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”:

  1. The Back Taxes Scam: A caller claims to be from the IRS and demands immediate payment to cover tax debt. At least 1,100 victims lost a total of $5 million to these schemes in 2014 and many cases probably never came to light.  The IRS responded, saying it would never call to demand payment.  A similar scam references a fee for missing jury duty.
  1. Fake Debt Collectors: This caller says you have an unpaid debt, threatening jail time if you don’t pay a fee.
  1. “You Are a Winner”: By phone, mail, or e-mail, the scammer tells you that you’ve won a prize…but you have to pay a fee (e.g., delivery, processing, insurance) first.
  1. Virus Alert: A technician “helpfully” alerts you that your computer has been infected with a virus, offering to connect to your computer remotely and fix the issue for a fee. This scam can hit twice, taking the payment and stealing information off the target’s computer.  Note: Although not mentioned in this article, we’ve seen similar scams involving smartphones.
  1. Grant Award: You’re contacted and told you’ve qualified for a government grant, but you need to pay a processing/delivery fee.
  1. Loan Scams: An advertisement lures people into applying for a fake loan, complete with very real processing fees.
  1. Credit Card: Promising an interest rate or perks that too good to pass up, the scammers ask you to supply personal and financial information. This scam is a reminder that giving out personal information can be even more costly than writing a check.
  1. “Make Thousands!”: Another identity theft scheme uses an advertisement promising a work-from-home opportunity, just complete some paperwork listing important personal information. We’ve also heard about long-running scams requiring you to buy products or otherwise pay an upfront fee with the promise of huge returns that never materialize.
  1. Fake Check/Money Order: It sounds easy, cash a check (there’s a story about why they need this help, often involving a foreign country) and wire the money to the intended recipient, keeping a fee for your troubles. The check bounces but only after you’ve already advanced the funds to wire the money.
  1. International Lottery: You’ve won an overseas lottery, but you need to pay fees or taxes before you can collect.

Although not part of the BBB “Top Ten” (and despite knowing we could never build a truly comprehensive list), there are two others we want to mention:

  • Rental Scam: As The Press Democrat notes, this scam is particularly relevant here in Northern California.  A seemingly ideal (and ideally priced!) property is offered for immediate rental.  The catch?  You need to “act quickly” and, sight unseen, pay a despite via cashier’s check.  The property may be real (they often use online photos), the opportunity is not.
  • Family Emergency: A team member’s mother-in-law received a call (and luckily spotted the scam) that fits into this category, mentioned on the Federal Trade Commission website. A caller poses as a relative in need of immediate cash while on a trip, fishing for (“Hey Grandma, guess who this is?”) or using social media to find convincing details before asking the money be sent via wire transfer.

Why They Work, How Much They Steal

Why do these scams work?  Often, as a Santa Rosa officer told the Press Democrat, people feel pressure to respond immediately, making mistakes in the moment they might have avoided if they had more time to reflect.  Sergeant Ludtke’s advice, which may sound clichéd but which is easy to forget: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

How much do scammers make on these schemes?  One survey estimates that some 17.6 million Americans lost in the neighborhood of $8.6 billion with an average reported loss just shy of $500.  This is likely a gross underestimate since people may be too ashamed to admit falling for a scam (something the crooks count on!) or may not even realize it happened.

Helping Victims of Financial Fraud in Northern California

If you or a loved one has fallen victim to a financial scheme, including but not limited to scams targeting seniors, do not feel ashamed.  It is not the victims who should be ashamed, it is the perpetrators.  Do not let them win.   Criminal court can punish offenders, but it is in civil court that victims really get their chance to hold wrongdoers accountable.  Call our office at (800) 427-7020 to learn more.

As always, please do not hesitate to call about any form of elder abuse or nursing home neglect.  We have offices for our elder abuse law firm in Santa Rosa, San Francisco, and Oakland or we can arrange to meet at another location convenient for you.

