Psychological Abuse of the Elderly by Caregivers

According to the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA), psychological abuse is the “willful infliction of mental or emotional anguish by threat, humiliation, or other types of verbal or nonverbal conduct. Ironically, perpetrators of psychological abuse often are those individuals who are supposed to care for elderly abuse victims, whether they are professional caregivers in a nursing facility, home health care providers, or even family members.

There are multiple signs of potential psychological abuse of an elderly individual. Some symptoms are physical, such as unexplained weight loss or gain, or elevated blood pressure resulting from stress. Psychological abuse victims also may have difficulties sleeping, exhibit depression and/or confusion, show fear in the presence of the abuser, exhibit unusual behaviors, and be emotionally upset or agitated.

Psychological abuse victims tend to be over 75 years of age, and have few friends or relatives to look after them. They are often isolated from much of society, may have memory problems, and may have a long-term disease or medical condition, such as diabetes, hypertension, or paralysis due to stroke. On the other hand, abusive caregivers tend to be highly dependent on the elderly individual in terms of financial needs. Abuse perpetrators often drink alcohol, use drugs, and/or have some type of personality disorder or mental illness. They also may have high levels of stress in their lives and a history of violence in their backgrounds.

As the nursing home industry continues to grow with America’s steadily aging population, the quality of care and staff members continues to become of greater concern. All too often, nursing home staff members do not properly care for their residents, which can lead directly to their injuries resulting from abuse or neglect. At Boller & Vaughan, we focus on protecting the rights of those who have suffered neglectful or abusive actions at the hands of caregivers at nursing home facilities. We have the skills and knowledge to delve into the facts your case, consider all available options, and advocate on your behalf by bringing any legal claims that you may have against the nursing home in question, or its staff members. Contact your Wisconsin nursing home neglect and abuse attorneys at (608) 268-0268 and schedule your free consultation today.

What Are the Elements for a Successful Nursing Home Abuse Claim?

Most nursing home claims stem from some sort of negligent action or inaction by one of its staff member, or, in some cases, another nursing home resident. Negligence refers to any act or failure to act that violates the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise in a similar situation. If a staff member injures a nursing home, assisted living, or community based residential facility resident through some sort of negligence, the situation may qualify as a personal injury case under Wisconsin law.

There are four required elements to any successful personal injury claim based in negligence: duty, breach of duty, causation, and injury. In a nursing home abuse claim, you must establish that the perpetrator of the injuries had a duty to the injury victim. In a nursing home or assisted living setting, a staff person clearly owes a duty of care to all residents. Next, the action or inaction of the staff member breached that duty of care. In other words, the act or failure to act must be negligent in nature, or a violation of the standard of care that a reasonable person would use in the same situation. Third, the negligent action or inaction must be the direct cause of the resident’s injury. Finally, you must prove that an injury to the resident actually occurred.  If you have evidence of all four of these elements, you are likely to have a successful personal injury claim for nursing home abuse.

The community based residential facility abuse (CBRF) lawyers of Boller & Vaughan are experienced in ensuring that nursing homes and other elderly care facilities live up to reasonable standards in caring for their residents. When a nursing home or other type of facility fails to do so, and injury to a resident occurs, the facility may be liable for those injuries. We know how to investigate your case, assess your situation and determine whether you or your loved one has any potential claims against nursing home staff or the nursing home itself. Contact Boller & Vaughan today and learn how we can help you through this difficult situation.

Revised Nursing Home Regulations on Admissions

Late last year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued revised nursing facility regulations. The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, the Center for Medicare Advocacy, and Justice in Aging collaborated to create a document summarizing the highlights of these revised regulations. The changes primarily deal with admissions to nursing facilities and liability for nursing facility bills.

First, nursing facilities cannot require residents to enter into agreements or sign other documents that waive important rights. For instance, a resident cannot waive the protections of any federal, state, or local nursing home laws. Likewise, a resident cannot waive rights to Medicare or Medicaid coverage, or any responsibility of the facility to safeguard his or her personal property. A facility also must give notice to residents prior to admission of any service limitations or special characteristics.

Next, the revised regulations deal with responsibility for a resident’s nursing facility bill. A nursing home cannot compel a family member or friend of the resident to be financially responsible for a resident’s bill. However, a nursing home can require the resident’s agent to agree to pay the resident’s money toward his or her nursing facility costs.

