Nursing home abuse continues to grow in California as more elderly and vulnerable residents enter these facilities. The amount of people admitted to nursing homes in California is greater than the capacity to house them. This environment creates stress within a nursing home, leading to abuse of their residents.
The California Department of Aging expects that by 2060, the number of people aged 60+ in the United States will grow three times faster, reaching an increase of 489% between 2010 to 2060.
California in particular is projected to double their elderly population from 3.2 million in 2000 to 6.4 million in 2025 according to the California Department of Justice.
If you or a loved one was caught in an unfortunate situation where they were abused in a California nursing home, do not hesitate to seek legal guidance with a nursing home abuse attorney. You deserve reparations for the suffering you endure due to abuse or negligence.
California Nursing Home Resident Rights
California nursing homes have resident rights that staff and other visitors are expected to follow, and infractions on these rules are considered nursing home abuse in California.
Regularly cleaning residents, providing accurate prescriptions, and feeding patients with a steady supply of food and liquids are only some of the responsibilities within the standard of care nursing home residents are entitled to.
Here are further requirements nursing homes must follow to uphold California’s standard of care laws:
- Nursing homes require adequate staffing at all times of the day with a minimum of 3.2 hours of care for each resident per day.
- Nursing homes must have a registered nurse on-location if the Department of Health and Safety requires it, as outlined in California Health and Safety Code §1276.5(a).
- Caretakers must clean residents and provide services to uphold continence throughout the nursing home. Such services include setting up catheters, colostomies, and further ileostomy care, shown in 42 CFR § 483.25.
- Employees must prevent infections by regularly cleaning residents. Negligent behavior like not turning bed-bound residents can result in bed sores and other infections if not cared for by a nurse or physician.
Federal and state laws in California like Title 22 and the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act further protect nursing home residents from abuse.
Without these laws in place, residents don’t have sufficient protection from physical, emotional, and financial harm in nursing home facilities.
What is Title 22?
Title 22 is part of the California Code of Regulations that details everything about Social Security and the ones who require medical assistance from government agencies. The 5th division specifically deals with regulations for health facilities and nursing homes.
Division 5 of Title 22 details crucial rules and defines how nursing homes should treat both their staff and residents. If you suspect that a nursing home is in violation of California law, check Title 22. Then, make sure your nursing home abuse lawyer is an expert on this California law.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse in California
The importance of hiring a nursing home abuse lawyer lies in understanding what type of abuse was inflicted on you or your loved one. Abuse takes on subtle forms that seem harmless, but can have lasting consequences if not addressed immediately.
Physical and Emotional Abuse
Physical nursing home abuse happens when staff inflicts damage to a resident’s body with the intention to cause harm. Punching or kicking residents are violent examples of physical abuse, but any type of excessive physical damage may count for your claim.
One subtle example of physical abuse is the improper use of straps or ties that harm residents in nursing homes. An unfortunate form of physical abuse occurs through sexual abuse, through the form of unwanted touching or sexual contact.
Emotional nursing home abuse is behavior that causes psychological harm to residents, some of which suffer from mental health disorders like Alzheimer’s that make them especially vulnerable to emotional harm.
Verbal harassment, isolation, and psychological manipulation are common forms of emotional abuse that occur in nursing homes throughout California.
Nursing Home Neglect
People in nursing homes have greater basic needs to live a healthy life. Failing to meet those needs constitutes neglect in the state of California. Common examples of nursing home neglect include the following actions:
- Isolating mentally impaired residents
- Failing to provide canes and wheelchairs to those with mobility issues
- Forgetting to give medication to residents
Nursing home neglect differs from abuse because neglect is caused by careless or apathetic behavior. On the other hand, abuse stems from deliberate harm.
For further clarification about nursing home neglect and whether your case applies, consult your nearest nursing home abuse attorney.
Vulnerable nursing home residents may share personal finances with staff that they can then use for financial exploitation. This form of financial abuse occurs when a resident’s money or personal belongings are taken from them or used to manipulate them into taking unwanted actions.
Examples of financial exploitation include:
- Using residents’ bank accounts and credit cards
- Taking belongings from their room
- Changing financial information such as bank accounts, insurance policies, and wills
Early Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Spotting early signs of nursing home abuse will prevent further harm to your loved one and give you time to retaliate with legal action to the nursing home responsible.
