown already signed 13 different bills related to reforming assisted-living homes in California.  The legislature is working to effect change in our state, and new laws will apply to more than 7,500 facilities across California.  According to the article, these bills represent the “most sweeping overhaul of the industry in nearly three decades.”

Legislation Aimed at Residents’ Rights

In addition to increasing penalties for violations, the new legislation also provides residents in assisted-living homes with a statutory bill of rights.  It looks a lot like the bill of rights that currently exists to protect patients in nursing homes.

What else will the bills bring?  Staff at assisted-living facilities must now meet “stiffer training requirements.” For instance, administrators will face a training mandate of 80 hours, which is double the 40-hour training time required before the new laws. Staff trainings will also provide greater information about caring for residents who suffer from dementia.

Additionally, the owners of these facilities “will pay higher licensing fees.”  In fact, licensing fees will see a “20-percent hike,” which is “enough to provide much needed funds to the Department of Social Services” as it regulates assisted-living facilities throughout the state. The new laws will also require that a staff member trained in CPR “be present at the homes at all times,” and employees will be freer to call 911 for assistance with residents who need medical treatment.

According to Patricia McGinnis, the executive director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, the new reform package signed by Governor Brown is “a major victory for assisted living residents.”  Yet, she emphasized that there’s still more work to be done.  “We look at it as a good start,” she explained, “but we’re not finished by any stretch of the imagination.”

Do you have an elderly loved one who currently resides in an assisted-living facility?  It is very important to know the signs and symptoms of elder abuse and neglect.  If you suspect that an older adult has been the victim of abuse, contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer today.

See Related Blog Posts:

Nursing Homes and Federal Reporting Requirements for Elder Abuse

Elderly Conservatee Rights Violation

Photo Credit: Sascha Brück via Wikimedia Commons

Gov. Candidate Rauner Alleged Invovled in Shady Dealings by Nursing Home Owners to Avoid Liability

We have written time again about the traditional civil and criminal cases that can be brought against nursing homes and/or their administrators, managers, nurses, nursing aides and any other staff. Civil claims can be brought for negligence of or abuse against residents and the consequent damages, which can include mental anguish, physical injury, and sometimes even death. There can also be financial exploitation whereby a staffer steals money or jewelry from residents. In so many instances staffers take advantage of the diminished mental states of patients.

In addition to civil claims for damages, staffers can be charged in certain instances. Nursing homes can also be subject to civil penalties under the False Claims Act where they abuse access to federal funds by overcharging or falsely charging for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. Recently, however, a nursing home sits at the center of a federal bankruptcy trial which we have previously written about. There has been more testimony of late making the media wires.

The Bruce Rauner Situation

Baby Boomers Face Housing Issues

We all know how the Baby Boomer generation, born in the years following World War II, earned that nickname for the very reason that there are so many of them. The Baby Boomer generation is largely attributed as a source of the stress exerted on federal and state programs like social security, Medicare and Medicaid, among many others. As the “Boomers” reach their retirement age, many will over time require a certain level of care even in their pre-elderly years. A significant issue for any retiree, now that they will no longer work full time, and perhaps because the kids are grown and out of the house, is finding a home suitable for the retirement years. A major concern is that the country will not be able to handle this new group and its demands for affordable housing in suitable locations and near the necessary services for those getting into their twilight years.

Would Rather Be at Your Home Than a Nursing Home?

There has been a rise in at-home or “community” nursing care in recent months and years, as many patients have opted to receive care at home. Yet this has not been an easy option for everyone. In a recent case in New York, an elderly man who had been released from a hospital to go to a nursing home for rehabilitation had been down this road multiple times. And with time, he grew weaker and more prone to illness such that he would end up back in the hospital anyway. It was the wish of both he and his daughter who looked after his care for him to simply go home where he could be most comfortable in what would likely be his final days. Yet he essentially was not allowed to go home and was again pushed back to a nursing home after his latest stay at the hospital. This was the doing of the healthcare system.

