The Threat of Overmedication in California Nursing Homes

January 23, 2015 by Gregory J. Brod

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)

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

January 14, 2015 by Gregory J. Brod

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)

Illegal Kickbacks in Senior Care Arena: A Crime Threatening Patients’ Health and a Nation’s Wallets

December 29, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

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

Medicare Drug Theft: Report Finds Pricey HIV-Drugs Dispensed After Death

December 22, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

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)

A Victim-Centered Approach to Prescription Theft

December 9, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

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)

Holding Facilities Responsible for Inadequate Supervision of the Developmentally Disabled

October 23, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

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

Empowering Seniors to Fight Back Against Financial Abuse

October 2, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

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)

The Devastating Mix of Health Care Fraud and Nursing Home Abuse

September 8, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

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)

Understanding & Combatting Financial Elder Abuse

June 27, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

We’ve been talking a lot recently about the problem of Medicare fraud, schemes that essentially steal money from the government and everyone who has any interaction with our nation’s healthcare system (i.e. everyone). In addition to working on these cases, Attorney Brod helps individual victims of fraud and targeted groups, including serving as a Northern California financial elder abuse lawyer. These cases are serious and becoming ever more common. Combatting financial elder abuse requires both the criminal and civil law systems and, much like health care fraud, begins with people coming forward to report misdeeds.

Sentence Handed Down in Financial Abuse Case
cash.jpgThis week, California’s Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and the District Attorney from Sonoma County, Jill Ravitch, announced the sentencing of Aldo Joseph Baccala on elder abuse, securities fraud, and grand theft charges. As detailed in the press release carried by, Baccala used his Petaluma-based realty company to solicit money from investors in a number of ventures in both California and elsewhere, promising monthly returns at a rate of 12% annually. Despite soliciting investments over a four year period and issuing notes allegedly secured with real property, Baccala did not actually own any of the facilities and was unable to provide any returns to the investors. Instead, he used the “investor’s” money for his own unsuccessful stock market investments. Many of those who invested with Baccala were elderly individuals who had known both Baccala and his family for a long period. Over time, Baccala’s company lost more than $7 million and had nearly $17 million in outstanding promissory notes.

Authorities arrested Baccala in June 2012 and in March 2014 he entered no contest pleas on 140 counts. On June 23, he was sentenced to a state prison terms of 20 years and ordered to pay $6.4 million. In announcing the sentence, Attorney General Harris noted that the fraudulent investment scheme perpetrated by Baccala stole millions of dollars from dozens of elderly investors. District Attorney Ravitch called the scope of fraud was staggering and noted that victims lost their homes, livelihoods, and retirement savings.

Financial Elder Abuse -- The Numbers and The Reasons
According to research cited by the National Adult Protective Services Association, 1 in 9 seniors reported being subject to abuse, neglect, or exploitation in the past year. Further, 1 in 20 older Americans reported some type of perceived financial mistreatment during the recent past. Financial elder abuse is hugely under-reported with a mere 1 in 44 cases coming forward. A staggering 90% of elder abuse happens at the hands of someone they know and trust.

elderfraud.jpgFocusing on financial elder abuse, the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse looked at the reasons the elderly are often targeted in financial schemes. Americans over age 50 control more than 70% of the country’s wealth, making them profitable targets. They often don’t know the value of their assets, including homes that have appreciated since being purchased many years prior. Many seniors depend on others for assistance and these helpers often have access to the senior’s assets and can influence financial decisions. Elderly individuals may lack knowledge about financial matters, particularly when technology comes into play. They also may be less likely than others to take action against an abuser due to embarrassment or health barriers. In some cases, perpetrators actually rely on their victim’s poor health, assuming a frail individual might not live long enough to take action.

Combatting Financial Elder Abuse in North California
State governments have increased their focus on elder abuse and state attorneys are increasingly bringing criminal actions against the perpetrators. We support these moves. We also believe in using the civil system to provide compensation for the victims. Please call our Sonoma elder abuse attorney for free consultation if you or someone you love is being subjected to any form of elder abuse. We can help.

See Related Blog Posts:
Oakland Attorney on the Fight Against Financial Exploitation of Older Americans

Financial Scams Against the Elderly: From Basic Theft to Complex Fraud

(Photo of money stack by Stan Dalone; Photo of woman and computer by Don Hankins)

Oakland Attorney on the Fight Against Financial Exploitation of Older Americans

April 23, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

Financially savvy individuals set aside money during their working years so that they can enjoy a secure retirement, making short-term sacrifices for long-term security. Some people plan for specific dreams such as having the ability to travel, pursue hobbies, or simply spoil their grandchildren rotten! Unfortunately, the growing epidemic of financial elder abuse threatens these dreams and can even endanger a target’s day-to-day financial security. As an Oakland elder abuse law firm, we believe that awareness is key to helping seniors avoid falling prey to these schemes. When abuse does occur, we urge both victims and their families to seek legal counsel to help them recover lost monies and regain financial security.

Police: Oakland Trio Stole $250,000 from Older Piedmont Couple
cash2.jpgAccording to The Oakland Tribune, investigators believe that an Oakland trio targeted an elderly Piedmont couple, allegedly stealing over $250,000 during a two-year time period. On Monday, police arrested 53 year-old Penielli Tutuila, his 49 year-old wife Favita, and their 29 year-old daughter Sophia at their Oakland home. All three family members were booked on suspicion of elder abuse, conspiracy, and forgery charges.

Piedmont Detective Willie Wright told reporters that the trio initially met the alleged victims, an unidentified Piedmont couple who are both 87 years-old, when they were hired to do construction work on the couple’s property. Police started investigating the Tutuila family four months ago after they were contacted by an investment company that noticed suspicious activity on the elderly couple’s account. Detective Wright expressed satisfaction at having caught the trio, noting that police are especially pleased to catch people who target elderly victims and try to clean them out of a lifetime of savings. Officials also recovered evidence from the Tutuila residence that suggests there may be other unreported victims of the trio’s schemes.

Advice from the Consumer Finance Board on Avoiding Exploitation
elderfraud.jpgThe Consumer Finance Board was created by Congress to protect all Americans by helping them understand financial agreements and make informed decisions about their money. One section of the Board focuses on Older Americans and the section’s projects include a workshop aimed at helping seniors avoid financial abuse/exploitation. The program handbook refers to financial exploitation as “the crime of the 21st century” and notes that older adults are prime targets. Older Americans reportedly lost $2.9 million to such exploitation in 2010.

The handbook discusses some of the many forms that exploitation can take. These include: Contactor/Home repair schemes; Abuse of a power of attorney role or other fiduciary/financial relationship; Investment fraud; Telemarketer or sales scams; Identity theft; and General theft of money or belongings. The guilty parties can be strangers but they are often known and trusted individuals like a caregiver/in-home aide, family member, or financial advisers. Seniors and/or their families may want to review the full handbook for a detailed look at common forms of financial exploitation, including tips for staying financially secure.

Encouraging Reporting of Financial Elder Abuse
Preventing exploitation is our ultimate goal. Until all financial abuse of seniors is brought to an end, we also want to encourage reporting of abuse. As the Finance Board notes, many older adults do not report financial exploitation whether it is out of loyalty to the perpetrator, fear of retaliation, lack of awareness, or shame/embarrassment at the situation.

