Every year, more than 300,000 Californians are cared for in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, according to the California Association of Health Facilities. As the population ages and baby boomers reach their retirement years, the number of people entering nursing homes is expected to grow.
As the number of elderly in nursing homes increases, so does the potential for instances of elder abuse. The population living in nursing homes is especially vulnerable to neglect and mistreatment. If you have a loved one in a nursing home in San Diego, how can you be sure that he or she receives the best care possible? What rights do nursing home patients have and how can you know if these rights are being violated? If you suspect someone is abusing a loved one, you have options.
WHAT RIGHTS DO NURSING HOME PATIENTS HAVE?
California’s laws protect nursing home patients and guarantee that all patients are treated with dignity. All patients in nursing homes have the right to:
- Visit with friends and loved ones
- Have privacy in their visits and phone calls
- Participate in social, political and religious activities
- Maintain confidentiality in their medical and financial records
- Live in a safe and clean environment
- Have their complaints heard and addressed
- Participate in and refuse medical treatments and be free from financial pressures from the facility
These are just a few of the rights California statutes provide to nursing home patients. If you believe your loved one’s rights are being infringed upon, promptly investigate the matter and seek legal guidance if need be.
WHAT TYPES OF ISSUES CONSTITUTE ABUSE OR NEGLECT?
There are a wide variety of examples of abuse, mistreatment and neglect in nursing homes. This spans physical abuse, emotional abuse and even financial abuse. Examples of cases include those involving:
- Bedsores — may be the case if the patient is left in one position for too long — could be sign of neglect);
- Falls — might be due to lack of proper assistive devices or assistance from staff;
- Being hit or abused by staff — a very serious crime that can result in criminal charges;
- Broken bones or bruises — this could be a sign of overt physical abuse or neglect if the patient isn’t properly monitored and has frequent falls and other accidents;
- Theft of personal items or financial misconduct — keep an eye out for any strange financial activity in your loved one’s accounts.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I SUSPECT ABUSE?
Sometimes, elder abuse is easy to spot. Broken bones, suspicious bruises or frequent accidents are possible signs of problems in the facility. Other times, it may be difficult to tell if your concerns about a facility are warranted.
Speak with your loved one often and ask about his or her experiences. When you visit, take note of the conditions at the facility and the condition of the person you are visiting. Is your loved one happy and engaged or does he or she seem nervous or withdrawn? Does your loved one appear clean and cared for? Is your loved one able to speak freely or do your visits seem to be monitored by the staff?
If you suspect a patient in a nursing home is being neglected or abused or if a nursing home patient suffered an accident you believe could have been avoided, document all suspicious incidents or occurrences. Take pictures of any injuries, record the dates and times of any suspected instances of mistreatment or neglect, and speak with your loved one frequently.
WHO SHOULD I CONTACT TO REPORT ELDER ABUSE?
If you believe a patient is being abused, report your concerns to your local long-term care ombudsman. In San Diego, the Aging & Independent Services for the county can be reached at 855-964-3900.
After you speak to your ombudsman, contact Hiden, Rott & Oertle, LLP. Our attorneys can review your loved one’s situation and advise you on the options you should take. Call 619-369-3323 to set up your free consultation today.