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Modern Estate Planning Blog

Elder Law & Special Needs Planning

Elder Abuse Awareness & Prevention in Long-Term Care Facilities

June 23, 2020

Unfortunately, elder abuse is a common occurrence in everyday life, but the threat has increased substantially during the pandemic and could become more frequent due to the lack of visitation opportunities and the stress levels of current situations. 

June is World Elder Abuse Awareness Month and we want to highlight some of the issues that might be occurring in care facilities that you should be aware of and how you can help your loved ones feel more comfortable while they’re away from family. 

Why is there a bigger risk of elder abuse in care homes right now?

The potential for elder abuse has unfortunately risen as care facilities have been locked down to stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect our most vulnerable members of society. 

As part of the lockdown, in-person visits have ceased and in some cases, staff were contained on premises to look after the patients. 

This containment meant many facilities saw a drop in supplies, lower staff numbers and reduced morale amongst the patients. 

Elder Abuse Awareness & Prevention in Long-Term Care Facilities

Due to a lockdown on travel, there may be a lack of staff or skilled nurses at some facilities - which could cause an increase of abuse towards patients as staff struggle to cope with current situations.

The most common form of elder abuse in aged-care facilities is neglect - which, especially at this time, can be a cause of depression and loneliness. 

Often unintentional, neglect can lead to oversights in care which could lead to the patient not receiving or taking their medication, developing bed sores or even becoming injured from unmonitored accidents.

If a patient has memory loss issues, they are at risk of wandering off and getting injured if they aren’t monitored properly. Some patients will need assistance bathing and using the restroom and if neglected, they could seriously harm themselves trying to do this alone.

There is also the threat of direct abuse from care workers, when stress levels are higher than normal. 

Mistreatment of the elderly is not tolerated by law and your loved ones have the right to a safe and caring environment. 

Nursing home residents retain many rights. A summary of those rights can be found here.

A few of the more important rights are outlined below.

Under the Requirements for Long Term Care Facilities, Sec. 483.13: Resident behavior and facility practices: “The resident has the right to be free from verbal, sexual, physical, and mental abuse, corporal punishment, and involuntary seclusion.”

And under Sec. 483.15: Quality of life: “A facility must care for its residents in a manner and in an environment that promotes maintenance or enhancement of each resident's quality of life.”

Preventing your elderly loved one from being abused 

One of the most important things you can do to prevent mistreatment in any situation is keeping an open line of communication with your loved one. 

You can reach out by phone, video, SMS or even through letters. Keep an eye on your loved ones and make sure they’re being cared for and are getting the proper treatment. 

‘Distance visitation’ is essential during these times

Exercising the right to visit a loved one in a nursing home is one of the most important ways to ensure proper care is being provided. Due to COVID-19, that right has been reduced in order to balance the greater public good of slowing the spread of the virus.  

As you can’t be there physically, we encourage you to work with your loved one’s facility to see how you can take part in distance visitation. 

Unfortunately, ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is often the case - but by taking an active approach with the facility, the more attention and care your aging parents or elderly relative will receive. 

Talking to and seeing you, even if on a laptop, tablet, or smart home device is incredibly important for your loved one’s well being. Video calls are a great start - and by setting up weekly, or even better, daily, video chats, you’ll be able to keep an eye on their well being and level of care. 

You may need assistance from the staff at the care home to help your loved one use the needed technology, so be sure to send them an email or call and talk to them about setting up long-distance visitation. 

This form of visitation isn’t unheard of in the modern age, so you shouldn’t have any issues with setting up the opportunity to video chat.

To assist you when things open back up, the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform has created a visitation guide you can view here.

Stay vigilant and be aware of changes in behavior

If you’ve got a loved one in a care home facility, now is the time to keep an eye on them. 

Elder Abuse Awareness & Prevention in Long-Term Care Facilities

Facilities across the country are under more pressure than ever and some (hopefully rare) instances of elder abuse may occur. 

Pay attention to any unexplained changes in your loved one’s behavior that may signify underlying issues in their care. 

Your loved ones are entitled to communication with their family, regardless of any enforced lockdowns and in The Resident Bill of Rights, Sec. 483.10: Resident rights, it states:

“The resident has a right to a dignified existence, self-determination, and communication with and access to persons and services inside and outside the facility”

Changes to the delineated rights of nursing home patients 

Due to the pandemic, there are new rules and regulations put in place to keep your loved ones safe. 

It’s important to keep up to date and know exactly what you’re dealing with if anything goes wrong or if you need to get involved with a care home legally.

You can find a list of the updated rights for nursing home patients here

If you are experiencing issues with a loved one’s care facility, call The Chubb Law Firm today at (916) 241-9661 to discuss your options.

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