See Related Blog Posts:

Empowering Seniors to Fight Back Against Financial Abuse

Understanding & Combatting Financial Elder Abuse

(Image by Nic McPhee)

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.

oldsadTrowbridge was admitted to Cashmere’s dementia care ward in 2013.  In addition to other mental and physical deficits, she suffered from partial paralysis and was barely able to speak.  According to the lawsuit and the recent investigation, staff members found a male resident in Trowbridge’s room on two separate occasions during January 2015.  On the first occasion, the man took hold of Trowbridge’s hand and put it on his genital region.  After the second visit, Trowbridge told a nurse that the man was sexually abusing her.  While employees stopped the conduct, the nursing home did not report the events to state health investigators as the law requires.  According to the Complaint, in the wake of the incidents Trowbridge became depressed, suffered suicidal thoughts, and lost significant weight due to lack of appetite.  Trowbridge was hospitalized with pneumonia and respiratory failure on May 11 and died three days later.

Notably, investigators found the same male resident behaved in a similar manner with other female residents.  No reports were made until February 2 when he was found fondling a female resident in the dining facility.  The nursing director defended the failure to report prior events saying she believed the incidents were consensual and the man had a right to physical intimacy.  However, state investigators concluded the center failed to assess the ability of the female patients to consent to sexual activity and that this failure left the women vulnerable.

Sexual Mistreatment of the Elderly: An Understudied Threat

The National Institute of Justice, a research arm of the federal Justice Department, calls sexual abuse “one of the most understudied aspects of elder mistreatment.”  Disturbingly, a 2006 study concluded that cases of sexual abuse in care facilities are less likely to lead to charges and a finding of guilt than cases involving seniors living independently.  There has been a repeated refusal to recognize the immense psychological impact of these crimes including a failure to routinely assess/evaluate the psychological effects of sexual elder abuse on the victim.  Charges are often not filed unless there are physical signs of assault.

A Matter of Trust

Nursing homes are entrusted with the care of our beloved relatives and friends — and perhaps, one day, ourselves — who can no longer care for themselves.  We must be able to trust that the facilities will keep residents safe and guard them against threats including the threat of sexual abuse.  This obligation not only includes proper reporting but also taking affirmative steps to prevent sexual abuse of the elderly and infirm in the first place.

If you believe someone you care about has been sexually abused or otherwise mistreated while at a Northern California senior care facility, call the offices of our elder abuse law firm in Sonoma, San Francisco, or Oakland.  We can help you protect and advocate for your loved one.

See Related Blog Posts:

Resident Aggression: A Growing Threat in Senior Care Homes and Facility Liability

California Enacts New Law Expanding Mandatory Reporting of Elder Abuse

A Shocking Form of Elder Abuse: Sexual Abuse Against Seniors in Care Centers and At Home

(Image by Ulrich Joho)


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.

Both federal and state laws prohibit the use of antipsychotics and other psychoactive medications as “chemical restraints.” A government study in 2011 found 88 percent of antipsychotics prescribed for Medicare patients in U.S. nursing homes were used to treat dementia, despite not being approved for such a purpose. The federal government responded by starting a campaign to reduce the misuse of antipsychotics. Reducing the use of these drugs in nursing homes by 15 percent took nearly two years instead of the expected timeframe of under a year. Still, nearly 300,000 patients remain on the dangerous medications.

Lack of Accountability for Homes that Medically Sedate Patients
A related NPR piece notes that, despite a continuing campaign by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) to reduce the number of nursing home patients using antipsychotic medications, there are few consequences for nursing homes that oversedate patients. Although there have been a number of training initiatives aimed at preventing overmedication, NPR found that CMS has rarely used the penalties available to it when nursing homes are found to have given patients unnecessary drugs. Notably, even if current goals are met and overuse is reduced by an additional 15% by the end of 2016, there will still be close to a quarter of a million nursing home residents receiving unnecessary and often dangerous antipsychotic medications.