We urge people to overcome these worries. A scammer does not deserve your loyalty and we can help protect you from retaliation. We can also connect you with other services and support groups that will help you move forward from a stressful and frightening experience. While feelings of embarrassment are normal, we would argue that it is the perpetrators, not the victims, who should truly feel embarrassed by their behavior. Reporting abuse will not only help you, but can also prevent the same thing from happening to someone else. If you have been the target of financial exploitation, please call. Our Oakland financial abuse lawyer and his team can help you pursue your legal right.

We also welcome calls from people concerned about a relative or other loved one. We can help you determine if financial abuse has indeed occurred (or is on-going) and help you help your loved one.

See Related Blog Posts:
Financial Scams Against the Elderly: From Basic Theft to Complex Fraud
California Elder Abuse Lawyer on the Fight against Financial Exploitation

(Cash photo by Nic McPhee; Addition artwork piece by Don Hankins)

California Elder Law Attorney on Potential Reforms for Assisted Living Facilities

January 15, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

lonelysenior.jpgAs the Baby Boomers grow older, it is becoming more and more important to have options in senior care. The needs of California’s seniors vary greatly, from those who may just need a little extra help around the home to those who are ill and need round-the-clock care. Assisted living facilities are a terrific option for those who are unable to live independently but do not need the services of a nursing home. Sadly, the problems commonly referred to as “nursing home abuse” can also affect residents of these intermediate care facilities. In addition to representing the victims of abuse in assisted care facilities, our San Francisco elder care attorney supports measures aimed at preventing abuse from occurring in the first place, a view consistent with our overarching philosophy that prevention should always come first.

California Legislators Eye Reforms to Assisted Living Facility Regulations
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, a group of California lawmakers is working to enact changes to the rules for licensing assisted care facilities in the state, including providing improved public access to complaint files and increased training requirements. State Senator Mark Leno and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner are among those who have introduced bills addressing senior residential care concerns. Overall, more than a dozen bills are part of the reform package spurred in part by the events at Valley Springs Manor in Castro Valley where the facility “closed” with more than a dozen residents left behind. Although costs have not yet been determined, Leno believes the money will be found.

Summing up the intent of the reforms, Skinner notes that families should be involved in overseeing care but adds that they should be able to rely on the state agencies charged with monitoring senior care facilities. One planned piece of legislation would ban assisted living homes from accepting new residents if the facility has unpaid fines or has unaddressed serious health or safety violations. Another proposal calls for annual inspections of assisted-care facilities, a marked change from the current rule requiring inspection once every five years. Additional legislation calls for increasing the required training for those working with elderly residents from 10 to 40 hours, all of which must be completed before the staff member begins working with residents.

Governor Brown has proposed an additional $7.5 million and 71.5 new employees dedicated to community care licensing for the coming fiscal year in order to improve oversight of the state’s 7,500 care facilities. Gov. Brown has cautioned lawmakers to adhere to the planned budget, but Leno and others believe the political will exists to provide added funding if necessary. While they agree that fiscal responsibility is key and that it is important to pay down the state’s debts, they say that spending on elder care oversight will provide Californians with the services they deserve and will ultimately save lives.

How Families (and Our Office) Can Help
The reform efforts are supported by the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (“CANHR”). CANHR also provides a checklist that can help families evaluate care facilities and make the best possible decision when it comes to finding care for an aging loved one. We know that this can be an extremely hard process and we are hopeful that the state will help families by improving the information available to the public about care facilities in the state. We believe information and oversight are both key to ending the elder abuse epidemic.

If you or a loved one has experienced abuse or neglect in a California assisted living facility or other elder care home, we can help. Call to arrange a no-cost consultation with our California elder abuse lawyer in Oakland or at one of our other convenient Northern California locations.

See Related Blog Posts:
Castro Valley Nursing Home “Closes,” With Fourteen Residents Left Behind

Understanding Senior Care & Preventing Elder Abuse

(Photo by C & More)

Elder Abuse Reports Don’t Always Lead to Elder Abuse Charges

January 4, 2014 by Gregory J. Brod

Our team continues to be concerned about the threat of elder abuse. We are glad to see that this problem has been getting more attention. Sadly, that attention does not seem to translate directly into a willingness to report and pursue legal cases against those who commit elder abuse. We understand the hesitancy to bring criminal charges, especially when the abuser is someone close to the senior. While we do believe the criminal prosecution of offenders is important, our Northern California elder abuse law firm also urges victims to consider a civil elder abuse claim which can allow them to recover monetary damages and put a stop to abuse without the added tension of a criminal charge.

Report Uncovers Reluctance to Bring Elder Abuse Charges oldhands.jpg
A report carried by Yahoo Canada last month focused on the small percentage of elder abuse investigations that eventually result in criminal charges in Canadian courts. Researchers found that out of 453 allegations of elder abuse handled by police in Ottawa during a five year span, only 17% resulted in actual charges. This is substantially lower than average, with 25% of probes across the board resulting in charges.

Investigators found that more than half of the cases that did not result in charges involved either insufficient evidence or a victim who refused to co-operate with the police department. Victims appear hesitant to file because of a desire to maintain family relationships and concerns about retaliation, including being placed in an institutionalized care facility if they pursue abuse charges. Financial dependency exacerbates both fears, as does facing a disability or other physical or mental illness. Canadian police report spending time walking seniors through the benefits of pursuing a criminal elder abuse case, including assistance available to abusive family members, but ultimately the same vulnerabilities that lead to abuse also lead to a failure to pursue charges. In some cases, police were able to make a referral to social services or other support groups or issue a verbal warning to the accused related to the allegations.

Notably, the Ottawa study found that women represented 70% of alleged abuse victims, likely because women account for a disproportionate share of the elderly population. The cases involved slightly more women than men (52% to 48%) accused of abusive acts, with men more likely to target family or friends and women more likely to target seniors who are under their care in an institutional location. Financial abuse was the most common form of mistreatment, followed by verbal or physical abuse and a smaller number of sexual abuse cases. .

Helping California’s Elderly
The National Center on Elder Abuse provides a list of resources for elder abuse victims in California along with a list of some of the applicable state laws. We encourage abuse victims and those who suspect a loved one or community member is being abused to explore the resources and to strongly consider a criminal case. Our firm can also provide representation in civil court, helping victims recover stolen money and receive damages for physical or emotional mistreatment. Civil cases do not involve jail time or other criminal punishments, but they can help bring an end to abuse and allow a victim to move forward from a dangerous, tragic time. Call to schedule a meeting with our elder abuse lawyer in San Francisco or any of our other Northern California locations.

See Related Blog Posts:
Elder Abandonment in California

A Glance Across the Aisle: The Criminal Side of Elder Abuse Law

(Photo by Jonas Boni)

Elder Abandonment in California

November 20, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

It was less than a month ago that we first reported on the disturbing events at Valley Springs Manor, the Castro Valley elder care home that “closed” with more than a dozen residents still inside. As we noted in conjunction with that story, elder abuse is becoming increasingly widespread with caregiver neglect ranking as one of the leading forms of the problem. One of the most disturbing forms of neglect, caregiver abandonment, made the news again this week. Sadly, our Oakland elder abandonment attorney has come across many cases of seniors who are unable to care for themselves due to physical and/or cognitive problems being left alone by either paid or unpaid (ex. family) caregivers. Family, friends, and community members should be aware that elder abandonment is a very real problem and should not hesitate to reach out for help if they suspect a senior has been abandoned for any length of time.

