Isolation is a form of Elder Abuse in California, per California Penal Code §15610.43. Elder abuse is a violation of the rights of elders by those charged with caring for them in facilities, such as California nursing homes. California nursing homes are required to provide reasonable care, and any intent to do otherwise constitutes a criminal action.
Elder Isolation may include:
*Any intentional actions, which prevent an elder resident from making or receiving phone calls, or having contact with family and friends outside of their residential, nursing facility.
According to WebMD, “Clinical depression in the elderly is common. That doesn’t mean it’s normal. Late-life depression affects about 6 million Americans age 65 and older. But only 10% receive treatment for depression.”
Depression in elders can be particularly troubling, as it tends to increase the likelihood of prolonged illnesses, and/or the onset of disease. WebMD states: “Depression in the elderly often increases their risk of cardiac diseases. Depression doubles an elderly person’s risk of cardiac diseases and increases their risk of death from illness. At the same time, depression reduces an elderly person’s ability to rehabilitate. Studies of nursing home patients with physical illnesses have shown that the presence of depression substantially increases the likelihood of death from those illnesses. Depression also has been associated with increased risk of death following a heart attack. For that reason, making sure that an elderly person you are concerned about is evaluated and treated is important, even if the depression is mild.”
Signs and symptoms of depression in elders may include:
It is no secret that many people have difficulty asking others for help. Elders living in Southern California are no different. Even though physical and mental capabilities may start to diminish with aging, it is still not easy for many seniors to let others know they are struggling.
That is why it is up to all of us to keep an eye on aging family members or friends. Here is a list of warning signs that a senior you love may need help from family members or professionals.
1. Abnormal or repeated phone calls If your grandmother, mother, father, or other elder family members begin making phone calls to you repeatedly, or at peculiar times of day, it may indicate confusion. It may also be a sign of memory loss, or could indicate that the elder is feeling lonely or depressed. If you notice these types of calls, try scheduling set calls with your loved one every day to see if they stick to those times and calls. If they don’t, it may be indicative of cognitive decline.
2. Weight loss/lack of food in the home When you visit your loved one, take notice of their appearance. Are they maintaining a healthy weight? If they’ve lost a substantial amount of weight, take a look in the refrigerator to confirm that there is food, and that the food has not spoiled. If there is nothing to eat, this can indicate that your loved elder is finding it difficult to shop and/or cook, and are thereby not taking proper care of themselves. This may be a sign that they need your help in shopping, preparing meals for the week, or even that they need to see a physician.
3. Mail is piled up, unopened or has not been retrieve from the mailbox When you visit your loved senior, take notice of unopened mail piled up, or even in the mailbox. Signs that your loved elder may be overwhelmed by once routine tasks may indicate that they are feeling depressed or confused.
4. Their home is suddenly messy If your aging parents or grandparents have traditionally kept a neat home, but you find their home is cluttered or dirty, this may be a sign they need help. They may be in physical pain and unwilling to clean, or they may be too tired, or even depressed. If you notice a sudden change in the appearance of the home it can be a warning sign that your loved elder is having a hard time, and needs assistance.
5. Cooking and baking pots and pans are burnt If you see scorch marks on pots, pans, or baking sheets, it may indicate difficulty with short-term memory. Your loved one may be forgetting they have left the stove or oven on after making a dish. This is a warning sign you should never ignore, as it has safety ramifications not only for your loved elder, but also for neighbors.
6. They aren’t changing their clothes or are wearing clothing inappropriate for the weather If an elder you love seems to be wearing the same clothes over and over, or shows signs of poor personal hygiene it may be a signal that they are struggling, mentally, emotionally, or physically. They may have difficulty doing laundry because it is located on a different level of the home, or it may indicate depression, or cognitive decline wherein they are having difficulty assessing the proper clothing to wear for the weather.
7. They are missing doctor’s appointments and/or medication Missed appointments may indicate memory problems, or difficulty in securing transportation to their appointments. This can be dangerous for elders who need medication, so if you determine that they are missing their appointments and and/or are not taking their necessary medication, it may be time to consider hiring help for them.
If you notice any of these warning signs that a loved elder in Southern California may need help, don’t be afraid to speak up. Often times an elder may need something as simple as transportation a couple of days a week, or a housekeeper a few times a month. In other cases, they may need to be relocated into an assisted living facility. It’s important to realize though, that they may not ask for help, so you need to ask them questions, and ascertain as best as you can, whether or not they are still capable of living without any assistance.
Elder abuse typically refers to the knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a custodial care provider, caregiver, or any other person that causes harm to a vulnerable adult. In California, anyone aged 65 and older is protected by the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act. The laws are designed to help prevent neglect and abuse to California seniors. Neglect falls within the definition of elder abuse, and unfortunately may have dire consequences to the victim.
In broadest terms, neglect is a type of elder abuse wherein a caregiver fails to provide the elder with basic needs including water, food, shelter, heat/air-conditioning, personal hygiene products and medical assistance. Failure to adequately move or reposition a bedridden elder, for example constitutes neglect, just as failing to keep elders properly nourished and hydrated constitutes neglect.