Northern California Nursing Home Attorney Fighting the Ovemedication Epidemic
If you suspect a loved one is being dangerously overmedicated, our San Francisco overmedication law firm can help. As a Northern California nursing home abuse attorney, Greg Brod can help you protect your loved one, bringing the mistreatment to an end and holding the care center responsible for their behavior. Our team can also help you recover compensation for the harm done, money that can be used to obtain top-level care for your loved one.

See Related Blog Posts:
Elder Abuse Through Medications: The Threat of Dangerous Drugging
Drug Misuse at Nursing Homes is the Same as Abuse, says San Francisco Personal Injury Attorney

(Image by v1ctor Casale)

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.

oldhands.jpgStudy Finds Peer Abuse Impacts Nearly 20% of Nursing Home Residents
Weil Cornell Medical College recently released a study focused on the growing threat of aggressive encounters between nursing home residents. Researchers found that nearly one out of every five (19.8%) nursing home residents experienced at least one negative, aggressive encounter with another resident (or multiple residents) in the previous four weeks alone. These encounters, termed resident-to-resident elder mistreatment, included verbal, physical, and sexual interactions as well as invasion of privacy. The study is the first attempt to study the prevalence of mistreatment of one resident by another using interviews and observation.

Researchers noted that the problem is under-reported and urged the need for effective intervention. Most of the perpetrators suffered some form of cognitive disability, including dementia, but were physically able to move throughout the facility. The study authors recommended facilities train staff to recognize and report peer mistreatment and issue guidelines for addressing incidents of resident-to-resident aggression.

Holding Nursing Facilities Responsible for Peer Abuse
The backbone of California’s elder abuse law is the “Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act” (“EADACPA” or “the Act”). The Act defines abuse broadly including both affirmative acts of abuse as well as neglect that leads to physical harm or mental suffering. Under the EADACPA, negligence amounts to the “failure of any person having the care or custody of an elder or a dependent adult to exercise that degree of care that a reasonable person in a like position would exercise.”

Given the prevalence of peer abuse and the well-known tendency of some dementia patients to act out in a way that may harm others, failing to protect patients from resident-on-resident abuse is likely to constitute negligence. Inadequate staffing can be a key factor in these cases. In California, a patient who experiences an assault by a fellow resident or another form of resident-to-resident mistreatment may have a civil claim against the nursing center.

The Brod Firm is dedicated to helping victims of nursing home abuse recover appropriate damages and escape from an abusive situation. If you, your parent, or another close relative has experienced peer abuse in a nursing home or other senior care facility, please call our firm. With nursing home abuse law offices in Santa Rosa, Oakland, and San Francisco, we are committed to a safe living environment for all of Northern California’s seniors.

See Related Blog Posts:
Despite Legislation and Regulation, Elder Abuse Remains a Major Problem in California
Understanding Senior Care & Preventing Elder Abuse

(Image by Jonas Boni)

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
medicine$.jpgAs the paper reported, a former employee turned whistleblower filed suit in a Miami area federal court alleging the company used kickbacks as part of a scam that resulted in $130 million in fraudulent claims. Steven Beaujon served as Plaza’s chief financial officer between September 2002 and February 2012. Beaujon alleges that Plaza paid secret (and illegal) kickbacks to as many as 55 doctors in exchange for referring patients to their facilities. The Complaint suggests that Plaza hid the true nature of the payments by creating fake contracts with the doctors, but Beaujon suggests the providers never submitted time sheets or even showed up to worked. A chart submitted to the court shows 11 doctors receiving $2 million between 2008 and 2011.

In addition to the purported kickbacks, Plaza allegedly submitted false claims to both Medicare and Medicaid for various therapy services that were not actually performed and/or charged the agencies an inflated cost for therapy services. Plaza denies all wrongdoing, calling Beaujon a disgruntled employee. As always, in our justice system a defendant is innocent until proven guilty.