Finally, the revised nursing facility regulations prohibit pre-dispute arbitration agreements, but this important consumer protection is currently blocked in litigation. It will be important to monitor this litigation in order to determine the continued legality of such arbitration agreements, which take away significant rights from residents who have disputes with nursing facilities.

Boller & Vaughan knows the devastation that can occur when nursing homes and other long-term care facilities breach regulations concerning health, safety, and admissions. Fortunately, we have the knowledge and the experience to help you through any type of elder abuse or neglect claim, particularly when injury results from a wholly preventable issue. No matter what type of nursing home facility abuse or neglect is at issue in your case, we can help. All too often, residents and their families are reluctant to demand justice for situations that occurred in the resident’s care. In this situation, you can count on your Madison elderly abuse attorneys to guide you through every step of the personal injury claims process.

Administration on Aging Releases 2016 Profile of Older Americans

The Administration on Aging of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently released its 2016 Profile of Older Americans, which describes typical characteristics of older Americans as of 2016. The population aged 65 and older increased by 30% between 2005 and 2015, which this population expected to more than double to 98 million by the year 2060. Likewise, the population aged 60 and older increased by 34% during that same timeframe. By 2040, the 2015 population of Americans aged 85 and older will triple to a high of 14.6 million.

Racial and ethnic minorities, which comprised 22% of the older adult population in 2015, will comprise 28% of the older adult population in 2030. Individuals who reach the age of 65 have an additional life expectancy of about 19 years, which is slightly higher for women than for men. As a result, older women (26.7 million) outnumber older men (21.1 million). Older men (70%) are much more likely to be married than older women (45%). About 29% of older Americans who do not live in institutions live by themselves.

The median income for older Americans is about $31,000 for men and $18,000 for women. As of 2014, the most common source of income for older Americans is Social Security benefits, followed by income from assets, earnings, private pensions, and government pensions. Over 4.2 million older adults, or 8.8% of older adults, were below the poverty level in 2015.

There are many different types of abuse or neglect that can occur to residents in nursing home or residential care facilities. The Wisconsin elder abuse lawyers of Boller & Vaughan have handled countless claims on behalf of nursing home residents who have suffered serious injuries and even death due to the negligent behavior of nursing home staff and facilities, regardless of the type of abuse or neglect involved. When a serious injury or death of a loved one occurs, we know just how devastating it can be, and how powerless you are likely to feel as a result. Allow your family to begin the healing process from this traumatic event by holding the wrongdoers responsible for your loved one’s injuries. Contact our office today and set up a free consultation with one of our experienced nursing home abuse attorneys.

Woman Who Wandered Outside WI Nursing Home Found Dead

An 88-year-old woman was found dead earlier this year near the Rice Lake Convalescent Center after apparently wandering outside the facility in the middle of the night. Rice Lake is an 85-bed private for-profit facility. The woman was outside a door to the building and apparently had been outside the building for at a least a few hours. Multiple employees reported that they had seen the woman wandering the hallways of the center in the past. Facility representatives declined to comment on the woman’s mental status or the reasons for her residence in the facility.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health, a nursing home houses five or more persons unrelated to the operator or administrator. These individuals receive care and treatment at the home, but because of their physical or mental condition, need access to some level of 24-hour nursing services. All too often, understaffed, underfunded, and overcrowded nursing homes cause residents to go neglected and untreated. This so-called “passive” neglect occurs when any type of caregiver fails to provide an older individual with the necessities of life, including food, water, clothing, or shelter.

Older Americans with dementia often end up experiencing abuse and neglect, usually at the hands of their caregivers. Family members and friends with elderly loved ones who are dependent on home health care providers or assisted living facility care, or nursing home care, should be aware of the signs of potential neglect and abuse. Some common signs of neglect include bedsores that never heal, unexplained bruising and other injuries, poor hygiene, missed doctor appointments, unusual weight loss, lack of appetite, and depression.

The nursing home abuse lawyers of Boller & Vaughan pride themselves on advocating on behalf of clients who suffer injuries at the hands of their caregivers, no matter whether those injuries from result from abuse or neglect in a nursing home or in any type of long-term care facility. We can seek compensation for you through the legal system, while you and your family can concentrate on healing, recovering from any trauma that you might have experienced, and moving on with your life. Don’t hesitate to call our office today and learn how we can help.

