San Francisco Injury Lawyer Blog

Articles Posted in Elder Abuse

cash2As a new year dawns, it occurs to us that our work is a mix of retrospective moments and prospective planning, focusing on difficult moments with the hopes of helping our clients move forward.  We are proud of this work, but enjoy using this blog to help prevent these terrible moments.  In this spirit, we turn today to the problem of financial scams targeting seniors.  Elder abuse, one of our firm’s specialty practice areas, includes physical, emotional, and financial harm.  Although people of any age can be impacted, seniors are disproportionately targeted with financial fraud targeting seniors on the rise.  Today, our San Francisco, Oakland, and Santa Rosa financial abuse lawyer looks at some common scams from 2015 with the hopes of helping readers guard their money in 2016.

The Top Ten Scams of 2016 (Plus Two)

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat recently ran an informative article that elaborates on the Better Business Bureau’s (“BBB”) list of the Top Ten Scams of 2015, a list we’d subtitle “That You Should Watch Out for in 2015”:

Trust.  It is an essential part of living in a community from trusting the food we purchase is safe to trusting opposing traffic will stop when they have a red light.  As our population ages, another form of trust becomes ever more important – trusting that elder care facilities will care for and protect their residents.  A shocking example of the violation of this trust arises when facilities fail to guard against sexual elder abuse.  Difficult as it is to think about, sexual abuse in nursing homes is a very real threat and our San Francisco nursing home abuse lawyer believes elder care facilities must take swift and comprehensive action when sexual abuse occurs whether the perpetrator is a nursing home employee or another resident.

Civil Suit Follows Investigation into Nursing Home’s Failure to Report Sexual Assault

On June 16, a civil lawsuit was filed in Washington state involving allegations that a nursing home failed to take appropriate steps to protect a resident from sexual abuse.  KOMO 4 News and Wenatchee World (via San Mateo County’s Network of Care) report that the estate of Christine Trowbridge filed the suit against Cashmere Convalescent Center.  The civil action follows government investigations, including a $6,500 fine levied by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services for failing to intervene in or report the abuse.

In modern day America, many working adults find themselves as a caregiver two times over, caring for their growing children and aging parents. Often the needs of aging parents become too great for their adult children to address on their own and, especially when physical or mental illness is an issue, a nursing home is the best option. However, while there are many places that provide excellent care, others are the stuff of nightmares. Overmedication in nursing homes is a major problem and it is one of the forms of abuse we help people fight as a San Francisco nursing home abuse lawyer.

NPR Reports on the Overuse of Antipsychotics in Nursing Homes

Last month, NPR reported on the problem of drugging in nursing homes, opening with the fact that almost 300,000 nursing home residents receive antipsychotic medications. These medications are approved for serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but are often used to suppress anxiety and pillhand.jpg agitation in Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. This is despite the fact that the medications carry a black box warning, the most serious warning a drug can carry while remaining on the market, indicating they can raise the risk of heart failure, infection, and even death when used by dementia patients. Even when they are medically indicated, these drugs should be used for as short a period as possible, often only a month. Still, as in examples cited in the NPR article demonstrate, many care centers use these drugs for the convenience of the staff because they can sedate patients and blunt behaviors. Guardians and patients often agree to the medications without knowing the drugs are unnecessary.

Nursing home abuse is a terrible crime that preys on the very people whom society should most respect. Abuse in senior care facilities can take a range of forms including physical, sexual, emotional, and financial mistreatment as well as neglect. Often, abuse is perpetrated by overworked staff members and the law typically holds both the individual abuser and his/her employer criminally and civilly responsible. There is, however, a less talked about scenario – resident-on-resident nursing home abuse, also known as peer abuse Our experienced Northern California nursing home abuse law firm believes that care centers should be held liable when their negligence or failure to provide adequate care allows one resident to abuse another.

