Two States Reportedly Hiding Elder Abuse Problems

elder abuseOklahoma Passing Tort Reform to Limit Elder Abuse Claims’ Payouts

The advocacy group Families for Better Care recently released a ranking of the 48 states in the contiguous US regarding nursing home and elder care. In the ranking, Oklahoma received a grade F for rates of elder abuse at nursing homes and in-home caregivers.

“The causes for most of the lack of quality care goes back to staffing in nursing homes. What differentiates good states from bad states is adding minutes on the day for additional staffing to ensure residents are safe,” said Brian Lee, who founded Families for Better Care and has served as a Long Term Care Ombudsman for the state of Florida. “Oklahoma represents what’s terribly wrong with nursing home care and oversight in America.” He added that background checks are essential to nursing home staffing and prevention of elder abuse, and Oklahoma failed to properly check applicants’ criminal histories.

Despite this recent message to shape up, the Oklahoma legislature is attempting to pass tort reform to limit the amount of compensation victims receive in elder abuse cases.

“Where’s the sense of urgency to protect the residents instead of protecting the nursing home operators?” asked Wes Bledsoe, local Oklahoma City nursing home advocate, at a recent rally for better care. “[T]oday we are hopeful that people will listen and start paying attention. That we’re going to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk.”

One of the biggest obstacles nationwide in nursing home reform and elder abuse prevention has been the lack of transparency, which allows nursing homes and in-home nursing companies to hide their corporate structures from victims claiming elder abuse at the hands of a caregiver or nurse.

“We’ve seen the nursing home (industry) try to create obstacles,” Brian Lee continued. “Victimized residents would have to present their case before a supposedly objective board,” Lee said, casting doubt on the efficacy of the panel’s objectivity. “The industry is trying to trip over itself to put up barriers. But they have yet to address the underlying issue: bad care in nursing homes.”

California’s System Fails to Punish Elder Abuse

Another recent report shows that California’s regulators and elder abuse investigators have failed nursing home residents and elderly patients across the state, by throwing out cases without properly investigating the claims.

The state’s regulators have, reportedly, routinely conducted “cursory and indifferent investigations” into reports from nursing homes and the elderly. In 2009, for example, the state Department of Public Health told investigators to dismiss over 1,000 cases of elder abuse and theft, in order to eliminate the growing backlog of abuse reports. Officials had determined that the backlog was a  crisis, rather than the elder abuse reports themselves. By 2011, nearly all cases of elder abuse had been dismissed.

Because so many cases were closed in 2009, many home health aides, CNAs, and nursing homes retain their licenses to practice medicine, and continue to abuse elderly patients. The state has also almost entirely stopped referring elder abuse cases to the California Department of Justice for possible prosecution.

California regulators applaud themselves for eliminating the backlog, because it speeds up processing time for current allegations. “We’ve made lot of progress since then,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the Department of Public Health. “So today, any complaints that come in, they get screened within 48 hours, and we’re not building a backlog today.”

Reportedly, the California Department of Public Health is attempting to fix how allegations of elder abuse are handled, said Anita Gore, an agency spokeswoman, said in a prepared statement. “Organization and operation of the Investigations Section, including Southern California, are currently being addressed.”

The Attorneys at the Strom Law Firm Prosecute Elder Abuse

If your loved one has physically suffered, or died wrongfully, because an in-home caregiver or registered nurse in a nursing home has neglected the patient, you may have a felony elder abuse caseThe attorneys at the Strom Law Firm understand the sensitive nature of elder abuse cases, and will treat you with respect and compassion. It is important to fight felony elder abuse so you, your family, and others no longer suffer because of criminal behavior. We offer free, confidential consultations to discuss the facts of your case. Contact us today for help.803.252.4800