Elder Abuse and Prevention Act May Become Law in 2017

According to Financial Advisor’s recent article by Ted Knutson, the Elder Abuse and Prevention Act has a good chance of becoming a law in 2017. The key sponsor of this bill is Chuck Grassley, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair, who fully believes that the law will pass in the near future. One reason that Grassley gave for the bill’s likelihood of passing was the fact that a very similar version was very close to passing last year, but Congress simply ran out of time during that legislative session. Susan Collins, Aging Committee Chair, is co-sponsoring this legislation with Grassley. The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in February, 2017; the goal is for the bill to come before the full Senate for a vote before the end of the legislative session.

The Elder Abuse and Prevention Act is designed to make society a safer place for seniors. The bill targets senior financial exploitation and abuse by increasing penalties for telemarketing and email marketing fraud against seniors. Likewise, the bill would provide that at least one Justice Department attorney in each federal judicial district would focus his or her efforts on prosecuting elder fraud. The bill also would require that multiple parties maintain much more detailed and expansive data relating to elder abuse, with the goal of making prosecutions of elder abuse a much more common occurrence. The Justice Department also would initiate more training for state and local governments dealing with elder abuse and fraud.

The community based residential facility (CBRF) lawyers of Boller & Vaughan are experienced in ensuring that nursing homes and other elderly care facilities live up to reasonable standards in caring for their residents. When a nursing home or other type of facility fails to do so, and injury to a resident occurs, the facility may be liable for those injuries. We know how to investigate your case, assess your situation and determine whether you or your loved one has any potential claims against nursing home staff or the nursing home itself. Contact Boller & Vaughan today and learn how we can help you through this difficult situation.

How to Recognize Financial Abuse of the Elderly

As the American population ages, individuals often become particularly vulnerable to financial abuse and exploitation. For this reason, loved ones of older Americans should take the time to familiarize themselves with the common signs of financial abuse. Recognizing the signs of potential financial abuse may allow you to save an elderly loved one from losing great sums of money to unsavory people who are looking for an opportunity to financially exploit them.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, 90% of the perpetrators of elderly financial abuse are people known to the victims. This can include caregivers, relatives, friends of the family, or neighbors. Therefore, you can never assume that just because your loved one has no contact with anyone other than relatives and friends that he or she is safe from financial abuse. Here are some of the most common warning signs of the potential for financial abuse and exploitation of the elderly:

  • An elderly individual who previously was sharp and alert begins to show difficulty in remembering important matters, such as finances
  • Physical frailty causes an older individual to become dependent on others to perform physical chores around the house or provide other caregiving activities
  • An elderly individual lives in isolation and no friends or relatives check on him or her regularly
  • Questionable behavior by relatives, such as suddenly spending a great deal of time with an elderly loved one or seeming to have a new, more expensive lifestyle

Keep in mind that many incidents of financial abuse go unreported, often because the victim is unaware of the abuse or is too embarrassed to admit that it occurred. If you suspect that your loved one is suffering from financial abuse, even if it is by a relative or caregiver, you should immediately take the steps necessary to stop the abuse from occurring, including notifying the proper authorities, if necessary.

At Boller & Vaughan, we are here to stand up for the rights of senior citizens and their families who have suffered substantial injuries, whether physical, emotional, or financial, while under the care of those are supposed to prevent such injuries from occurring. Contact us today at (608) 268-0268, set up an appointment with one of our Wisconsin home health care abuse attorneys, and discover how we can help.

Sexual Assault in Nursing Homes

In a recent CNN investigation, two journalists detail their findings about sexual abuse of senior citizens while residing in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other residential institutions. While the investigation revealed no hard data about the incidence of sexual assault and abuse in nursing homes, the information found did make it clear that this type of abuse occurs far more frequently than one might think. Furthermore, the investigation also showed that nursing homes and government officials are doing little, if anything, to combat or even address this problem.

The reported incidents resulted in roadblocks for seniors and their families at every step of the process. All too often, seniors with poor memories or dementia could not properly give details about or even identify the perpetrators of sexual abuse, which makes it difficult to accurately report incidents to authorities or nursing home personnel. In turn, nursing homes are reluctant to investigate or even acknowledge that such an incident could have occurred. Law enforcement authorities also see the senior victims’ lack of clear statements and cloudy memories as detrimental and even fatal to the prosecution of these types of claims. Furthermore, the lack of a clear or reasonable system for reporting abuse has led to state regulators failing to take action against even serial rapists who prey on the elderly who are confined to nursing homes.

