Elder abuse and neglect awareness is more important now than ever

June 3, 2020 | 11:42 am


June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month, and there is not a more important time than now to protect and be mindful of our most vulnerable citizens.

Senior residents have been especially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially those in nursing and care facilities. As of June, more than 25,000 residents died and 60,000 were infected in the United States as the coronavirus swept through our country’s nursing homes, according to federal data, in which about 80 percent of the nation’s nursing homes reported data to the federal government, and statistics include cases since early May.

Unfortunately, those impacted the most are housed in facilities with a history of low marks for staffing and patient care, reports show.

“We have to be able to provide adequate care to our elder loved ones in these faculties, while at the same time protecting them from being infected,” said Matt Clark, senior partner and elder abuse and neglect attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “For them, it’s literally a matter of life and death.”

During “normal” times, California sees 176,000 cases of reported elder abuse cases each year, according to Kern County Aging & Adult Services. And officials estimate that for every case known to reporting agencies, 24 cases go unreported. This month — during Elder Abuse Awareness Month in Kern County, with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15 — Chain | Cohn | Stiles wants to remind everyone of the importance of speaking up for those who cannot, our oldest, frailest and most vulnerable citizens. Our law firm has been at the forefront in fighting for victims of elder abuse in Bakersfield, Kern County and throughout the state.

Local skilled nursing facilities are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks affecting staff and residents alike. The Kern County Department of Public Health says facilities requested immediate help with staffing shortages, and healthcare professionals throughout the state were sent to assist the facility. Recently, the Kern County Board of Supervisors moved forward with a plan to designate an accountability officer from the Kern County Emergency Services to oversee issues at the state-regulated nursing care faculties.

“… It’s an inadequate amount of staffing that leads to poor patient care. Poor patient care leads to poor patient outcomes. Poor patient outcomes especially in the elder care world often times leads to death,” Clark said in an interview with 23ABC.

Local media reported that the California Department of Public Health cited the Kingston Health Care Facility more than a dozen times for serious violations. Several lawsuits have been filed against the facility for elder abuse and neglect and wrongful death, some by Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Clark shares that the best way for people to review nursing home conduct and reports is my visiting Medicare.gov. Users can research any skilled nursing facility, and check ratings and staffing ratios.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, our state’s senior care facilities put residents in danger.  A 2019 investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found that some operators of senior board-and-care homes violated labor laws and often also endangered or neglected their residents, sometimes with dire consequences. Reveal analyzed thousands of licensing records and hundreds of U.S. Department of Labor cases in California and conducted two dozen interviews with workers, residents and their family members in the first comprehensive accounting of failures in care homes whose operators preyed on vulnerable caregivers, many of them poor immigrants, and elderly residents. In California, which has the most licensed senior care homes of any state, federal data showed that operators broke minimum wage, overtime or record-keeping laws in more than 500 cases over the last decade. In 1 in 5 of these cases, operators were cited for health and safety violations that endangered residents, Reveal found.

 

REPORTING ELDER ABUSE, NEGLECT

So why does elder abuse go unreported? Many times, elders have no family to report to. They also fear retaliation from “caregivers,” or they feel shame in regards to abuse. Another reason is they fear they will lose independence, or fear they will upset their own family members. Many times, however, victims simply lack understanding of how to report abuse.

Another issue lies is recognizing elder abuse and neglect. In fact, elder abuse can take many forms including:

  • Physical abuse: Inflicting physical pain or injury on a senior (slapping, bruising or restraining by physical or chemical means).
  • Sexual Abuse: Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.
  • Neglect: The failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder.
  • Exploitation: The illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit.
  • Emotional Abuse: Inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts (humiliating, intimidating, or threatening).
  • Abandonment: Desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
  • Self-neglect: Characterized as the failure of a person to perform essential, self-care tasks and that such failure threatens his/her own health or safety.

Lastly, how do you recognize elder abuse and neglect, and what are the warning signs. Here are a few of them:

  • Bruises, broken bones, abrasions and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect or mistreatment.
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
  • Sudden changes in financial situations.
  • Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene and unusual weight loss.
  • Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.
  • Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person.
  • If you notice changes in a senior’s personality or behavior, you should start to question what is going on.

It’s important to alert others if you have suspicions, and to retain an attorney. In an emergency, call 9-1-1. To report cases of elder abuse, whether it is on your own behalf or that of someone you know, please call Adult Protective Services as part of the Kern County Aging & Adult Services, or contact the Long-Term Care Ombudsman.

  • Adult Protective Services responds to reports from individuals, concerned citizens, social service and health providers, and law enforcement representatives about developmental disabled adults, physically and mentally disabled adults, and the elderly who may be physically or financially abused, neglected, or exploited. Upon receipt of a referral, APS sends a social worker to make a home visit or contact the elder or dependent adult.
    • 24-Hour Hotline: 800-277-7866 or 661-868-1006
  • Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program investigates elder abuse complaints in long-term care facilities and in residential care facilities for the elderly. The primary responsibility of the program is to investigate and endeavor to resolve complaints made by, or on behalf of, individual residents in these facilities, including nursing homes, residential care facilities for the elderly, and assisted living facilities. The goal of the program is to advocate for the rights of all residents in long term care.
    • Phone: 661-323-7884

And if you or someone you know experiences elder abuse or neglect, please contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the law firm’s specialized website focused on elder abuse at bakersfieldelderabuse.com.