Elderly Man Found at 3 A.M.
Early Sunday morning police in Vallejo arrested a Brentwood man on allegations of elder abuse. As reported in the Oakland Tribune, residents in the 600 block of Alabama Street contacted police shortly after 3 A.M. to report a man banging on doors and asking to be let in to the homes. When officers arrived they found an older man, who had urinated and defecated himself, lying on the ground. The man was unresponsive but breathing.

As paramedics began to attend to the older man, a second man arrived at the scene. Police eventually identified the second man as Oleander Harrison, age 40, and determined he was the caregiver for the older man, a 69 year-old described as an “extremely dependent adult.” According to the report, Harrison had driven from Brentwood to Vallejo in order to visit his girlfriend and had brought the older man along with him. While Harrison visited his girlfriend, he allegedly left the victim alone in the car for many hours. Police arrested Harrison for the suspected abandonment and booked him into Solano County jail.

The Law and Reality of Abandonment
lonelysenior.jpg Under California law, abandonment is considered to be one form of elder abuse. Specifically, Section 15610.05 of the Welfare & Institutions Code defines abandonment as “the desertion or willful forsaking of an elder or a dependent adult by anyone having care or custody of that person under circumstances in which a reasonable person would continue to provide care and custody.” Abandonment can involve a family member or a paid caregiver. Abandonment can be on-going and can occur in the home/care center, such as leaving an elder in their own room without the basic essentials of care. Individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of cognitive decline are particularly at risk.

Abandonment can be fatal. Seniors have died of exposure after being left at an outdoor location in both extremely cold and extremely hot weather. A cognitively impaired senior might suffer health effects from being left to fend for his/herself and missing medications or not maintaining a healthy diet. As we noted in a prior post, wandering can be triggered by unmet needs, meaning an in-home abandonment could turn into a missing person case and a shorter-term abandonment (such as leaving a senior in a parked car for an extended time like in the Harrison case above) into a long-term, even permanent loss.

How We Help
If you suspect a senior has been abandoned by caregivers, whether it is nursing home abandonment, abandonment by another form of paid caregiver, or familial abandonment, speak up. Contact the Adult Protective Services office for the elder’s community and call our Oakland elder abuse attorney. We can help you get better care and compensation for the harm done.

See Related Blog Posts:
Resident Missing from Local Assisted Care Facility

Castro Valley Nursing Home “Closes,” With Fourteen Residents Left Behind

(Photo by C & More)

Widening Nursing Home Abuse Debacle Prompts State to Intervene Again

November 8, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod


Elder abuse attorney Gregory J. Brod was among the many Bay Area residents who were dismayed by the news last week that an elder care facility in Castro Valley was responsible for abandoning 19 residents for eight days, prompting the state to order the shuttering of the Valley Springs Manor. And now, Sacramento has also decided to essentially take over another assisted living facility owned by the same group that was linked to the Castro Valley scandal.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, officials with the state Department of Social Services Community Care Licensing Division stepped in to assume control of the Sundial Palms Assisted Living & Memory Care center in Modesto, with the state agency monitoring the facility around the clock and mandating that the owner hire a consultant from Sacramento to act as an executive director while the care home awaits a change in ownership this month.

The spokesman for the department, Michael Weston, stated that the “highly unusual” move by his agency was as a result of the incident in Castro Valley, where all but two members of the staff — a janitor and a cook, both untrained in the care of the elderly — walked away from the facility and left the 19 residents to their own devices. Unlike in the Castro Valley scandal, where the state ordered the elder care home to be closed, the state has opted to keep the Modesto elder home open while proactively intervening. The state is also in the process of revoking the license of the owner of both homes, Herminigilda “Hilda” Manuel, to operate any elder care facilities.

Unfortunately, if one thinks that elder care abuse is an isolated problem in the United States, statistics clearly show otherwise. Here are some of the disquieting statistics on elder and nursing home abuse compiled by the National Center on Elder Abuse:

  • Ninety-one percent of nursing homes lack adequate staff to properly care for residents.
  • Thirty-six percent of nursing homes have been in violation of elderly abuse laws
  • There were 5,961,568 documented cases of elder abuse in 2010
  • Fully 9.5 percent of the elderly population was abused in 2010
  • Neglect represents the biggest form of elder abuse, accounting for 58.5 percent of all reported cases
  • Physical abuse accounts for 15.7 percent of all reported elder abuse cases
  • Financial exploitation is involved in 12.3 percent of all reported elder abuse cases
  • Emotional abuse is involved in 7.3 percent of all reported elder abuse cases

Continue reading "Widening Nursing Home Abuse Debacle Prompts State to Intervene Again" »

Resident Missing from Local Assisted Care Facility

November 1, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

It was a story that disturbed us the first time around and the story has gotten even worse as more facts are uncovered. In a recent blog post, we wrote about the Alameda County assisted-living center that “closed,” leaving residents behind when management and most of the staff left. More details have emerged since our first report, details that make the story even more disturbing. The developing story has brought in an important issue in the elder care arena – wandering by elderly individuals, particularly those with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Wandering is a major concern for care providers and our Northern California elder abuse law firm encourages family members to report any facility that does not actively work to prevent wandering and keep residents safe.

Assisted Care Center Residents Abandoned in Alameda County, One Missing lonelysenior.jpg
As officials have stepped up their probe of Valley Springs Manor in Castro Valley, it appears that residents were actually left without paid caregivers (a few staff members stayed despite being unpaid) for up to eight days, not three as originally reported. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that about 30 residents were at the home when the Department of Social Services posted a closure notice on October 21, giving the facility 72 hours to close due to health and safety concerns. However, it appears that workers began leaving on the 18th when management told them that they would no longer be paid. By the closure date, 19 residents remained, abandoned by management and most of the staff. It does appear that the state was supposed to ensure residents were transferred or picked up by family.

It now appears that one resident is missing. A staff member (one who stayed to help the abandoned residents despite not being paid) reported Edmund Bascom missing on Friday. The 65 year-old suffers from mental illness and has a history of wandering. Sgt J.D. Nelson, Alameda County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson, said Bascom wandered away from residential care facilities at least ten times over the past five years. He was previously located in Oakland, Castro Valley and the San Leandro BART Station, which is where he was last seen on Friday afternoon. Bascom is described as a 5’10, 180 pound black man with brown eyes and black hair. When last seen, he was wearing an Oakland Raiders shirt, blue pants, a fishing hat, and black boots.