Even if an alleged rapist is eventually held responsible through the criminal justice system, the nursing home or other facility that employed the perpetrator is rarely found to have committed any violations or to be negligent in any way. For instance, in one situation, a nursing home was cleared of all wrongdoing after a male nursing assistant was found guilty of sexually abusing a resident, even after authorities learned that the man had been investigated for similar allegations in the past, but never removed from service.

We are the Wisconsin nursing home abuse lawyers whom you can turn to if you suspect or become aware of staff members’ abuse of your loved one while residing in a nursing home. Regardless of the complexity or difficulty of your situation, the Madison injury attorneys of Boller & Vaughan are prepared to advocate on behalf of your loved one and hold nursing home or other long-term care facilities responsible for any abuse that has occurred.

Questions to Ask When Exploring Nursing Home Options

Choosing a nursing home for your loved one is no small decision. All of the different options can be downright confusing, particularly when you are trying to balance concerns such as affordability, individualized care options, services offered, and medical care provided in terms of the needs of your loved one. Fortunately, there are some common questions that you can and should ask when inquiring into long-term care options for your family member or loved one.

First, you want to a get a sense of how the facility will offer your loved one individualized, personal care. Will your loved one’s caregivers know his or her name? Will he or she have the same caregivers on a regular basis? How will staff members know about your loved one’s individual needs?

Next, get a sense of what type of schedule your loved one will enjoy in particular facility. Is your loved one required to get up at a certain time? How flexible are meal times? Can your loved one obtain food in between meals if needed, or a different meal if he or she does not like the main entree? Are there recreational activities available for your loved one on a daily basis? Is your loved one required to go to bed at a certain time each day? Are there are any differences in the weekday and the weekend schedules? How often can my loved one bathe or how do staff members ensure that he or she bathes on a regular basis?

Another important question is the role of the family in your loved one’s care. Are family members welcome at all times and on all days? Can family members eat meals with nursing home residents? Are there are any restrictions on when family members can be present in the resident’s room or the common areas of the nursing home?

You entrust your loved one to the nursing home so that he or she is properly cared for. If a facility fails to provide your loved one with an even basic level of reasonable care, it is likely that negligence occurred, which may make that facility liable for the resulting injuries. If you find yourself in this situation, you may be entitled to compensation for the losses that you or your family member has suffered. Call our Wisconsin nursing home abuse attorneys at Boller & Vaughan and learn what we can do for you and your family.

Long-Term Care Providers Face New CMS Participation Requirements

Most long-term care providers are aware of the new participation rule issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and that the current deadline for Phase 2 compliance with this rule is set for November 28, 2017. Nonetheless, many in the industry are continuing to push for additional time. The main components of the new rule are admission, visitation, and grievance policies.

In terms of admissions policies, long-term care facilities must focus on getting a more extensive social history at the time of admission. For instance, facilities must be aware of whether newly admitted residents have any substance abuse issues. Even if the resident doesn’t tell the truth, there must be extensive records indicating that facility employees tried to get as much truthful information as possible.

While CMS previously pushed for a 24/7 visitation policy, the new rule relaxes this requirement to some degree. Visitation access around the clock, according to providers, creates several different problems, including adequate staffing and measures to handle the visits of dysfunctional family members. For example, one provider cited the problems caused by a family member visiting a resident at 2:00 a.m. who repeatedly turned on the television and disturbed the resident’s roommate. Family members who visit at all hours without proper supervision also can endanger residents, such as by providing them with cigarettes while they are on oxygen, offering food that the resident is unable to swallow, or adjusting tube feedings or medications.

Grievance policies also are a major focus of the new CMS rule. The goal is to have a people-oriented person in charge of any grievances, who can keep meticulous records of complaints and decisions. The person in charge of grievances also should be wary of how complaints are described and/or worded; failing to do so can lead to a cause of action against the facility.

Abusive actions toward residents of nursing homes or community based residential facilities sometimes can result in significant injuries. What’s worse is that many of these abuse incidents are wholly preventable. The Wisconsin long-term care abuse lawyers of Boller & Vaughan know how to protect your loved ones’ rights. Our law firm handles these types of personal injury cases on a regular basis and is experienced in advocating on behalf of clients just like you. We are here to help you fight back against the healthcare facility that caused harm to your loved one, and to get any compensation to which you are entitled.

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