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Monitoring an elderly loved one’s safety and well-being in a San Diego County nursing home can be exhausting, and it is not a role that friends and family members should have to fill. However, given that nursing home abuse and neglect is unfortunately common in Southern California skilled nursing facilities. As such, it is often necessary to learn about the signs and symptoms of various forms of nursing home abuse and neglect when you have an elderly parent or other older relative who lives in a nursing home or assisted-living facility. Yet it can be difficult to know what you should do if you are worried about abuse when you see potential signs of negligence, abuse, or neglect. Should you report the abuse? Should you investigate further yourself? Should you seek advice from a San Diego County nursing home abuse attorney? 

Many people feel uncomfortable initiating an investigation of any type in the event they are mistaken about abuse. Yet it is critical to remember that it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to addressing concerns about nursing home abuse and neglect in Southern California. Generally speaking, you should not decide between reporting the abuse to authorities and initiating a lawsuit. Instead, you should be thinking about reporting your concerns and seeking advice from an attorney who can help.

Seeking Advice From a Nursing Home Abuse Attorney in San Diego County

For over a year now, families have been worried about elderly loved ones residing in Los Angeles County nursing homes due to the spread of COVID-19 and the number of deaths in skilled nursing facilities. Yet when it comes to infection-control measures in Southern California nursing homes, COVID-19 is not the only issue that can result in serious injury and death to nursing home residents. Indeed, just as the pandemic is beginning to get under control through vaccines, health officials are identifying the rise of serious drug-resistant fungal infections in America’s nursing homes. According to a recent article in The New York Times, “a deadly, hard-to-treat fungal infection . . . has been spreading through nursing homes and hospitals across the United States,” and it is “becoming even more dangerous.”

Drug-Resistant Fungal Infection Evades All Medication 

The most worrying recent issue concerning this drug-resistant fungus, Candida auris (or C. auris), is that several cases have been documented in which the infection “was completely impervious to all existing medication,” according to The New York Times article. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the drug resistance recently documented is “an alarming development in the evolution of C. auris.” The CDC describes it as “a tenacious yeast infection discovered in Japan in 2009 that has since spread across much of the world.”

One way in which nursing home residents in San Bernardino can suffer serious injuries during the summer months is dehydration, heat exhaustion, and other hyperthermia conditions. While many people assume that such injuries or conditions may be common during the particularly warm summer months in Southern California, especially when there is a heat wave, yet no residents at skilled nursing facilities in California should suffer from any of these heat-related conditions simply because the outdoor temperatures are setting records. To be sure, nursing homes in California must ensure that residents are safe and are not subject to extreme temperatures that can cause serious harm.   

If a nursing home fails to provide cooler temperatures for residents during the summer months, can that nursing home be held accountable for injuries? Nursing homes certainly may be liable in certain situations where residents sustain hyperthermia-related injuries as a result of nursing home neglect.

Nursing Home Neglect and Hyperthermia

Any older adult who resides in a nursing home in Orange County should be able to expect a certain level of care and should never have to worry about suffering serious harm as a result of neglect. Yet, as seniors and their family members learn much too often, as a result of intentional abuse and passive neglect resulting from understaffing at nursing facilities, elderly residents sustain serious and life-threatening injuries much more frequently than they should. One common harm resulting from nursing home neglect is dehydration, which can lead to serious complications. It is important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of dehydration in a nursing home and to know what you can do in the event an elderly loved one suffers harm as a result of dehydration. 

What is Dehydration?

While the term dehydration might often be used more colloquially to refer to thirst, it is a condition that can be particularly dangerous for older adults who do not have sufficient fluids. According to the Mayo Clinic, a person can suffer from dehydration “when you use or lose more fluid than you take in, and your body doesn’t have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions.”

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

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