The Danger in Health Care Fraud & The Importance of Fighting Back
Federal law prohibits giving payments to medical professionals for referring patients using the Medicare or Medicaid programs. These kickbacks can cloud providers’ medical judgment putting both patient health and federal funds at risk. Unnecessary care is not only wasteful but can be hazardous, especially to older individuals who may already be medically vulnerable and may not be able to speak up to protect their own interests. In some cases, fraud may also amount to elder abuse.

Fighting health care fraud requires a partnership between witnesses and legal professionals. Our Medicare fraud law firm understands the laws. We also have the skills and experience critical to investigating and substantiating a claim. It is, however, often an employee or former employee who blows the whistle and alerts our team to frauds committed by their employer. These individuals are crucial to the fight, a fact the law recognizes by providing both protection from retaliation and, when the government recovers wrongfully diverted funds, monetary compensation.

If you are aware of kickback schemes or other forms of health care fraud, please call our office. We can help you do the right thing and together we can combat these dangerous crimes.

See Related Blog Posts:
Blood Test Company Accused of Paying Kickbacks to Referring Doctors
Why We Fight: A Reminder of the Dangers Behind Fraudulent Referrals in the Health Care Arena

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.

Medicare’s 32-day rule provides a window for payment that is intended to accommodate some pharmacies’ billing cycles. However, and this language simply begs to be quoted directly, “[d]rugs dispensed after death cannot be used for medically indicated purposes.” Investigators suggest the problem may extend much wider than just HIV medications and likely runs throughout the Medicare Part D prescription coverage program, meaning a change could lead to significant savings for Medicare and thus for the American people. According to the report, Medicare agreed that the rule needs to be changed saying they are in preliminary talks to cut the window to “the absolute minimum given current industry billing practices and system constraints.”

Identifying & Preventing the Problem
A report from political think-tank The Heartland Institute points to two possible ways in which the drug fraud may have been carried out, theories alluded to in the official report. The first theory is that the beneficiaries were the victims of identity theft and suggests the drugs may have been resold on the black market after purchase. The second theory involves a more institutional fraud and suggests that unscrupulous, possibly fake pharmacies were responsible for the bills and that the medications were never actually dispensed.

This month, as noted in a press release from the House Ways and Means Committee, Congressmen Brady (R-TX) and McDermott (D-WA) introduced draft of a bill titled “Protecting the Integrity of Medicare Act of 2014.” The bill proposes reforms to the program’s anti-fraud programs, including measures aimed at preventing the coverage of prescriptions for deceased beneficiaries. We will follow the progress of this legislation and we favor such efforts aimed at preventing fraud before it happens.

Law Firm Recouping Money Lost to Medicare Fraud with the Help of Private Whistleblowers
We also believe it is important to attempt to recoup money lost to Medicare fraud. In many cases, the federal False Claims Act and its state equivalents is a key tool for recovering these funds. Often the recovery process begins with a brave individual coming forward to report knowledge of Medicare fraud; for example, an employee might report that a pharmacy filed fake claims for prescription medications after a beneficiary’s death. The law protects these whistleblowers from retaliation and, when the case results in money being recovered, allows them a share of the recovery in recognition of their role. If you have knowledge of Medicare fraud, our legal team can help you become part of this fight. Call to schedule a consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:
A Victim-Centered Approach to Prescription Theft
The False Claims Act and the Role of Whistleblowers in Stopping Health Care Fraud

(Image by Bill David Brooks)

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.

The Growing Problem of Prescription Theft
Sadly, this is far from an isolated event and prescription theft is a problem of epidemic proportions with the elderly among the most frequent victims and the culprits often the most trusted of individuals. Earlier this year, Contra Costa Times reported on a Concord police officer accused of prescription theft and a related count of elder abuse. The stories of heroes-turned-villains are noteworthy, but caregivers probably who commit the largest share of residential prescription thefts. One example is a case pending in Ohio where, according to a December 2 report from ThisWeek News, police are investigating a nurse accused of stealing painkillers from residents of a senior care facility.