Wandering & Alzheimer’s Patients
Statistics suggest that around 60% of patients with Alzheimer’s will wander. The Mayo Clinic and The National Institute on Aging provide tip sheets for caregivers dealing with Alzheimer’s or other seniors who are prone to wander. They recommend keeping doors locked and using out-of-reach deadbolts, camouflaging doors/doorknobs, or installing alarm systems to help prevent the person from leaving their home. Activities, including distractions planned for a time when a person is known to wander, can also help. Putting identification in the person’s clothing or even using a GPS device can help in case wandering does occur, as can keeping neighbors aware of the possibility that the individual may wander. While it is not always the case, wandering can be the result of unmet needs, a factor to consider if a loved one wanders from a care facility. You should contact law enforcement if a loved elderly individual goes missing. A Silver Alert, similar to the better-know Amber Alert, may be issued in appropriate circumstances.

Protecting California’s Elderly
We hope Mr. Bascom is found and safely returned home. We also hope the investigation into the events at Valley Springs identifies those responsible for the apparent failure to properly care for the facility’s residents. Hopefully the investigation also helps establish guidelines to prevent a similar series of events from occurring in the future.

Please call our office if a senior care facility fails to take reasonable precautions to prevent wandering and it results in a loved one’s injury or death. As a San Francisco nursing home neglect attorney, Greg Brod is committed to representing seniors who are the victims of elder abuse in all its forms. Call to arrange a free consultation.

See Related Blog Post:
Castro Valley Nursing Home “Closes,” With Fourteen Residents Left Behind

Understanding Senior Care & Preventing Elder Abuse

(Photo by C & More)

Castro Valley Nursing Home “Closes,” With Fourteen Residents Left Behind

October 27, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

As a San Francisco nursing home abuse law firm, we have seen far too many cases involving the neglect and maltreatment of vulnerable individuals. The law is supposed to help prevent these cases, but a recent headline draws attention to dangerous gaps in both law and practice of senior care in California. In this post, we present a story in which many people contributed to a shocking case of nursing home abuse. However, we cannot present this story without also noting the story’s heroes, people who chose to act with compassion and heart when they saw dangerous neglect and who refused to be part of the problem.

Paramedics Discover Residents Abandoned at Closed Senior Care Center
nursing2.jpg Reporters with The San Francisco Chronicle are following an unfolding story of a system that placed the residents of a Castro Valley assisted living facility in danger. California’s Department of Social Services ordered the closure of Valley Manor Residential Care, located at 17926 Apricot Way, effective Thursday October 24. Details relating to the closure process, including the role of the Department and the center’s management, remain to be discovered (Note: A later report carried by ABC cites the Department’s complaint which details a history of violations at the facility, including severe understaffing). However, it appears that most of the staff left the facility on or prior to Thursday’s closure date. On Saturday, according to Alameda County sheriff’s deputies, paramedics were called to the site. Upon arrival, they found the posted closure notice on the door. Inside, they found fourteen sick and elderly patients still living in the building.

Thankfully, some staff members showed heart and stayed at the facility, despite not being compensated for their services. These staff members, whom we consider the heroes of an otherwise upsetting event, included a cook, a janitor, and a single caretaker. After the paramedic’s discovery, the fourteen patients were transported by ambulance to other care facilities in the county. Sheriff's Sgt. J.D. Nelson told reporters that the transportation process was not easy, noting that there were bedridden and wheelchair-bound patients as well as individuals with mental problems. Perhaps miraculously, none of the patients appear to have suffered further health issues as a result of their abandonment. Deputies are still trying to confirm if there are any patients who are not accounted for and who may have wandered off from the facility.

Ongoing Investigation, Potential Criminal and Civil Liability
At the time of the Chronicle’s report, sheriff’s investigators had not spoken with the center’s ownership or the state officials who were involved in the facility’s closure. Criminal charges may follow the investigation. Sgt. Nelson said that there are many open questions, including what happens when a nursing home is closed and whether anyone is sent to the facility after the close date. He concluded, “All we know is that 14 people were left here today that shouldn't have been there by themselves.”

A lot is unclear, but what is clear is that someone, likely many “someone”s, should be held accountable for the abandonment of these patients. Civil liability may include both public and private entities. This is the sort of complex case that requires a law firm with experience in nursing home law, a firm like the Brod Law Firm.

A Reminder: Heroes Who Stayed Behind
It is also the sort of story that reminds us that terrible circumstances often bring out true heroes, such as the staff members who stayed and who are no doubt responsible for the fact that the 14 patients lived through these events. While our elder abuse practice involves some truly horrible cases, it is always important to remember that there are quiet heroes among us. We give thanks to the good-hearted staff members who stayed behind and to the many (often unrecognized) people throughout our region who are committed to helping care for our seniors.

See Related Blog Posts:
Danger Lurking Behind a Homey Exterior: Felony Charges Filed Against Operator of Non-Medical Senior Care Facility

Northern California Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer on the Threat of Nursing Home Prescription Theft

(Photo by Derrick Tyson, photo is not from facility involved in story)

Financial Scams Against the Elderly: From Basic Theft to Complex Fraud

October 11, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

Today, we call attention to a scam aimed at the elderly in our region and remind our readers of the need to be vigilant and exercise caution when dealing with home improvements. Further, remember that a basic con or “simple” financial scam may be used to create a doorway to allow more extensive financial abuse that can target an individual’s life savings.

cash.jpg Scam Targets Older Homeowners in Newark, CA
According to The Oakland Tribune, police are warning of a scam targeting elderly homeowners in Newark. In one instance, a female suspect called an elderly target and attempted to arrange an appointment to inspect his home’s furnace and air conditioning systems. The caller suggested they would be in the area and were offering a “half price” deal of $60 for the services. During the call, the suspect attempted to gain the man’s trust, making small talk while trying to elicit the man’s address (despite a prior comment about being in the area!) and pressuring him to sign up for the purported deal.

Tips on Avoiding Scams and the Danger of Escalation
Police suspect this is a scam, although there have been no reports of actual thefts. Police warned of a common set-up – after arriving at the home, one suspect distracts the homeowner with the home-related offer while their partner wanders through the home, pocketing valuables. They cautioned residents against allowing anyone they do not know and trust to have access to their home or yard. Homeowners should also always confirm service-people are licensed and ask for references. If the prospective workers claim no permit or license is needed, homeowners should confirm this with their local planning/building department. Agreements for home repairs should never begin until both parties have signed a written contract, work should never commence on a verbal deal alone.

While this scam seems relatively basic, it could be used as an access-point for more complex financial schemes. Instead of stealing valuables (which might be missed), the scammers might look for financial papers and copy down information or try to glean information from the individual that might then be used in a financial fraud. Scammers may target the elderly on the belief that older generations are more trusting or more likely to leave financial data on paper rather than store it in protected digital files.

An Overview on Financial Schemes Targeting Older Americans
Financial elder abuse is a growing threat, but how many are actually affected? One of the most commonly cited resources on the topic, considered groundbreaking, is a 2009 Met Life study “Broken Trust: Elders, Family, and Finances." MetLife actually released a follow-up report in June 2011, “The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse: Crimes of Occasion, Desperation, and Predation Against America’s Elders,” including updated numbers. The 2011 study found that financial abuse targeting the elderly led to losses of at least $2.9 billion in 2010, an increase of 12% over the estimated losses for 2008. MetLife tracked news reports and found that 31% of stories on elder abuse involved financial abuse. Of these, 51% involved financial abuse perpetrated by strangers; 34% involved financial elder abuse by family, friends, or neighbors; 12% involved legitimate businesses (i.e. insurance or banking companies committed the frauds), and 4% of involved Medicare or Medicaid fraud (this category included the highest average amount lost). The study authors note that the second group, fraud by known and even beloved individuals, may be more likely than other schemes to go unreported due to shame or fear of retaliation.