Neglect is particularly dangerous for elders, as it can lead to life-threatening consequences. Such consequences of neglect include:
Neglect is one of the most common forms of senior abuse in San Diego and around the country. According to the California Department of Public Health’s Nursing Home Residents’ Rights, malnutrition constitutes a form of neglect, and thus—elder abuse.
Nursing homes in San Diego have a legal responsibility to ensure that residents are properly nourished. Nursing home staff must monitor residents during mealtime to ensure that all residents are being properly fed. Likewise, failure to provide appropriately nutritious meals is a serious form of senior neglect.
Warning signs, symptoms, and indications that an elderly loved one in San Diego could be suffering from malnutrition as a result of a neglectful or abusive caregiver or nursing home staff member, include:
A diet made up of healthy foods is necessary to maintain health and well-being. It can also help reduce factors that can contribute to falls.
Some common conditions, which may lead to elders falling in a Southern California nursing home include:
Nursing homes in California have a responsibility to prevent malnutrition in resident elders, per the California Department of Public Health. In fact, failure by nursing home staff to monitor residents during mealtime, and/or failure to provide nutritious meals is a form of neglect.
Symptoms that an elder residing in a California nursing home may be suffering from malnutrition include:
*Lack of Energy
*Slow recovery or healing from injuries or wounds
Elders may not receive proper nutrition for a variety of reasons including, a dislike of the food being served, improper temperature of food being served, difficulty in chewing due to oral or dental problems or pain, difficulty in swallowing, being forced to eat alone, or at a time when other residents aren’t eating. Elders suffering from anxiety, dementia, and depression may also reject meals, which can lead in time to malnutrition.
However, elders suffering from any of these conditions may be suffering from them due to neglect. For example, it is the responsibility of the nursing home to ensure that a resident elder does not have dental issues, or oral pain. Similarly, if an elder residing in a California nursing home is not getting the nutrition they need, because the food is bland, or cold, it is the responsibility of the nursing home to take steps to make the food taste better, by adding seasonings, serving the food at proper temperatures, or offering alternative meals.
As a resident of a California nursing home, elders are granted certain rights when it comes to their meals, and any nursing home who overlooks these steps may be found guilty of neglect. Neglect is a form of elder abuse and may be a civil or criminal offense in California. If you suspect that an elder you love is being neglected in any manner while residing in a California nursing home, report it to your local long-term care ombudsman. You may also want to contact an experienced, elder abuse attorney to discuss your concerns.
By law, the staff members employed by California nursing homes are required to report health changes observed in the elders residing in their facilities. Unfortunately, all too often these changes are unreported. The change in condition of a resident may not be reported for a variety of reasons, including fear that the nursing home be may fined for understaffing, or neglecting California elders residing within the facility. In other cases, a resident who has experienced a rapid deterioration in condition, may indicate that isolation, neglect, or even abuse is occurring within a facility.
Failure to report changes in condition to an elder’s doctor and family members is a violation of the law.
Changes in an elder’s condition which must be reported may include, but is not limited to:
• Cracked lips, or sores in and around the mouth
• Noticeably dry skin
• Eyes which appear sunken in
• Fever and/or thirst
• Rapid weight loss
• Bed sores
• Broken bones
Elders residing within California nursing homes are granted certain rights. If they are violated, resulting in a change of condition, a crime may have been committed. It is important that all staff working in nursing homes in California report these changes in the condition of elderly residents in order to prevent serious health problems, injury, or even death to residents.
If you notice changes in the condition of your loved one while residing in a nursing home in California, report your concerns immediately. In Southern California and San Diego, you may consider reporting your suspicions to:
• Your loved one’s doctor.
• Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. They provide a 24/7 Crisis Complaint Hotline at 800-231-4024.
• Adult Protective Services (APS). In San Diego County, you may contact: San Diego County Aging and Independent Services (858) 495-5660, or the Eldercare Locator help line at 1-800-677-1116.
• Your Department of Public Health Licensing Office.
• Local Law Enforcement, including the Police, Sheriff, and District Attorney’s office. The San Diego County Sheriff’s department can be reached at (858) 565-5200. The San Diego County District Attorney may be reached at 619-531-4040.
All elders in California nursing homes have the right to quality care and attention, regardless of their age or health. If those rights are denied, abuse must be reported. For tips on reporting suspected neglect and/or abuse in a California nursing home, the Justice Department has a helpful citizen’s guide that can be found at the following website: http://ag.ca.gov/bmfea/pdfs/citizens_guide.pdf
Residents of California nursing homes have the right to quality food while residing in any type of long term care facility. When a nursing home fails to provide quality food and beverages, elderly residents run the risk of becoming malnourished or dehydrated, which can lead to a whole host of medical complications. However, making sure that elderly residents receive enough food and water/beverages is the bare minimum that a nursing home must provide for its residents.
In addition to providing enough to eat and drink, here is a partial list of reasonable expectations (AKA Care Standards) that are granted residents of California nursing homes:
*Three meals a day at regular times with no more than 14 hours passing between meals.