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Virus_Outbreak_California_Nursing_Homes_57249-300x208One of the great tragedies of the coronavirus pandemic is the disparate impact it has had on some of our most vulnerable citizens including elderly patients residing in Southern California nursing homes. Thousands of elderly nursing home residents across the country have died from coronavirus. Indeed, one of the first coronavirus outbreaks occurred in a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington where 129 residents, staff, and visitors fell ill with covid-19 and 40 died. In an unexpected twist of logic, many nursing homes are discharging long-term residents to care for patients with coronavirus. Why? Money, of course, even though this presents an increased risk to other residents of nursing homes and to their staff.

Caring for a patient sick with Covid-19 earns a Los Angeles nursing home, for example, significantly more money than can be charged for a non-Covid-19 patient who needs assistance with long term more mild conditions. In the fall of 2019, Medicare funding changed offering increased payments to nursing homes caring for patients who have recently been discharged from the hospital. The first weeks after their discharge, nursing homes earn up to four times of the daily amount offered for a long-term resident. For example, a nursing home can earn $800 per day for a COVID-19 patient while earning only $200 per day for a patient with dementia.

Thus, nursing homes have great incentive to attract those patients recently released from hospitals who are severely ill and require skilled nursing. To have the space to care for those patients, nursing homes must free up beds in their facilities. How does that happen? The long-term, less valuable patients are discharged, often under conditions that imperil their health and safety. Families of the soon to be discharged patients are called and told their loved one will be discharged sometimes in as few as 10 days, leaving no time to plan for or to find appropriate alternative housing for the patient. Little consideration is given to a patient’s level of income or to their well-being. Instead, the nursing homes while turning their backs on their vulnerable long-term residents tout their care of Covid-19 patients as a public benefit.

max-larochelle-421822-copy-240x300Whether your elderly loved one is located in a nursing home in Riverside County or a facility in another part of California, a recent article in Kaiser Health News suggests that natural disasters—and preparation for them—ultimately may reveal possibilities of increased risk of nursing home neglect injuries in facilities. The article cites information from a new report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. As that report explains, when federal health officials visited 20 nursing homes in the state to determine whether the facilities were prepared for natural disasters including fires and earthquakes, they determined that there were other more pressing safety violations at those nursing homes. We want to tell you more about the Kaiser Health News report and its findings.

Nursing Homes Have More Serious Violations Than Mere Lack of Natural Disaster Preparedness

The federal health officials who visited nursing homes in California to determine their preparedness for a natural disaster found, by and large, that the facilities were not prepared for a natural disaster. Indeed, facilities were so unprepared that federal health officials indicated hundreds of nursing home residents throughout the state could be at serious risk of injury or even death. The article clarifies: “Inspectors found hundreds of potentially life-threatening violations of safety and emergency requirements, including blocked emergency exit doors, unsafe use of power strips and extension cords, and inadequate fuel for emergency generators.”

obed-hernandez-592136-unsplash-copy-212x300When you are considering the possibility of moving an elderly loved one into a nursing home or assisted living facility in Encinitas, it can be difficult to determine whether a particular facility is likely to be a safe and healthy space for your loved one if it does not have any obvious problems. Many families look for histories of elder abuse violations, and check to see whether certain facilities have warning labels from the federal government. 

However, according to a recent report in The Mercury News, a new Senate report indicates “nearly 400 facilities nationwide had a persistent record of poor care . . . but they were not included along with a shorter list of homes that get increased federal scrutiny and do have warning labels. For families in California, it is important to know that 34 of these potentially dangerous facilities are located in the state of California.

Budget Cuts Limit Federal Inspections of Facilities, Resulting in Lack of Transparency

LAFD_ambulanceWhen an elderly loved one in San Diego requires nearly constant medical care, many family members are at their most concerned when that loved one has to be hospitalized. However, according to a recent article in California Healthline, one of the most dangerous periods for elderly patients actually starts after they leave the hospital, and perhaps not for the reasons you might think. The problem is not that the elderly person does not receive sufficient care after a hospital visit, but rather that the patient failed to receive proper care while in the healthcare facility. Does this rise to the level of elder neglect?

Problems Associated with Poor Transitional Care

The time between leaving the hospital and receiving care either from a home caregiver or staff members at a nursing home in Southern California is known as a period of “transitional care.” As Alicia Arbaje, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine explains, “poor transitional care is a huge, huge issue for everybody, but especially for older people with complex needs.” While “the most risky transition,” Arbaje explains, “is from hospital to home with the additional need for home care services,” since it is the type of situation about which the least is known, injuries resulting from poor transitional care can also happen when the patient goes from a hospital to a local nursing home.