Hope & Commitment
The good news is that attention to elder abuse, including financial schemes targeting seniors, has increased in the past few years. That attention has brought with it efforts by lawmakers, law enforcement, and courts to confront the problem. However, the threat remains, as we are reminded of by the frequent media coverage and police reports. If you or a loved one has been targeted by financial elder abuse in California, especially in the Oakland, San Francisco, or Sacramento regions, please call our firm. Call today and schedule a no-cost consultation with our California attorney for seniors targeted by financial fraud scams to get the process of recovering compensation started.

See Related Blog Posts:
California Elder Abuse Lawyer on the Fight against Financial Exploitation

Couple Accused of Financial Elder Abuse and Scheming More Than $842,000 from Widower

(Photo by Stan Dalone)

Health Care Fraud Alert – Scammers Mimic Health Care Exchange Sites

September 23, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

We’ve used these pages to discuss both health care fraud issues and the use of the internet to commit fraud against seniors. In this post, we look at a type of scam that involves both. As a law firm for California health care fraud cases, we work with both victims and internal whistleblowers to stop these schemes.

computerhealth.jpgOverview of Health Care Exchanges
Kaiser Health News, a non-profit that covers news in the area of health care policy and politics, reported earlier this month on the threat of fraud tied to the new online health insurance marketplaces. Pursuant to the new federal health law, states are required to open these marketplaces (also referred to as exchanges) on October 1, 2013. Along with the District of Columbia, sixteen states are building their own exchanges while the remainder are using the default approach and having the federal government run their exchanges. In either case, the goal is to provide a place where consumers can review their insurance options and make comparisons that allow them to make informed choices when purchasing health coverage. Ideally, the websites will be akin to the well-known and frequently used sites for buying plane tickets. Given the subject matter, the applications will be detailed and the user will input personal information including Social Security numbers, tax records, and employment history.

The Threat of Bogus Websites
The problem – groups are using web addresses and sites that look similar to the official exchanges to draw in consumers who are trying to reach the online health insurance marketplaces. At best, the sites may create confusion and market a private company’s products. At worst, the sites are the work of scammers looking to obtain private information for fraudulent purposes. James Quiggle of the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, notes that enrollment engines on deceptive sites may ask for personal information such as credit card numbers and health information. This can lead to identity theft. Another expert notes that eight percent of medical identity theft is fueled by consumers providing personal health data (ex. blood type, surgical history) to fake or “spoofed” internet sites. Scammers can sell this data on the black market and it can be used to fuel further fraud, such as the filing of false Medicare claims. The fake sites may also install malware that can get additional information from a victim’s computer.

States & Individuals Fight Health Care Exchange Fraud
State officials are trying to identify the fake exchange sites proactively. In some cases cited by Kaiser, including in California, the sites are being monitored because of the potential confusion but have not been shut-down because they are not committing a fraud nor do they have a commercial purpose. However, other sites are more problematic. A blog entry written by California Health Advocates (“CHA”) references a site that was recently shut down by the California Department of Insurance. According to the CHA, the site was attempting to collect personal information.

Consumers are also key in finding the fake sites and fighting fraud. Kaiser suggests using the main portal to link to their state’s exchange or access the federal exchange where appropriate. If something on a website feels “off” or if the site is asking for information that seems unrelated to health planning, stop and contact your state’s insurance department. Other things that can suggest a fake site include: Language about a “limited time offer” or “special price;” Sites asking for information before October 1 (the start date for the genuine exchanges); Pages that seem to provide
actual little information; and Sites with oddly placed graphics.

California Health Care Fraud Law Firm
If you are in California and believe you have been victimized by a fake insurance exchange website or other health insurance scam, please call our San Francisco health care fraud lawyer. We can help you recover lost money and regain control of your health identity. In some fraud cases, there are also monetary rewards available for individuals who come forward and report the schemes.

See Related Blog Posts:
Fighting Fraud: Doctor Ordered to Pay $51 Million and Serve 151 Months for Medicare Fraud

An Overview of Common Forms of Pharmaceutical Fraud

(Photo by Intel Free Press)

Despite Legislation and Regulation, Elder Abuse Remains a Major Problem in California

September 11, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod


California, as in all other states, there are laws in place that were crafted to prevent elder abuse in nursing homes. Unfortunately, however, elder abuse still occurs in this state, and, in spite of some high-profile horror stories of wrongdoing against the elderly in convalescent homes, public advocacy or investigative group studies show that many such cases go unreported or, at best, quickly reviewed and then set aside by regulators.

Shocking Death Foreshadows Key Measure
At least one notorious recent case of elder abuse has been instrumental in prompting additional legislation to help improve the lot of senior citizens in nursing homes. In the wake of the Feb. 26, 2013, case of Lorraine Bayless, 87, who collapsed and then died in a Bakerfield convalescent home after the staff there stated that they could not perform CPR on her, the state Legislature has passed a bill that would forbid employees of retirement homes from not taking such life-saving measures as CPR on retirement home residents. The measure in on the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown awaiting his signature.

Beyond the well-known instances of neglect, however, there are a significant number of cases of suspected violence and alleged misconduct by staff members at nursing homes in California. Worse still, according to a study filed by the Center for Investigative Reporting and KQED that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, state regulators are hastily opening and closing probes into suspected elder abuse without ever leaving their desks. According to the report, in 2009, the Department of Public Health ordered department investigators to dismiss almost 1,000 pending cases of misconduct, a move that apparently had been prompted by a ballooning backlog of cases. In the wake of the DPH directive, the overwhelming majority of cases in which abuse or misconduct has been alleged have been closed without the state taking action. Not surprisingly, Sacramento has also significantly reduced the number of license revocations for nursing home employees suspected of abuse and misconduct.

Abuse Comes in Varied Guises, Has Multiple Causes
The causes of nursing home abuse, which can include physical, mental or financial abuse — the most common form of physical abuse suffered by patients are beatings, sexual assaults and forced feedings of food or medicine — are largely centered around a few well-known factors. Typically, abuse at convalescent homes arises from understaffed facilities, overworked employees, stressful working conditions and inadequate training. In many instances these factors result in employee burnout, which, in turn, causes nursing home staff members to lose empathy and patience for the residents of these facilities, and then to manifest itself in the form of neglect or abuse. All convalescent homes receiving federal funds are governed by the Nursing Home Reform Act, which mandates that a nursing home perform an evaluation of each resident and to prepare and execute a customized “plan of care” reflecting the optimum mental and physical treatment for each resident.

Continue reading "Despite Legislation and Regulation, Elder Abuse Remains a Major Problem in California" »

California Elder Abuse Lawyer on the Fight against Financial Exploitation

August 30, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

When we report on the issue of elder abuse, including financial elder abuse, it is usually because of a recent headline that discusses a new wrinkle, a new twist on how an elderly person was mistreated and/or defrauded. Today, our San Francisco/Sacramento elder abuse law firm has promising news that may help victims bring suit against the perpetrators of financial fraud.