Resident Dispute Ends With Stabbing at Sacramento Senior Care Facility

A case of peer abuse is believed to have left a 75 year-old woman with serious injuries according to an article in Monday’s Oakland Tribune. Police believe that 70 year-old Barbara Holland had an ongoing dispute with her neighbor at St. Francis Manor, a senior living facility in Sacramento. According to investigators, Holland arrived at her neighbor’s door last Saturday armed with a knife and stabbed the 75 year-old before fleeing the scene. Eventually, Holland was found in her own apartment, arrested, and booked on suspicion of attempted murder. Doctors say the 75 year-old, who was taken to an area hospital, is expected to survive.

Choosing a nursing home or other senior care facility is a difficult and emotional decision. There are many factors to consider, many of which can spark intense family debates, including location, price, and available forms of care. There are also more individualized factors like whether the prospective resident has friends at the facility, whether the facility has a religious affiliation, and the input provided by the resident’s current doctors. That last item, the advice of medical professionals, can be extremely persuasive and a good doctor will assess numerous factors before voicing an opinion. Kickbacks from nursing homes should never cloud a doctor’s professional judgment. While that may sound obvious, payments to doctor for referrals our Northern California Medicare fraud law firm knows illegal kickbacks are more common than most of us would like to think and pose both a financial threat to the Medicare program and a threat to patients’ health and well-being.

Whistleblower Alleges Kickbacks Were Key Part of Medicare Fraud by Senior Care Network

According to the Broward Bulldog, the Plaza Health Network has worked to maintain a top-notch reputation since its founding 64 years ago as a home for Jewish seniors and war veterans who could no longer live alone and/or care for themselves. Plaza is now a non-profit with corporate offices in Aventura, Florida, and runs eight care facilities in the Miami region open to seniors of all denominations. The company’s reputation may, however, change dramatically if a lawsuit alleging health care fraud is successful

Earlier this month we wrote about the theft of prescription drugs, focusing on the growing problem of medications being stolen from our nation’s seniors and why drug theft is a form of elder abuse. We urge all readers to ensure their own medications and those of loved ones are kept in a secure location. These robbery-type crimes are not the only form of prescription theft. As a Northern California Medicare fraud law firm, we are closely watching the issue of Medicare drug thefts crimes that sometimes take advantage of quirky rules and can amount to health care fraud.

Study Identifies Problem of Drugs Dispensed to Deceased Medicare Beneficiaries

In October, the inspector general for the Health and Human Services Department (“HHS”) released a report Medicare rule pursuant to which the program covers prescriptions for up to 32 days after the patient’s death. The investigators focused on a small sliver of medications and identified 158 patients whose HIV-related drugs were covered after their deaths in 2012. In one patient’s case, Medicare records show two separate medication purchases involving three pill$.jpgdrugs each that were covered after he died – charges that amounted to $7,610. Another case involved a Michigan man for whom six prescriptions from two different doctors were ordered and paid for after his death to the tune of $5,616 in Medicare costs.

Asked to imagine a drug theft, many Americans would form an image that includes the threat of violence and illicit substances like marijuana, heroin, or cocaine. Drug theft in 2014 often takes a much different form, a much “quieter” affair that happens on a daily basis in the Bay Area when a trusted individual slides a prescription bottle from a home medicine cabinet or bedside pillbottle.pngshelf into a pocket and is gone well before the missing vial is noticed. Prescription theft often targets seniors who may be left facing a frightening health crisis because of the missing medications. In fact, as our Northern California prescription theft attorney understands, whether part of a larger pattern of financial and/or physical abuse or a standalone event, medication theft can be a form of elder abuse, leading to unnecessary pain, uncontrolled illness, or even death and the culprits can be those whom the victim least expects.

Firefighter Accused of Swiping Medications

Usually when a firefighter makes the news, he or she is being hailed for bravery and heroism. This weekend, however, local and national news sources including Sacramento’s KCRA carried a very different tale as police announced the arrest of Sacramento firefighter Craig White on five counts of burglary and three of elder abuse. White allegedly targeted seniors, gaining entrance to homes by claiming to be performing inspections of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and then stealing prescription medications. Citrus Hills Police Department began investigating after eight area seniors reported similar incidents. The Sacramento Fire Department wants people to know that they do not perform surprise residential inspections.