Recent news reports from U-T San Diego have emphasized serious elder care neglect issues in Southern California. From fatal medical errors to clear-cut cases of nursing home abuse, many facilities in the San Diego area don’t appear to be up to snuff. Yet, there’s even more troubling news. According to a recent article in U-T San Diego, it looks as if there may be a serious problem with enforcement. Even when the state steps in and fines these senior homes, the facilities aren’t paying up. The article succinctly explained, “a key mechanism in getting assisted-living homes to live up to their commitment to take proper care of seniors is broken.”

Old%20Man%20Credit.jpgIf residential facilities are not held to the fines levied against them by the California Department of Social Services when they’re found to have committed elder abuse or elder neglect, what is to stop these care homes from behaving negligently? It can be difficult to know whether a loved one has been subject to nursing home abuse and neglect, but it’s always a good idea to speak to an elder justice advocate. If you believe an older adult has been the victim of elder neglect, you should contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney.

Negligent Fine Collection by the Department of Social Services?

Do you have an elderly parent or loved one who has survived cardiac arrest in a nursing home or assisted-living facility? A recent post in the New York Times blog “The New Old Age” suggested that recent medical studies show encouraging results for patient survival after experiencing a heart attack or other medical situation requiring resuscitation. This new study may have implications for certain patients’ medical decisions and advanced health care directives in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.

In many cases, elderly patients have already made “do not resuscitate” (DNR) decisions, indicating that, in the case of cardiac arrest, the patient does not want to receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Depending on the type of “code blue” that the patient experiences, resuscitation can involve either an electric shock to the heart with a defibrillator, or a medication that’s intended to restore circulation. While cardiac arrest in a medical facility is “more often than not a killer,” you have a greater chance of living through the incident than in years past, and some doctors suggest that this may be a good reason to re-think a DNR decision in your advanced health care directive.

Study Shows Better Odds for Resuscitation Patients

Routine surgeries or hospitalizations can sometimes have unexpected and negative outcomes due to hospital or medical staff negligence. Under California law, a wrongful death suit may be filed when a loved one passes away due to suspected San Diego nursing home abuse or neglect. The Walton Law Firm has successfully prosecuted nursing homes and residential facilities for neglect and abuse for years. We know how to spot the signs and symptoms of neglect and abuse crucial to proving your case.

seniors%20dreaming.jpgUnfortunately, even simple surgeries or procedures can turn deadly due to medical negligence. For example, the widow of a successful businessman has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the doctors and hospital allegedly responsible for her husband’s death, reports the Scranton Times-Tribune. The man died at the hospital in July 2011 after a hernia surgery that ultimately led to complications. In early July, the elderly man entered the hospital for surgery on a recurrent hernia. Just three days later he returned to the hospital complaining of hiccups, shortness of breath, and wheezing and underwent a series of tests and doctor consultations. The next day, he was transferred to the intensive care unit. Doctors reported that the man was showing signs of signs of septic shock. He later went into cardiac arrest and died shortly thereafter.

As our San Diego and Riverside elder abuse attorneys know, sepsis is a condition that can rapidly become worse or even lead to death if not treated properly. Essentially, sepsis is the body’s response to infection. Sepsis is often referred to as blood poisoning and is characterized by inflammation and the presence of a known or suspected infection. Severe sepsis is typically treated in the intensive care unit with intravenous fluids and antibiotics. Aside from inflammation, patients suffering from severe sepsis often suffer from fever and vomiting.

Sadly, however, there is no universal set of symptoms associated with a septic infection, but knowing some of the warning signs can help you identify the presence of sepsis before it is too late. Infection, overwhelming inflammation, and fever are typical signs. Elderly patients may experience shaking chills instead of a fever. Pain, irritability, and confusion may also be signs. Most importantly, if you see a loved one exhibiting some or all of these symptoms, please take your loved one to an emergency room right away so that medical staff can provide a proper diagnosis and the necessary treatment.

The widow’s lawsuit alleges that the negligence of the defendants caused or increased the risk of harm of her husband’s symptoms, condition, and resulting death. In short, it alleges that the hospital’s negligence turned her husband’s hernia deadly.