Law Shifts Victim’s Attorney’s Fees to Defendant in Certain Successful Financial Abuse Cases
piggybank.jpg Just a few weeks ago, as detailed in the Sacramento Business Journal, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 381into law. The bill permits courts to award attorney’s fees and costs to seniors in cases where someone abused a power of attorney in bad faith to facilitate financial abuse against the victim. This is helpful because, although the law does provide double damages in such cases, some victims worry about affording the lawsuit itself and knowing they can get the attorney’s fees and paid if they win is a relief (Side Note: Please call us if you are worried about fees in any subject matter. We can often use a contingent fee or create a payment plan to help you.).

An Introduction to One Advocate and Her Fight
Another hopeful sign came earlier this summer with a focus on new groups that can, and one that now must, help report financial abuse of the elderly. The San Francisco Chronicle told the story of Helen Karr, a former beauty salon supervisor who repeatedly heard elderly customers telling their hairdresser that they had lent money to someone (family, caregivers, even simple acquaintances) and had never be repaid. The seniors expressed fear, both fear of asking for the money back and fear for how they would live without it long-term.

At age 65, Karr took action by enrolling in a nighttime law school program and she began focusing on elder abuse after graduation. She is now 78 and the San Francisco District Attorney’s elder abuse special assistant. Karr notes that she’d had no clue, when she first heard the unpaid loan stories, that financial elder abuse is actually a crime.

Targeting Financial Exploitation through Education and Reporting
Karr participated in a pair of panel discussions on the financial exploitation of seniors, a group that comprises a full fifth of the population. The group included CEO of the Commonwealth Club Gloria Duffy and Hubert H. “Skip” Humphrey III of the Office for the Financial Protection of Older Americans (a part of the new Consumer Protection Bureau). The group noted the wide range of perpetrators who commit financial abuse, including many trusted advisors, and emphasized the need to better educate people on spotting this abuse. This includes a plan for Humphrey’s office to craft a guide for nonprofessionals involved in managing an elderly person’s finances that would set out rules and standards for money management and provide tips on protecting the senior from financial exploitation. Other groups may also be targeted for educational efforts, such a guide for consumers on identifying and reporting scams.

Since transitioning careers and becoming an advocate for seniors, Karr spearheaded the new California law making banks mandatory reporters of suspected elder financial abuse (similar to how teachers must report suspected child abuse). Karr also trains bank employees to enable them to spot cases of financial exploitation or abuse. She also works directly with seniors in an effort to prevent them from falling victim to abusive financial schemes. One specific target is annuity and insurance fraud, such as a salesperson trying to sell a 70 year old on an annuity that ties the money up for 20 years, making it an inappropriate financial product for that client.

Fighting the Trend, Protecting the Growing Senior Segment
Elder abuse, in any form, is intolerable. The problem is growing, in part because the population of seniors is growing due to improved medical care and the aging of the Baby Boomer generation. However, there is hope. There are people working to stop the abuse, including those working on education efforts, crafting reporting requirements, and making justice more accessible. Attorney Brod, an experienced San Francisco elder abuse lawyer, and his legal team are also committed to the fight against elder abuse and exploitation. If you’ve experienced elder abuse yourself or if you are worried a senior you love is being abused, please call. We can help.

See Related Blog Posts:
The National Council on Aging’s Top Ten Financial Elder Abuse Schemes

A Glance Across the Aisle: The Criminal Side of Elder Abuse Law

Northern California Elder Abuse Lawyer on Lessons from Case of Captivity, Neglect, and Financial Fraud

July 24, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

We believe that change often takes the commitment of the community. We are certain that confronting the problem of elder abuse requires people being willing to listen when someone is asking for help, even if it isn’t said in those words. It also oldhands.jpg requires people being willing to speak and report suspicions. A case caught the attention of our San Francisco elder abuse lawyer, a disturbing case that shows the interplay of physical mistreatment, elder neglect, and financial fraud. The story is also a reminder that abuse can occur anywhere and that reporting concerns can help bring a victim’s nightmare to an end.

Police Find Elderly Men Held Captive and Forced to Sign Over Benefit Checks
Last Friday, as covered by Reuters news service, police in Houston acted on a tip that people were being held captive in a private house. Kees Smith, a Houston police spokesperson, reported that officers found four elderly men being held in a room in the garage of a North Houston home. Located behind a double-locked door, the room contained no beds, no toilets, and only a single chair. The captive victims, all men, included an 80 year old, a 74 year old, and a man in his 50s. Police did not release the age of the fourth man.

Speaking to officers at the scene, all four of the men said that they had been lured to the house with promises of beer and cigarettes and then not allowed to leave. The men further reported that they’d been forced to give their government-payment checks, including veterans’ benefits, to their captors. The men gave conflicting accounts regarding how long they had been held, with one initially saying he’d been held for ten years but later changing that account. After speaking with responding officers, three of the victims were taken to Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital in stable condition to be treated for malnutrition. The fourth man was taken to police headquarters for additional questioning. Police also found three disabled females living in the main part of the home, but determined the women had not been held against their will.

Police arrested Walter Jones, age 31, whose grandmother owns the home where the men were discovered. Police have charged Jones with injury to the elderly by act and injury to the elderly by omission.

“See Something, Say Something”
Reuters does not indicate who gave police the tip that drew them to the Houston home. Still, this case provides an important reminder that the rule of “see something, say something” applies to suspected elder abuse. Our team can help direct you to the appropriate reporting authorities and there is additional information on the website of the Department of Consumer Affairs’.

Ensuring Complete Compensation through Thorough Investigation
We have previously used this blog to discuss the various types of elder abuse. The Houston case is a reminder that the forms of elder abuse do not exist in a vacuum. In particular, neglect and/or physical abuse may be used to gain control of an elderly victim’s finances. As a law firm for San Francisco elder abuse victims, we work to make victims whole. We always work with our clients to fully investigate the circumstances and ensure that any financial abuse is identified and included in our lawsuit. Being thorough ensures our client is able to recover full and fair compensation.

See Related Blog Posts:
Identifying the Many Forms of Elder Abuse

Consumer Reports Focuses on Financial Elder Abuse

(Photo by Jonas Boni)

Northern California Elder Abuse Attorney on the Threat of Emotional Abuse

June 19, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

In battling elder abuse, one of the most important weapons we have is awareness. Our San Francisco elder abuse law firm represents elder abuse victims and also works to prevent future abuse by using this blog to spread awareness about the many forms of elder abuse. Among the lessons we hope to share is the fact that not all bruises are physical. Emotional abuse may not leave a visible scar, but it is still a very real form of abuse. We take emotional elder abuse very seriously, representing its victims and discussing its breadth to help community members recognize when it occurs.

Emotional Elder Abuse Explained
lonelysenior.jpg Emotional abuse can occur in any setting, including individual homes as well as our nation’s senior care facilities. Seniors, like everyone else, have a right to be treated with dignity and respect. Denying someone that basic right, treating someone as less than human, is the hallmark of emotional abuse. Focusing on abuse in a care center environment, some of the many forms of emotional abuse include: Isolation (ex. preventing a resident from speaking/meeting with family); Manipulation (ex. telling the resident that meals will be delayed if he asks for assistance during the staff member’s shift); Degradation (ex. making fun of a patient’s inability to control her bladder); and Threats (ex. telling a resident she won’t get help if she has another bathroom accident). Often emotional abuse builds on itself, such as threatening a patient if she reports family visits being withheld.