Possible signs of physical abuse include:
- Visible bruises, broken bones, and bleeding
- Rapid weight loss or gain
- Unexpected changes in sleeping or eating habits
- Untreated bed sores or unexplained injuries or cuts
Emotional abuse is harder to identify due to not leaving physical injuries, and victims may be reluctant to admit harm due to embarrassment or shame in their condition. Here are key signs to watch out for when suspecting emotional abuse:
- Fearing their caregiver
- Depression or withdrawn behavior
- Rocking back and forth
- Poor hygiene and stained clothing
- Withdrawing from social activities
Carefully observe the caregiver’s behavior to see whether their actions constitute emotional abuse. Document what actions stand out to further bolster your nursing home abuse claim.
There are certain signs to keep watch for that signal nursing home financial abuse, such as:
- Unusual spending behavior
- Unexpected changes in insurance policy or wills
- Unexplained checks written out to nursing home staff or administration
- Missing belongings
- Reluctance to talk about financial issues they were comfortable with in the past
How Do I Report Nursing Home Abuse in California?
When reporting nursing home abuse, it is important to gather the following information before forming your claim:
- Name, address, and phone number of the nursing home
- Name of the resident
- Your contact info and relationship to the resident abused
- Brief summary of the abuse that occurred
- Suspected abuse cases and dates/times of those incidents
- Names of witnesses involved
- Names of staff members suspected of the abuse
If someone’s health is in immediate jeopardy, call 911 before all else. Ensure the safety of those around you before making any other call.
Document as much information as possible about the abuse like photos of injuries, medical records, and eyewitness accounts to strengthen your nursing home abuse claim.
Here are a list of associations to report your nursing home abuse claim:
- The California Department of Public Health oversees nursing home abuse cases and is legally required to respond to your report in a timely manner according to California Health & Safety Code §1420.
- The California Long-Term Care Ombudsman has a CRISISline number available 24 hours for emergency calls about nursing home complaints: 1-800-231-4024.
- The California Department of Justice DMFEA responds to elder abuse complaints and Medi-Cal fraud online or by calling (800) 722-0432.
- If you are not comfortable reporting the abuse to the above departments, you can create a report to your local sheriff or police department for an investigation.
After reporting your case, it is important to find a nursing home abuse attorney to represent you for your claim. You may be owed compensation for the damages you and your loved one suffered at the hands of a neglectful or abusive nursing home.
Types of Damages You Can Receive
Compensatory damages and punitive damages are the two types of compensation you may receive in a nursing home abuse claim. The amount you get depends on the severity of your losses and how liable the nursing home is for damages.
Compensatory damages, also known as ‘actual damages’, are compensation awarded to victims. The amount depends on how much harm or losses they suffered due to negligence or maliciousness from the guilty party, in this case a nursing home.
These types of compensatory damages can take the form of economic damages like medical bills, lost income, and loss of personal belongings. Economic damages are measurable losses that you can track via receipts.
Another form of compensatory damages, non-economic damages, deals with non-measurable harm to the resident. Pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and emotional distress are damages you cannot measure through receipts. However, they may be even more painful than physical injuries from the abuse.
If the judge rules that the nursing home’s actions against your loved one was caused by deliberate recklessness, you may be awarded additional punitive damages to further punish the guilty party.
In California, the court awards punitive damages only for actions that prove oppression, fraud, or malice. Cases involving punitive damages stem from deliberate harm and not by accident. They knew their actions unjustly hurt your loved one, but disregarded the consequences and did it anyway.
California Statute of Limitations for Nursing Abuse
Because nursing home abuse is a personal injury claim in California, the statute of limitations to file is two years.
If the abuse results in the death of a loved one, then the accident turns into a wrongful death claim. As a result, the statute of limitations changes to two years after the date of the death.
For cases involving fraud the statute of limitations is three years after the incident. If your loved one suffered financial abuse, it is four years.
If you didn’t know about the abuse until now, state law pauses the deadline until the date you became aware. For cases involving someone with limited mental capacity, the statute of limitations can be extended for a period of time.
LegalASAP Will Connect You With a Skilled Nursing Home Abuse Attorney
If you have trouble finding an attorney to represent you in your nursing home abuse case, LegalASAP’s attorney network of 500+ law firms can connect you with a professional in California to consult with you for free about your case. Learn about the legal process by calling 888-927-3080 or clicking the button below:
Jan Reburiano is a content writer and SEO specialist for law firms focusing on personal injury, disability, employment law, among other practices. He has written and edited numerous articles and created commercial spots for broadcasters that you can find in his LinkedIn. Jan currently lives in Los Angeles, California while writing for clients from around the United States.