There is a crisis in America’s nursing homes that is not receiving nearly the attention it deserves. The aging population has put a major strain on the country’s healthcare system, and nursing facilities have done very little (if anything) to address this issue. In recent years, a growing number of facilities have become “for-profit” entities, and far too many of them are putting their economic well-being ahead of the residents and patients they are supposed to serve.
In California, there are approximately 1,250 licensed long-term care nursing facilities. Of those, less than 150 receive top ratings. On the other hand, lawmakers recently revealed a long list of troubled nursing homes, dozens of which are located in the Golden State.
Nursing home abuse is widespread in California, and according to the Department of Justice, the number of complaints of neglect, abuse, and exploitation filed against nursing facilities within the state is twice the national rate. California currently has the largest population of individuals over the age of 60, and the number of residents that are over age 65 is expected to double by 2030. Given these demographic trends, abuse and neglect in nursing homes is likely to be a major problem for the foreseeable future.
How to Protect your Aging Loved Ones from Nursing Home Abuse
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), as many as 5 million seniors experience some form of abuse in the United States each year. But as bad as that number is, it is likely a very conservative estimate.
The NCOA goes on to say that only about one out of every 14 cases of abuse are ever formally reported to authorities, and it is easy to understand why. Nursing home residents are entirely dependent on their caregivers for almost everything, and many of them fear reprisal (from their caregivers) if they report abuse and nothing is done about it.
It is easy to believe that nursing home abuse is something that happens to other people, but it could not happen to your loved one. Hopefully that is true and your loved one is in a good place. But given the widespread problems with nursing facilities in California and throughout the country, this is not something you can afford to leave to chance.
Here are some of the most important things family members should do to protect their aging loved ones from abuse and neglect in a nursing facility:
Show Up Frequently: Abuse and neglect are most likely to occur against nursing home residents who do not have many visitors. If, on the other hand, you and others in your family show up regularly, caregivers will realize this and usually make a concerted effort to provide the care your loved one deserves. Create a regular visiting schedule and involve as many family members as possible. In addition, try to throw in some irregular visits just to keep the staff guessing and help ensure that they are always on their best behavior.
Get to Know your Loved One’s Caregiver(s): When you come in to visit, take the time to get to know those who are looking after your loved one. Also ask to meet the supervisors and directors of the facility. Discuss your loved one’s care plan in detail and ask pointed questions of the staff. This level of engagement shows the staff and management that you are concerned about your loved one’s well-being and committed to making sure they are well cared for.
Pay Close Attention to their Living Conditions: As you visit, note the conditions your loved one is living in, as well as their physical and emotional condition. Look for any signs that something may not be the right, like poor hygiene, bedsores, cuts, bruises, and unexplained falls and fractures. Pay special attention to how caregivers answer questions about issues you raise. If their answers are hostile, dismissive, or defensive, then this is a definite sign that you may need to take further actions to protect your loved one.
Consider Installing a Hidden Camera: If you suspect there might be some neglect or abuse happening, but you are not totally certain, one way to confirm your suspicion is to put a hidden camera in their room. The California Department of Social Services allows hidden cameras in nursing homes as long as the patient and the family members involved in their care agree to it.
Take Immediate Action if Abuse or Neglect is Occurring: If you reach the point where you are relatively sure your loved one is being abused, then it is time to take swift action and report it to authorities. You can file a complaint with the California Department of Health online or by calling (916) 492-8232. And if your loved one is in immediate danger and/or this is an emergency, call 911. Finally, get in touch with an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer to discuss the legal aspects of your case and the potential to recover damages against those who have perpetrated these egregious actions or knowingly allowed them to take place.
Contact Garmo & Garmo LLP for a Free Consultation
If the nursing facility that abused your loved one is located in San Diego, El Cajon, or anywhere in Southern California, call Garmo and Garmo, LLP today at 619-441-2500 or message us online for a free consultation and case assessment. We look forward to serving you!