Spotting Emotional Abuse and Holding Offenders Responsible
Since emotional abuse typically doesn’t leave visible scars, it can be harder to spot. Victims may not report the abuse themselves due to fear of retribution or because of their mental or physical condition. Some of the warning signs that should put a loved on alert: Withdrawal; Anxiety or agitation; Mood swings; Aggressive/Abusive behavior toward others; Displaying discomfort around an individual; or Other unusual behavior.

Care facilities and corporate owners/operators may contribute to, and thus also being responsible for, abuse by overworking staff or failing to take complaints seriously. When we represent an abused senior, we look at all parties who contributed to the abuse and hold all of those parties responsible. This can be important if a court orders money damages, such as money for relocation costs or psychological care necessitated by the abuse, since individuals may lack the resources to pay such an award.

Awareness, Prevention, Protection: Our Nation and Our Law Firm
The problem of elder abuse should be an issue that concerns us all. This week, the President confirmed the nation’s commitment to preventing elder abuse and protecting the victims by proclaiming June 15, 2013 as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. In doing so, he asked people across the country to learn the signs of abuse and work to raise awareness of what he called “[a] growing public health issue.”

Our team at The Brod Firm shares the commitment to raising awareness and bringing an end to elder abuse. If you or someone you love is experiencing elder abuse in San Francisco or the surrounding regions, please call our Northern California elder abuse law firm. We can help. Additional information on reporting elder abuse can be found on the website for the California Department of Consumer Affairs.

See Related Blog Posts:Northern California Elder Abuse Lawyer Examines the Factors that Lead to Elder Abuse

Identifying the Many Forms of Elder Abuse

(Photo credit: C & More)

Couple Accused of Financial Elder Abuse and Scheming More Than $842,000 from Widower

June 7, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

Readers of our Oakland elder abuse law firm’s blog know that elder abuse comes in many forms. According to the National Adult Protective Services Association (“NAPSA”) , a national non-profit that allows Adult Protective Services representatives to partner with their counterparts in other states, one in nine seniors reports suffering abuse, neglect, or exploitation in the past year. Financial elder abuse is a growing threat. NAPSA suggests one in 20 seniors experienced some form of perceived financial exploitation in the recent past.

Investigators: Defendants Befriended Widower, Lived Lavishly on Money Stolen from Him
cash.jpgBerkeleyside, an independent online news source, reports that Alameda County district attorney’s office has charged a Vallejo couple with financial elder abuse, suggesting they took about $842,000 from a recent widower. Defendants Adriana Segurado Rodezno and Jeffrey Edward Alexander have been held in a Santa Rita jail since their arrest on May 28. Bail is set at $250,000 each. A pre-trial hearing on charges of theft from an elder or dependent adult is set for June 10 in Oakland.

Per court filings, Alexander met the victim in March 2009, shortly after the 69 year-old Santa Barbara man lost his wife. Alexander befriended the man and slowly took over helping him with assorted personal matters. In 2010, they both moved to Berkeley at Alexander’s suggestion because Alexander’s wife, Rodezno, was set to attend school there. All three shared a residence starting in 2010.

In September 2012, the victim supplied $125,000 to fund a business partnership, named McGuffin Holdings, and trade in foreign currencies. According to the victim, this was the only large sum of money that he knowingly provided to Alexander. However, police believe Alexander ultimately moved approximately $842,000 from the victim’s retirement accounts into his own checking account. In his report, Berkeley Police Detective Alexander McDougall noted that some of the funds were likely used for the victim’s care (ex. rent, food, etc.), but large sums were spent for the benefit of Alexander and Rodezno. Expenditures for the couple’s benefit include: $86,000 in Rodezno’s UC Berkeley tuition; $12,000 in Apple computers/products; $17,000 on an Audi luxury vehicle; $7,200 for a car stereo; and $8,000 on personal training for the couple. McDougall’s report also suggests that Alexander used the victim’s credit card to support a lavish lifestyle, spending $400,000 to maintain that status.

Victim’s Report, Defendants’ Response
Recently, the victim grew suspicious and, in February, he reported the suspected fraud. The victim noted he qualified as a dependent adult pursuant to California law because mental health issues, including depression, attention deficit disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, impaired his ability to carry out normal activities of day-to-day life.

As reflected in Detective McDougall’s report, upon arrest Alexander acknowledged making many of the listed purchases/payments. He asserted that the victim knew about the expenditures, but admitted some of the spending was excessive and suggested he owed the victim between $183,000 and $217,000. In turn, Rodezno reported that her husband handled the bills and said she assumed the purchases resulted from successful currency trading through the joint company. In contrast, McDougall wrote in his report that Rodezno knew of the fraudulent activities and participated in them, telling the Audi dealer that the victim was her grandfather and opening an account in her name that received money from the victim’s accounts.

Protecting Elder Abuse Victims
While this is one victim’s story, the type of abuse is far from unique. It takes bravery to admit you’ve been the victim of abuse, but the problem of elder abuse will only grow if people do not speak up. Community members and loved ones should also report suspected abuse, especially when the victim is unable or too afraid to report it on his/her own. Officials in Alameda County have declared that June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month. Please use this as an opportunity to reach out for help and to report suspected abuse.

Our experienced Oakland financial elder abuse law firm can help victims of elder abuse in Berkeley, San Francisco, Oakland, and all of Northern California. Please call if we can help you or someone you love.

See Related Blog Posts:
The National Council on Aging’s Top Ten Financial Elder Abuse Schemes

Consumer Reports Focuses on Financial Elder Abuse

(Photo by Stan Dalone)

A Glance Across the Aisle: The Criminal Side of Elder Abuse Law

May 22, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

lonelysenior.jpg As we’ve often explained in these pages, the criminal and civil systems are separate and distinct. Our law firm focuses on the civil system, where individuals are able to bring claims against others for legal wrongs. In contrast, the criminal system focuses on claims brought by government representatives for violating statutory laws. One of our practice areas is elder law, a specialty area involving representing victims of elder abuse in Northern California courts in suits against their abusers, typically seeking monetary damages as compensation for the wrongs. In today’s blog discussion, we wanted to provide a brief glimpse at the other side of the elder law system, criminal elder abuse claims. In some cases, our clients are interested in the criminal side because the government is pursuing its own criminal elder abuse claim at the same time as we represent them in a civil matter (although this is not a requirement and a civil claim may exist even absent a criminal prosecution). In other cases, the criminal system is useful as a reference for understanding legal standards, even though they are not directly applicable in civil court.