If you believe that a loved one is suffering from elder abuse or neglect, please get them help immediately. Common signs of San Diego nursing home abuse or elder neglect include bed sores, dehydration, suspicious bruises, and infection. Other indications of poor care at nursing homes can include understaffing, unclean facilities, and a lack of appropriate supervision. If you have questions, our qualified professionals can help provide the answers, and we are happy to help you find the resources you need to ensure that your loved ones are receiving the care and attention they deserve.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Death Certificates in Nursing Home Deaths Often Contain Incorrect Information

Record Falsification Uncovered in California Nursing Homes

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Making the decision to place a loved one in a nursing home is always a difficult and emotional process. The San Diego nursing home neglect lawyer at our firm appreciate that the process is made even more difficult by the fact that most families do not know where to begin when choosing a home. With stories of nursing home mistreatment shared frequently, it is not easy to confidently select a facility where a loved one’s quality of care will be prioritized.

There are no fool-proof ways to chose a long-term care facility without having any risk at all of a senior suffering from neglect or mistreatment. However, one great resource to start with is the “Nursing Home Compare” website supported by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). The website offers various tools which allow those throughout the country to get an idea of how certain nursing home stack up against one another on a wide range of variables. Combining various data sets (mostly based on federal regulatory information), the website also gives virtually all nursing homes in the country a uniform rating of between one and five stars. The rating is perhaps the easiest way to get a split-second estimate of the level of care likely to be provided at any given facility. gold%20star.jpg

This week the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released the results of a study into the CMS rating system. The study was called for by the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act. The research examined the history of the nursing home rating system and the ways that the system might be altered in the future.

senior%20in%20the%20dark.jpgThe American Academy of Neurology’s most recent position statement on abuse and violence recommends that neurologists screen patients for abusive treatment as part of their regular routine. As our North County elder abuse lawyers know, seniors are at serious risk of being mistreated or abused. Unfortunately, abusers often turn out to be the people we expect to be able to trust the most, including nurses, group home staff, and other caretakers.

California elder abuse law prohibits commonly known types of abuse—such as physical or sexual abuse—as well as the negligent failure of caretakers to exercise reasonable caution in the care or custody of an elderly person. That includes providing proper care for a senior’s medical and mental health needs and protecting elders from health and safety hazards. The American Academy of Neurology’s position statement defines elder abuse as abuse or neglect of a person 65 years or older, or of an individual who is physically or mentally disabled.

According to the American Academy of Neurology, the American Medical Association encouraged physicians in 2008 to ask patients about family violence histories on a regular basis because such information is crucial to effective diagnosis and care. Failure to do so can lead to further physical or emotional harm and treatment failure. The authors of the position statement, Elliott A. Shulman, M.D., and Anna DePold Hohler, M.D., state that identification of a patient’s abuse history, if any, is important because it can influence the assessment and treatment of presenting health concerns.

Only 1 out of 7 errors at hospitals are recognized and reported, according to a new report released by the federal government. A New York Times article reports that federal investigators scrutinized errors, accidents, and other events that harm Medicare patients while they are hospitalized. Our San Diego elder abuse lawyer knows that entrusting a family member to a hospital’s care sometimes can be scary, especially if invasive procedures such as surgery are necessary. Unfortunately, there are a number of problems that can occur when a loved one is hospitalized. For example, painful bedsores can occur when a patient lies in the same position for long periods of time without being rotated by a nurse. Patients who need extra attention are at a serious risk of falling and injuring themselves if left unsupervised. Serious infections can also set in, and a delay in treatment could mean the difference between life and death for an elderly loved one.

hosptial%20hallway.jpgOur San Diego elder abuse attorney knows that incident reporting systems ensure that hospitals hold their doctors and other staff members responsible for adverse events. According to the New York Times, an adverse event is any significant harm a patient experiences as a result of medical care. In order to qualify for payment under Medicare, hospitals must keep track of medical errors and adverse patient events. They must then analyze the causes of those errors and make efforts to improve their care.

However, the government report notes that even when hospitals investigate preventable injuries and infections reported by staff, they rarely alter their practices to stop the repetition of such adverse events. Daniel Levinson, inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, stated the investigation uncovered that some of the most serious problems, including those that caused a patient’s death, were never reported. Independent doctors reviewed patient records in order to uncover unreported events. According to Mr. Levinson, more than 130,000 Medicare beneficiaries experienced one or more adverse events in hospitals in a single month.

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