In an article titled “Medication Theft: Protecting Our Most Vulnerable Neighbors,” the National Neighborhood Watch cites a National Drug Intelligence Center report that found prescription thefts totaled $184 million in 2010, a figure that represents a whopping 350% jump from 2007. Referencing the terminology used by many government and research groups, the group confirms that older adults are particularly vulnerable and that most cases of “pharmaceutical diversion” involve someone the victim knows well and trusts with access to their home. The piece recommends older adults be aware of the possibility of drug theft, keep inventory of the drugs in their home, and even consider using a lockbox to secure medications.

A Form of Abuse with Potentially Devastating Effects
The effects of pharmaceutical theft are wide-ranging. Most discussions center on the thief and the problems associated with prescription misuse. While these are certainly important issues, we think too many discussions neglect to consider the impact on the victim. Forcing someone to face uncontrolled pain is absolutely a form of abuse. In many cases, even people who take pain medication exactly as prescribed will face serious withdrawal issues if they are suddenly left without their medications and the impact can be life-threatening. Pain medicines are not the only pharmaceuticals subject to “diversion” and being without medications can cause incredibly serious health consequences. There’s a reason why the perpetrators often face counts of elder abuse, counts many reports gloss over too quickly. Discussions about pill theft must not leave out the victim.

Northern California Elder Abuse Attorney Representing Prescription Theft Victims
If you or a loved one has been the victim of medication theft that caused pain, illness, or even death, you and/or your family member may have a civil claim against the offender. Often, prescription theft is part of a larger pattern of financial, physical, or metal abuse. We help victims. Call to schedule a free legal consultation. We serve all of Northern California with three convenient locations and you can arrange a consultation with our elder abuse lawyer in Santa Rosa, San Francisco, or Oakland or we will make other arrangements to meet your needs.

See Related Blog Posts:
Oakland Attorney on the Fight Against Financial Exploitation of Older Americans
Northern California Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer on the Threat of Nursing Home Prescription Theft

(Image by Pam Roth)

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).

California Law and the Protection of Dependent Adults in Care Homes
California’s criminal and civil laws that address elder abuse also apply to “dependent adults,” a category that includes individuals who have physical and/or developmental disabilities that sharply limit their ability to care for themselves. Section 15600 of the Welfare & Institutions Code, part of the legislative findings at the start of the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (“the Protection Act”), reads: “The Legislature recognizes that elders and dependent adults may be subjected to abuse, neglect, or abandonment and that this state has a responsibility to protect these persons.” In addition to this general responsibility, California requires that care facilities agree to provide the best possible care to their residents in exchange for Medicare and Medi-Cal funding. Those duties are described in the Care Standards set forth by the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform.

Together, California’s civil, criminal, and regulatory laws allow the state to hold care facilities responsible when they fail to provide appropriate care to the elderly and the developmentally disabled. Nursing homes and similar facilities must provide adequate supervision to prevent residents from wandering away. This can be especially important since some disabilities are characterized by a tendency to wander. Since, by definition, these individuals are not able to adequately protect themselves, wandering can lead to injury or even death.

An Oakland Law Firm Protecting the Developmentally Disabled
If you have a loved one who is developmentally disabled and was injured because a care facility failed to provide adequate care, our Northern California nursing home neglect attorney can help. Although money damages cannot reverse an injury, monetary compensation can allow you to place your loved one in an excellent facility and provide care aimed at addressing the physical and emotional consequences of neglect. Hitting negligent facilities in the pocketbook can also make them recognize the damage caused and enact meaningful change for the future.

See Related Blog Posts:
California Special Needs Lawyer Comments on Autistic Wandering & Elopement
Resident Missing from Local Assisted Care Facility

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.

A Growing Population, A Growing Threat
As the New York Times recently noted, the portion of our population that over age 65 is expected to grow from about 13% of the total population today to 20% by 2050. The rate of financial elder abuse is expected to rise right along with the population. Trusted caregivers are often the perpetrators of these crimes, wrongs that occur to seniors in all income sectors. The article suggests seniors review their accounts regularly or have someone else responsible for looking through cancelled checks and bank statements. They also recommend a system of “checks and balances” such as having two co-trustees instead of just one. Once abuse does occur, it is rarely reported, partly because of embarrassment.