It has often been said that one of the best ways to judge a society is by how it treats its weakest, most helpless members. Individuals with significant developmental disabilities rely on their families and society as a whole for care and protection. When these individuals are placed in a specialized care facility, the facility has ethical, moral, and legal duties to protect the residents. As an Oakland law firm for the elderly and disabled, we are ready to advocate on behalf of vulnerable adults when care facilities fail to fulfill their duties. An obvious example of such a failure is when the resident is permitted to wander away from an institution that promised to care for and keep the resident safe. Wandering by developmentally disabled adults is a potentially deadly occurrence and we must hold institutions responsible for the failures that endanger their residents.

Developmentally Disabled Man Missing from Oakland Care Facility

The Oakland Tribune and other news outlets in our region are asking for help locating a missing man. On Thursday October 16 at around 1:30 P.M., Michael Kilroy wandered away from a residential care facility located on the 3200 block of 99th Avenue. Kilroy is 55 years old but has the functional capacity of a typical 6 year-old. He needs medicine that he doesn’t have with him. Police note he is 5’3″ and 150 pounds with blue eyes and gray hair. Anyone who sees him is asked to call the missing persons’ unit at the Oakland Police Department (510-238-3641).

piggybank.jpgFrom the time we start earning our first regular paychecks, Americans are reminded of the importance of saving for retirement. This can be incredibly hard to do. Sadly, reaching one’s senior years with a comfortable amount of savings is not the end of the story. Financial elder abuse is a growing threat to the economic well-being of older Americans. These crimes are also very personal; they strike at people’s hearts and souls, especially when the perpetrators are trusted caregivers. Our Northern California financial elder abuse law firm wants to empower seniors to fight back.

The Need for Vigilance: Woman Accused of Violating Probation Following Financial Abuse Plea

A short article in last week’s Santa Rosa Press Democrat is a striking reminder of the need for vigilance in the fight against elder abuse. In 2010, Gloria Garcia Bernal pleaded no contest to charges that she stole $6,500 from a senior citizen in her care by forging and cashing checks belonging to the elderly man. Bernal’s probation agreement prohibits her from working with the elderly or other dependent adults. Recently, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office was informed that Bernal (age 43 of Healdsburg) had been using the pseudonym Janeth Narcizo and was working at a private care facility in Windsor. Police arrested Bernal on suspicion of violating her probation and she was placed on a no-bail hold in county jail. Notably, the Windsor facility, located on Birdie Road, appears to be under the same ownership as the facility Bernal worked for at the time of her initial arrest.

In an ideal world, we would honor our elders, learning from their wisdom while taking care of them as age leads to physical and/or mental ailments. Sadly, our world is far from perfect. Many seniors find themselves on the receiving end of rude, disrespectful behavior. Worse still, elder abuse is far too common as people take advantage of those who are unable to protect themselves and incapable of reporting the mistreatment. Our team is committed to fighting all nursing home abuse cases in Northern California, especially when the circumstances also allow us to offer service as a San Francisco nursing home fraud law firm. When a care center improperly treats a patient and then seeks reimbursement from Medicare for these “services,” the same conduct amounts to nursing home fraud on the government and is a particularly lethal form of elder abuse. These cases victimize the target as an individual and as the member of the class of people who are hurt when money is taken from the government health care coffers.

Arba Litigation: The Defendants

nursing2.jpgMcKnight’s Long-Term Care News and McKnight’s Assisted Living News provide news updates to individuals in the senior care arenas. Recently, McKnight’s, along with Courthouse News Service, reported on two California nursing homes that are facing federal health care fraud charges tied to acts that endangered the lives and well-being of residents. The defendant in the Complaint, which was filed in late August, is Arba Group (“Arba”), a management company that oversees both Country Villa Watsonville East Nursing Center (now Watsonville Nursing Center) and Country Villa West Nursing & Rehabilitation Center (Watsonville Post-Acute Care Center). The locations are, respectively, an 87-bed and a 95-bed facility.