The patient in this case qualified for both Medicare as well as Medicaid reimbursement, but services that provided in-home care would not take him on as a client because they did not see it as profitable. Hospitals in general often try to get patients out so space can be made for others. And hospices would not provide care with Medicaid funding, and only in limited circumstances under Medicare, thus simply making it difficult to put this man in a hospice. Nursing homes have been generally more than happy to take on such patients, though, even in situations where they are unable to provide the adequate level and quality of care.

Nursing Homes and Federal Reporting Requirements for Elder Abuse

Are nursing homes in California abiding by federal regulations for reporting allegations of elder abuse or neglect?  According to a recent report released by the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), not all facilities are reporting incidents of nursing home abuse.

Reporting Requirements and IncrHHSeasing Rates of Elder Abuse

The HHS report emphasized that about five million elderly Americans (or ten percent of the elderly population) sustain injuries from physical abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation.  However, these crimes are not always reported.

Under federal regulations, nursing home residents “must not be subjected to abuse by anyone, including, but not limited to, facility staff.”  In addition, those nursing home residents have “the right to be free from mistreatment, neglect, and misappropriation of property.”

When it comes to reporting, all nursing facilities that are Medicare and/or Medicaid-certified “must report alleged violations involving mistreatment, neglect, or abuse, including injuries of unknown source and misappropriation of property.”  Any allegations of abuse or neglect must be reported to “the facility administrator or designee and the State survey agency within 24 hours.”  Additionally, the results of investigations that take place following a report of abuse must be reported within five working days to the same state authorities.

Federal law also requires “owners, operators, employees, managers, agents, or contractors of nursing facilities” to report any “reasonable suspicions of crimes.”  In other words, if you are affiliated with a nursing home, you are very likely required to report signs or allegations of elder abuse.

Methods and Conclusions of the HHS Study

HHS undertook the study to protect the health and safety of nursing home residents, especially given that the elderly population is on the rise.  HHS researchers reviewed policies on abuse reporting and policies related to reporting suspicious incidents at a sample of nursing homes across the country; it also conducted surveys of administrators at those facilities.  The study took a close look at the allegations that were reported.

The researchers came to some of the following conclusions:

  • 85 percent of nursing homes sampled reported at least one allegation of nursing home abuse or neglect in 2012;
  • 76 percent of those nursing homes had clear policies that addressed federal regulations for reporting;
  • 61 percent of nursing homes kept documentation about their compliance with federal reporting regulations;
  • 53 percent of allegations likely were reported properly.

In short, a number of nursing homes are reporting some incidents of elder abuse, but it is quite likely that only about half of all nursing facilities are properly reporting all incidents of abuse or neglect that take place.

If your elderly parent or loved one may have been the victim of nursing home abuse, it is important to contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer.  Even the smallest signs and symptoms can cause reason to worry, and you should always speak with an elder justice advocate about your case.

See Related Blog Posts:

Elderly Conservatee Rights Violation

California Nursing Home Sued for Overmedicating Residents

Elderly Conservatee Rights Violation

A recent article in the Examiner alleges that Scott Phipps of Phisco Fiduciary committed elder abuse against a senior conservatee, Elinor Frerichs.  Elder advocates argue that Scott Phipps kept Frerichs “confined and isolated” at Lakeside Park, her asfile0001748266226sisted living facility in Oakland.  If true, the fiduciary may have violated the rights provided to conservatees in the state of California.

Conservatee’s Rights in California

According to the Notice of Conservatee’s Rights, our state makes clear that, when an elderly person becomes a conservatee, they do not lose all rights to handle decisions.  Indeed, “he or she does not necessarily lose the right to take part in important decisions affecting his or her property and way of life.”  The conservatee is entitled to “ask questions and to express concerns and complaints about the conservatorship and the actions of his or her conservator.”

The conservatee retains the following rights after a conservator is appointed:

  •      Right to be represented by a lawyer;
  •      Right to ask a judge to replace the conservator;
  •      Right to ask a judge to end the conservatorship;
  •      Right to make a will or change a will;
  •      Right to directly receive and control his or her salary; and
  •      Right to control an allowance (defined as “personal spending money” authorized by the court).