Elder Abuse Awareness: Coming together to stop violence towards our most vulnerable citizens

June 13, 2018 | 3:36 pm


California sees 176,000 cases of reported elder abuse cases each year, with more than 4,000 reported in 2017, according to Kern County Aging & Adult Services.

What’s worse is officials estimate that for every case known to reporting agencies, 24 cases go unreported.

This month — during Elder Abuse Awareness Month in Kern County, with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day falling this year on Friday, June 15 — Chain | Cohn | Stiles wants to remind everyone of the importance of speaking up for those who cannot, our oldest, frailest and most vulnerable citizens. Our law firm has been at the forefront in fighting for victims of elder abuse in Bakersfield, Kern County and throughout the state.

“We want everyone to focus attention on the problem of physical, emotional, and financial abuse of elders,” said Matt Clark, attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “We all need to come together to reduce incidents of violence towards elders, increase reporting of such abuse, and to develop elder-friendly policies.”

In a recent Eyewitness News story focused on the rise of elder abuse in Kern County, Clark provided information on elder abuse and neglect civil cases, and what people can do to make sure their loved ones are not victims. Watch the news story by clicking here.

Clark also was a special guest on The Moneywise Guys radio show to discuss “How to prevent + recognize elder abuse, not just financial abuse. You can listen to the show by clicking here.

The Kern County Board of Supervisors issued a proclamation on June 5 proclaiming the Month of June as Elder Abuse Awareness Month and Aging & Adult Services in collaboration with the Commission on Aging, Kern County District Attorney’s Office and Behavioral Health and Recovery Services hosting the 21st Annual Elder Abuse Prevention Conference on June 14.

According to the Archives of General Psychiatry, by the age of 75 half of all Americans will have experienced a diagnosable mental disorder and yet, less than one-third receive appropriate care. Why does elder abuse go unreported? Many times, elders have no family to report to. They also fear retaliation from “caregivers,” or they feel shame in regards to abuse. Another reason is they fear they will lose independence, or fear they will upset their own family members. Many times, however, victims simply lack understanding of how to report abuse.

To report cases of abuse locally, whether it is on your own behalf or that of someone you know, please call Adult Protective Services or the Long-Term Care Ombudsman:

  • Adult Protective Services responds to reports from individuals, concerned citizens, social service and health providers, and law enforcement representatives about developmental disabled adults, physically and mentally disabled adults, and the elderly who may be physically or financially abused, neglected, or exploited. Upon receipt of a referral, APS sends a social worker to make a home visit or contact the elder or dependent adult.
    • 24-Hour Hotline: 800-277-7866 or 661-868-1006
  • Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program investigates elder abuse complaints in long-term care facilities and in residential care facilities for the elderly. The primary responsibility of the program is to investigate and endeavor to resolve complaints made by, or on behalf of, individual residents in these facilities, including nursing homes, residential care facilities for the elderly, and assisted living facilities. The goal of the program is to advocate for the rights of all residents in long term care.
    • Phone: 661-323-7884

And if you or someone you know experiences elder abuse or neglect, please contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the law firm’s specialized website focused on elder abuse at bakersfieldelderabuse.com.

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LEARN MORE

Elder Abuse Awareness: Signs to identify physical, emotional, financial abuse of loved ones

June 29, 2016 | 7:00 am


World Elder Abuse Awareness Day took place earlier this month — and is recognized each year on June 15 — but it’s important to focus attention on the problem of physical, emotional, and financial abuse of elders every day.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, about 5 million cases of elder abuse occur every year; however, only about one in every 23 cases get reported. It can happen in a nursing home, in the home of your loved ones by an in-home nurse, or ever over the phone or on the Internet.

At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, our attorneys for decades have focused on helping victims and families who have experienced elder abuse. In fact, David Stiles, who serves as “of counsel” at the law firm, has been recognized as one of the most respected elder abuse lawyers in California.

Elder abuse can take many forms:

  • Physical Abuse: Physically harming an elderly person, by a caregiver for example.
  • Emotional Abuse: Mentally harming an elderly person by insulting him or her, or talking down to the victim.
  • Sexual Abuse: Touching of a victim inappropriately by a caregiver and without consent.
  • Exploitation: Tricking an elderly person into giving them money or property rights, and taking advantage for profit.
  • Neglect and Abandonment: Disregarding the needs of an elderly person, and leaving him or her alone for long periods of time with no help.

Unfortunately, elder abuse can take place at any time, and it can happen to anyone, and that’s why it is important to be aware of it. Here are a few warning signs, courtesy of National Center on Elder Abuse, to keep a watchful eye:

  • Unexplained bruises or welts on their body.
  • Loved ones becoming isolated or not allowed to contact family.
  • Caregiver is overly controlling or verbally abusive.
  • Bruises around pelvic and genitalia areas, or unexplained sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Sudden changes in loved one’s finances.
  • Ulcers from not being moved around properly, malnutrition and lack of basic hygiene.

A new video by Chain | Cohn | Stiles focuses on the effects of elder abuse and neglect on families, and how our attorneys can help. Click here to watch the video featuring attorney Neil Gehlawat.

Currently, Chain | Cohn | Stiles is representing the family of a man who drowned while unsupervised in a senior living facility in Bakersfield formerly known as Glenwood Gardens.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was launched in 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations. Its purpose is to “provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.”

— By Marisol Earnest for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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If you or someone you know has been a victim of elder abuse, call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.