The San Fernando Valley’s elderly population is in serious danger. Of the 419 nursing homes in Los Angeles, only 17 facilities were in full compliance with federal safety standards. Many nursing homes violate standards that create a real risk of injury or death to their patients. Seventy-six percent did not provide adequate staffing for the dependent adults in their care. This has resulted in medication errors, life-threatening bed sores, and failure to timely treat medical conditions at an early stage, put the 34,000 resident of Los Angeles’ nursing homes at an unacceptable risk.
Recognizing that the elder population is particularly vulnerable to abuse and neglect, California “elder abuse” law provides an effective means for holding nursing homes liable for the injuries they cause. When regulators don’t have the resources to enforce laws designed to protect elders, elder abuse lawyers sometimes get involved. Unfortunately, that usually does not happen until a family member is injured or dies.
If you are in a position where you may have to place a loved one in a nursing home for care, there are some things you can do. First, do your homework. There are a number of resources on the internet about nursing homes in Los Angeles County. One is the “Long Term Care County Data Book,” which you will find at http://www.caads.org/ltcdata/ltc_data.html. Visit several nursing homes and interview the staff. Ask for references. Talking to the family members of other residents will let you know how satisfied, or not, they are with the care at the facility. Finally, contact DHHS to find out whether the nursing home is in compliance with State and federal laws and whether they are aware of any serious complaints about the facility.
If you have a family member living in a nursing home, there are a number of things you can do to help protect him or her. Be vigilant. Frequent visits at different times of the day and night will give you the best snapshot of the quality of care the nursing home delivers. Establish a relationship with the nurses and nurses’ aides responsible for your loved one’s care. They are more likely to be conscientious if they have a connection to you and your family. Investigate any complaints made by the resident. If the complaints are frequent or unresolved after a reasonable time, submit the complaint to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). You can find a form for this at http://www.dss.cahwnet.gov/cdssweb/entres/forms/English/SOC341.pdf
If that suggestion is not helpful, you may want to consider consultation with a qualified elder abuse attorney in your area.