Elder Advocates Allege Fiduciary Committed Elder Abuse

According to the article, Elinor Frerichs was denied the right to see visitors, or even to maintain any contact with the outside world.  Scott Phipps, a Professional Fiduciary through the Professional Fiduciaries Bureau (PFB), denied Frerichs access to visitation, phone calls, or personal mail—all of which are guaranteed by Assembly Bill 937 (2013).  Assembly Bill 937 amended the California Probate Code to “clarify that conservatees have the right to visitation, phone calls, and personal mail.”  The Notice of Conservatee’s Rights already emphasizes that conservatees have the right to see visitors.

On September 12, Phipps asked a judge to “[t]ake away Elinor’s right to visitation.”  Frerichs previously stated she wanted to attend her hearing to ask the judge to replace her conservator because she no longer wanted Phipps as her conservator.  However, Phipps did not permit Frerichs to attend her hearing (as she is permitted to do by the Notice of Conservatee’s Rights), and thus “failed to represent Elinor’s wishes to the judge.”  Based on Phipp’s presentation to the court, “the judge limited Elinor’s visitation rights going forward.”

On September 15, Elaine Renoire, President of the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse (NASGA), phoned Lakeside Park and requested to speak with Frerichs, but Lakeside Park would not allow Frerichs to receive the phone call.  Other elder advocates expressed serious concern about Scott Phipps and the role of conservators, as well as the possible role that Lakeside Park played in permitting elder abuse.

If your elderly loved one has been mistreated in a nursing home or assisted living facility, do not wait to contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer.  At the Walton Law Firm, our elder abuse lawyers can discuss your case with you today.  Contact us to learn more.

Photo Credit: sante1 via morgueFile

See Related Blog Posts:

Northern California Nursing Home Sued for Overmedicating Residents

Sacramento Lawyer Charged with Elder Abuse

92-Year Old Suffers Abuse at Syracuse Nursing Home

Many of the physical, verbal, sexual, and financial abuse and exploitation cases we have seen across the country, including in Illinois, are often attributed to the acts or failures to act by staffers like nurses, nursing aides and other assistants. Management tends to be implicated where there is a negligent hiring, and/or a failure to train and failure to supervise. However, in a relatively recent case in late August of this year, a nurse manager was accused of physically abusing a patient resident at the Loretto Health and Rehabilitation Center in Syracuse, New York. To make things worse, the manager has been accused of covering up the incident by falsifying certain records.

The New York State Attorney General’s Office filed a felony complaint in court against the manager after investigating the case, charging her with felony first degree “endangerment of the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person,” as well felony falsification of business records. There was also a misdemeanor charge of a “willful violation of the public health law.” The state has accused the manager of grabbing a 92-year old resident by the arms, lifting the resident out of her bed and shoving her into her wheelchair in spite of the resident’s refusal to move from her bed. This alleged act amounts to a violation that has apparently resulted in bruising on that resident’s arms.

Should There Be Cameras in Nursing Homes?

In the context of abuse and neglect at nursing homes and long-term care facilities, there has been the pressing question of whether or not these facilities should be required to keep cameras in order to monitor the conduct of staff at the facilities. In fact we have written previously in this blog about that issue. Many proponents of such cameras have seen it as a tool to capture illegal or wanton behavior, or to find out if patients are truly not getting the proper care and attention they need. Cameras also pose to act as a deterrent to those who might otherwise consider acting inappropriately, and could also motivate staffers to be more attentive to patients, knowing full well that a failure to visit a patient to check in on them, or to administer timely medication, will be evidenced on camera when staffers fail to make their way to that patient’s room for far too long a time.

The controversy over using or not using cameras in nursing homes continues to brew after news out of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where a staffer at a nursing home was sentenced to a 10-year suspended sentence, four years of which she must serve in custody, after she was found guilty of physically abusing an elderly patient at the nursing home where she works and the patient resides. The victim’s family had themselves put a video camera in their mother’s room at the facility in order to figure out why she had suffered from bruising on her arms and face, as well as after she exhibited perpetual fear at the facility.