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Whether you have an elderly loved one in a Riverside County nursing home or in a skilled nursing facility elsewhere in Southern California, it is critical to be aware of signs and symptoms of elder abuse and neglect. While family members and friends should not have to be the ones to spot warning signs of abuse or neglect, they are often the only ones who do. This kind of problem, highlighting the negligence of various facilities, is often particularly notable in situations in which seniors at nursing homes ultimately require emergency treatment at a hospital due to neglect at the nursing home. 

Indeed, according to a recent article in Reuters, a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicated that “California did not ensure that nursing facilities reported potential abuse or neglect of Medicaid beneficiaries transferred from nursing facilities to hospital emergency rooms.”

Nursing Homes are Supposed to Report Abuse and Neglect

CANHRThe California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) is a statewide nonprofit that has been dedicated to improving the choices, care and quality of life for California’s nursing home residents and families.

On Jul 21, 2021 at 12:00 pm, CANHR will be holding an online town hall to discuss nursing home visitation rights in the Covid era. The goal of the town hall is to provide information to participants about the current state of the statewide visitation rules, and explain how advocacy can be used to gain more visitation access. There will also be a Q&A.

The town hall speakers will be CANHR staff attorneys Tony Chicotel and Mike Dark and Essential Caregivers Coalition co-founders Maitely Weismann and Melody Taylor Stark.

Nursing home residents in San Diego County and throughout Southern California deserve a high quality of care, and they deserve to know when nursing homes have a history of safety violations. For nursing home residents and their families, it should also be possible to rely on the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to conduct proper and timely nursing home inspections, and to attend to complaints of abuse or neglect quickly. Yet as a recent report from KPBS underscores, the CDPH “has long been criticized for failing to properly regulate nursing homes.”

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted particular problems at skilled nursing facilities and the need for improved care and oversight. Yet the CDPH does not seem to have learned any lessons from the pandemic. Indeed, as KPBS reports, the CDPH “is now considering an overhaul of its inspection program that advocates say will further erode the agency’s oversight.” 

New Plan Includes Potentially Problematic Advising Role

Over the last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, nursing homes in Los Angeles County and throughout Southern California were not subject to annual inspections by the California Department of Public Health because of the coronavirus lockdowns. In the last year, many commentators have worried that nursing home conditions—many of which were already poor—were likely to worsen given that friends and family members were not permitted to see nursing home residents and to be in a position to report signs of nursing home abuse and neglect, and that the California Department of Public Health would not be conducting inspections. 

Whether those concerns ultimately prove to be a reality may become clearer in the coming weeks and months as the California Department of Public Health resumes its annual inspections of nursing homes in the state, according to a recent report from KPBS.

State Will Resume Annual Nursing Home Inspections

Before anyone in San Bernardino County had ever heard the term COVID-19 or thought about the possibility of a global pandemic caused by a coronavirus, individuals and families worried about the safety of Southern California nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. For years, skilled nursing facilities across the state have been cited for nursing home abuse and neglect, and people with aging parents have struggled to feel comfortable with the health and safety records of many nursing homes. Further, many serious safety violations occur at nursing homes with no documented history of abuse, suggesting that it is critical to go beyond ratings and safety histories when selecting a skilled nursing facility. But has the COVID-19 pandemic made such decisions even more difficult, and potentially impossible? 

According to a recent article in The New York Times, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the failure of nursing homes across the country to keep elderly residents safe and healthy, has led many families to rethink nursing home care altogether. Indeed, “even with vaccines, many older people and their relatives are weighing how to manage at-home care for those who can no longer live independently.”

Nursing Home Occupancy Rates are Down

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been difficult and often impossible for family members to visit with elderly loved ones at Orange County nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. As more seniors in these facilities are vaccinated, and family members are vaccinated, too, visits are becoming possible again. For anyone who is visiting with an elderly loved one in a skilled nursing facility in Southern California, it is critical to know that the pandemic, while it has indeed drawn attention to problematic issues surrounding infection-control measures, has not lessened the effects of other forms of nursing home abuse and neglect. As such, it will be essential to remain vigilant when you visit the facility. 

If you do suspect nursing home abuse or neglect in an Orange County facility, you should know the steps to take.

Make Sure You Know the Signs and Symptoms of Elder Abuse and Neglect

In Riverside County and throughout Southern California, nursing home residents died as a result of COVID-19 infections. For many of these residents and patients, infections and resulting deaths could have been avoided if facilities were properly staffed and if those facilities had engaged in effective and appropriate infection-control measures. However, as a recent Human Rights Watch report emphasizes, the pandemic has exposed not only the serious negligence of facilities related to controlling COVID-19 infections, but underlying problems at facilities that resulted in worse situations during the pandemic. 

Myopic Focus and Lack of Visitors Led to Increased Nursing Home Neglect Injuries

One of the primary points in the report is this: During the pandemic, many nursing homes across the US had a myopic focus on preventing COVID-19 infections and improving infection-control measures, which resulted in a lack of attention elsewhere. That myopic focus, coupled with the ongoing problem of understaffing, meant that many other injuries unrelated to the coronavirus but resulting from nursing home neglect when unnoticed and untreated.

Whether you have an elderly loved one at a nursing home in Riverside County or elsewhere in Southern California, you should learn more about the recent lawsuit filed by the state of California against Brookdale Senior Living. According to an article in Skilled Nursing News, the lawsuit alleges that Brookdale Senior Living Center, a major nursing home operator in the U.S., submitted “false nursing home staffing data to the federal government” and mishandled resident discharges. 

Staffing data is used in part to determine the rating of a nursing home, since understaffing can be a significant indicator of the possibility of nursing home negligence at a facility. When a nursing home does not have sufficient staff to handle the needs of residents, those residents can sustain serious injuries as a result of passive nursing home neglect. The recent lawsuit against Brookdale Senior Living highlights the significance of staffing data, and the need to hold facilities accountable for providing incorrect information that could misrepresent resident safety risks.

Details of the California Lawsuit Against Brookdale

If you are seeking a nursing home in Los Angeles County and you are particularly concerned about risks of elder abuse or neglect at the facility, how can you determine whether you are selecting a nursing home that will provide a high quality of care for your elderly loved one? Families in Southern California and across the country go through this complicated process, and many of them turn to the star rating system provided by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). However, a recent investigation by The New York Times demonstrates that the CMS star system is significantly flawed, and it may not provide any kind of accurate picture of nursing home safety in California or elsewhere in the country.

What do you need to know about the CMS star system and the risks of using it to find a safe facility where your elderly parent or loved one will not suffer harm as a result of nursing home abuse?

Investigation by The New York Times Reveals Serious Flaws in CMS Nursing Home Star System

It is critical for families and friends of older adults in Riverside County and throughout Southern California to recognize that nursing home abuse is not simply intentional physical or emotional abuse. To be sure, many serious and fatal injuries in nursing homes result from passive neglect, and caregivers can be responsible. According to a recent press release from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a registered nurse (RN) is facing charges related to nursing home neglect and abuse following the death of a 69-year-old female resident at an assisted-living facility in Riverside, California. 

The case underscores that the unintentional failure to provide care in nursing homes or assisted-living facilities can have deadly consequences, and emphasizes the need for families to hold facilities and individual caregivers accountable when their inaction causes serious harm.

Details of the Assisted-Living Facility Death

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