Staying Aware and Watching for Signs of Abusive Financial Schemes
Forbes Magazine cites one particularly insidious case of a 103 year old having to sue her son to recover needed financial assets. While largely aimed at families who are worried about an older relative, the article’s list of warning signs can also raise red flags for seniors who may see their own situation reflected. Some questions to consider: Have you been asked to make major changes to your financial accounts? Has a financial professional asked you to move with them to a new company or make changes in your account objectives? Is someone offering you a deal that seems too good to be true or catering to you in a suspicious way (ex. treating you to free goods or services)? Have statements that used to come regularly suddenly disappeared?

Empowering California’s Seniors to Join the Fight
If you suspect you have been the target of financial elder abuse, the first thing to remember is you are not alone. Feelings of embarrassment are common, but remember that many others have been in the same shoes. Reporting financial wrongs and pursuing justice is essential for your own financial (and mental/emotional) well-being. Reporting helps keep financial crimes against seniors in the spotlight, raising awareness that can help current victims (including those who lack the ability to fight for themselves) and prevent future injustice.

As a civil law firm, we can help the targets of these scams recover lost funds and begin the process of moving forward from a painful event. Call to schedule a meeting with our financial exploitation attorney in Santa Rosa, Oakland, or San Francisco.

See Related Blog Posts:
Understanding & Combatting Financial Elder Abuse
Financial Scams Against the Elderly: From Basic Theft to Complex Fraud

(Image by Ken Teegardin)

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.

Arba Litigation: The Allegations
According to the False Claims Act allegations filed against Arba, between 2007 and 2012 the facilities routinely overmedicated residents, using antipsychotics and other medicines “for the convenience of management” rather than for the good of the patients. The Complaint includes the example of one man who entered the Country Villa West facility in 2009. The man was given Haldol and Risperdal, both antipsychotics, without doctor’s orders and without the consent of the patient or his family. In a two week timeframe, the patient was taken to an area hospital and treated for heart failure, sepsis, an infected pressure ulcer, and other ailments. According to the complaint, Arba violated the False Claims Act by billing Medicare and Medicaid for these and other “non-existent, grossly inadequate, materially substandard, and/or worthless services” throughout the five year period. Arba denies all charges.

Our Thoughts as a Multi-Specialty Law Firm
The current complaint is focused on the health care fraud charges. Such charges are frequently the subject of qui tam actions, suits filed by private whistleblowers on the government’s behalf. Our firm is proud to work with whistleblowers on such matters. We partner with these brave private individuals to bring suit against companies and individuals who are defrauding our government and stealing from the already strained budgets of health care programs while ensuring the whistleblowers are protected from retaliation and receive due compensation for their role in prosecuting these claims.

Our firm also represents the victims of nursing home abuse. In this case, it seems apparent that the same underlying conduct would also have caused serious danger to the residents of Arba’s facilities. While claims on behalf of these patients would be filed separately from the fraud charges, having a law firm able to assist with both complaints is an efficient use of time and resources that helps ensure the success of both suits. Importantly, abuse claims typically must be filed within two years of the time the abuse was, or should have been, discovered (California Code Sec. 335.1), issues that may lead to some debate. A qui tam False Claims Act, in contrast, typically has a six year limitations period (31 U.S.C. Sec 3731(b)(1)).

Please call to discuss conduct involving either or both of these crimes with Attorney Brod, a San Francisco lawyer for senior’s health care rights. We may be a multi-specialty firm, but we also choose specialties that overlap in ways that benefit our clients.

See Related Blog Posts:
The National Council on Aging’s Top Ten Financial Elder Abuse Schemes
Health Care Fraud Alert – Scammers Mimic Health Care Exchange Sites

(Photo by Derrick Tyson)