California’s Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (“EADACPA”) defines elder abuse as the “physical abuse, neglect, financial abuse, abandonment, isolation, abduction, or other treatment with resulting physical harm, pain or mental suffering.” It is also defined as the deprivation by a care custodian of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering. Nursing home abuse can lead to mental disabilities, serious illnesses, and even death.
This definition mirrors that of the World Health Organization (WHO), which estimates that one in six people aged 60 years and older experiences some form of abuse in their community annually. Furthermore, in institutions such as nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, the WHO reports that rates of abuse of older people appear to be even higher, with two of three staff reporting that they have abused an older person.
Some common forms of abuse include:
Serious Neglect – In its most basic form, a resident who is not receiving necessary care is neglected. This could include lack of hygiene, activities, failing to administer medications, or ignoring requests for help.
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Neglect can be categorized as “abandonment” or “willful”, where the caregiver is simply abdicating its duties; and “unintentional”, where perhaps no malice took place, but the caregiver’s absence led to injury or pain. When neglect occurs repeatedly, chronically, or over a long period of time, the conduct of the caregiver can be characterized as reckless and create liability under the EADACPA.
Consider how neglect can lead to bed sores, which cause over 60,000 deaths each year according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. An injured or immobile resident who is not turned and repositioned regularly, who is left in their own urine or feces for extended periods of time, who is not provided sufficient hydration or nutrition, and who is not assessed regularly for skin integrity issues can suffer from bed sores, also called pressure ulcers, which will causes unnecessary pain and suffering and increase the resident’s risk for other potentially dangerous infections. Our firm has handled many bed sore cases which occurred as a direct result of the intentional understaffing of the facility by the managers and owners who, ultimately, are responsible for the health and welfare of the residents at their facility.
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Likewise, a nursing home resident who is at a high risk for falls might not be afforded basic fall precautions which will inevitably lead to dangerous falls which result in fractures, brain bleeds, and other serious injuries. Simple and routine monitoring by nursing home staff, as well as established fall precautions can prevent falls, but too often overworked staff at nursing homes and assisted living facilities simply fail to provide their residents needed care and precautions.
 See California Welfare & Institutions Code §15657.
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Residents with dementia and other cognitive deficiencies are at a high risk of elopement from nursing homes and assisted living facilities. These residents may become confused, disoriented, or lost and simply leave the facility without anyone noticing. All of these examples of serious neglect occur far too often in facilities who provide care and treatment for our elderly loved ones. Establishing liability at trial for this neglect can be a difficult and daunting task.
Physical Abuse – Many nursing home residents suffer from physical violence at the hands of certified nursing assistants and nurses, as well as other residents or even visitors. This may include rough handling, punching, or hitting, and often causes serious injury, as well as unnecessary pain and suffering.
Mental or Emotional Abuse – Even if a resident had not previously suffered from a mental condition, a traumatic experience can lead to mental abuse. This can stem from general cruelty, receiving threats, or intimidation, and can be exacerbated by their advanced age. Further, Residents of nursing homes suffer from a disproportionately higher rate of emotional trauma than elderly individuals living elsewhere. This is often tied to mental abuse and physical neglect, and if a resident shows signs of depression or anxiety, medical attention and legal representation are needed to determine the reason behind this trauma.