California’s Criminal Elder Abuse Law
Criminal elder abuse cases in California are prosecuted as violations of Penal Code 368. The statute provides that it is a felony when someone: 1) Knows or should know that the person is elderly or dependent, 2) Under circumstances likely to lead to death or grave bodily harm; 3) Willfully causes or allows another to cause the person to suffer injury, unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering. Misdemeanor level elder abuse is similar except for prong (2), with the lesser offense triggered by circumstances likely to endanger the victim’s life or health but that do not threaten death or great bodily harm. Other portions of the statute focus more directly on financial abuse, creating a special crime when financial abuse threatens an elderly or dependent individual. Either willful or “criminally negligent” behavior can trigger a violation, with the latter involving a substantial deviation from ordinary care. For these crimes, “elderly” means someone aged 65 or older. A “dependent adult” is defined as someone between the ages of 18 and 64 whose physical or mental limitations restrict the ability to perform normal functions and protect his or her own rights.

Penalties for criminal elder abuse in California vary based on the age of the victim, the relationship between the offender and victim (which establishes a duty of care), and the specific conduct involved. Misdemeanor violations could result in penalties including mandatory counseling, a fine up to $6,000, and up to one year in jail. Felony violations can result in fines up to $10,000 and two to four years in jail, with the potential for an additional three to seven years if the abuse causes death or great bodily harm.

Defendants facing a charge of elder abuse may try to raise a number of defenses, including claiming any injury was an accident, the claim is the result of a false accusation, or that there was a case of mistaken identity. Additionally, since the burden of proof rests on the state, a defendant can simply suggest that there is insufficient evidence. Like other criminal charges, a criminal elder abuse claim must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt (a much higher standard than required in civil cases).

Representing Elder Abuse Victims in California’s Civil Courts
Elder abuse is a serious matter. As advocates for California’s elderly, we are glad to see that authorities at all levels of government are beginning to take these claims more seriously and to devote specialized resources to the prosecution of elder abuse claims. Likewise, we devote substantial time and energy to staying up-to-date on elder law issues so that we can provide the best possible representation to Northern California elder abuse victims in civil court. We welcome calls from anyone who believes that they or a loved one has been a victim of elder abuse and offer a free consultation to discuss filing civil claims and provide a general overview of the legal process in such matters. We serve clients in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, Sacramento, and all surrounding areas.

See Related Blog Posts:
Identifying the Many Forms of Elder Abuse

California Enacts New Law Expanding Mandatory Reporting of Elder Abuse

Understanding Senior Care & Preventing Elder Abuse

May 15, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

oldhands.jpg As your San Francisco nursing home abuse law firm, we understand that aging individuals and their families often face many tough decisions. It is difficult to come to the conclusion that your loved one can no longer live alone, especially when the loved one has long been the caretaker and suddenly finds him or herself in need of care. When facing this reality, it is important to be aware of the different levels of residential senior care available. In general, there are three primary categories of senior living options available:

Independent livingfacilities can be a great option when a senior simply needs a little bit of added security. In these locations, the residents take care of the majority of their own daily needs. Offerings vary, but these facilities can provide a living community and may include assistance with cleaning, cooking, or home maintenance.

Assisted living is an intermediate level of care that falls between that offered in independent living and nursing home facilities. Residents generally live in their own housing unit, but they receive more assistance with daily living tasks such as bathing and meal preparation. Assisted living facilities may also monitor ongoing health issues, oversee medications, and provide transportation to and from medical appointments. Some assisted living communities monitor residents with memory issues and those in earlier stages of Alzheimer’s.

Nursing home care becomes appropriate when an individual needs more round-the-clock care. There are several subsets of nursing home care. Skilled care settings involved daily care overseen by a physician and carried out by nurses, including daily treatment from therapists and rehabilitative therapists. Intermediate care also involves physician oversight and trained nursing staff but does not include daily therapeutic treatments. Custodial care, considered the lowest level of nursing home care, focuses on the active assistance with the basic tasks of daily living (i.e. bathing, dressing, eating, using the bathroom) with the majority of care provided by aides rather than professional nurses.

Choosing the appropriate level of care is not a one-time event. It is important to periodically reassess the needs of each individual. These decisions should be a team effort including the aging individual, family members, and medical professionals.

Preventing Elder Abuse: A Community Effort
While we often use the term “nursing home abuse,” it is important to remember that abuse and neglect can occur in any setting. Elder abuse can even occur in a private home environment and can involve family members as well paid caregivers. Abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual, or financial. Neglect is also a serious matter and one that can be life-threatening. Actively preventing abuse and bringing an end to ongoing mistreatment is an effort that requires the participation of the entire community.

If you believe an elderly person is being mistreated, you should seek help. Although it is more than a decade old, “A Citizen’s Guide to Preventing and Reporting Elder Abuse” is a useful resource for concerned community members. The National Center on Elder Abuse also provides a wide-range of information.

Our office is also prepared to help the victims of elder abuse in Northern California with their legal rights. Attorney Greg Brod serves as an elder care lawyer for Sacramento, San Francisco, Oakland, and the surrounding Northern California communities. Call to schedule a free consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:
Danger Lurking Behind a Homey Exterior: Felony Charges Filed Against Operator of Non-Medical Senior Care Facility

Study Finds For-Profit Nursing Homes and Other Healthcare Facilities Place Money Above Care

(Photo by Jonas Boni)

Northern California Elder Abuse Lawyer Examines the Factors that Lead to Elder Abuse

May 6, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

We frequently use this space to discuss issues related to nursing home mistreatment and other forms of elder abuse. Our Northern California elder abuse law firm believes that talking about these issues will help to bring the problem out of the shadows. Increasing awareness can help prevent future cases and can protect the victims, in part by encouraging people to report suspected cases of elder abuse. The latter goal includes helping victims themselves to speak up; a goal expressed in the title of a San Bernardino campaign “It’s Not Your Fault,” a moniker that recognizes that shame and embarrassment keep victims from speaking up.

American Psychological Association on Factors Leading to Elder Abuse in the Home lonelysenior.jpg
In a report titled “Elder Abuse and Neglect: In Search of Solutions,” the American Psychological Association (“APA”) notes that most elder abuse cases occur in the home and at the hands of other household members or paid caregivers. While extreme cases sometimes make the headlines, most cases of elder abuse are more subtle and the distinction between strained relationships and abuse can be harder discern. Focusing on such cases, the APA asks an important question: Why does elder abuse occur? Of course, the answer is complex and case-specific, but the group focuses on three primary factors:

• Family Stressors
Families can experience significant stress as a family member ages. Stressors include an elderly relative moving into a household and the financial burdens of care. Affected family members may take this stress out on the aging relative. Family history plays a role with some cases involving the persistence of existing abuse or even a formerly mistreated child or spouse “turning the tables” on an abuser whose health is failing. Social isolation can be one warning sign that family stress had turned into abuse. Additionally, family members may unintentionally fail to provide adequate care, constituting abuse (even if it is non-willful) threatening the relative’s health and safety.

• Caregiving Stress
Combined with other stresses in the caregiver’s life, the stress of caregiving can be a trigger for abuse. Added stress can result if cognitive issues cause the elderly person to act aggressive towards the caregiver. An untrained caregiver may result to physical force as a way to manage difficult behavior. Neglect can also arise from a lack of training and resource limitations. A caregiver’s financial dependence on the patient can also lead to financial exploitation. Guilt and other factors may keep a caregiver from seeking help that could alleviate stress and prevent abuse.

• Societal/Cultural Factors
Abuse may be perpetuated by societal views that keep people from intervening in a “private, family matter.” Cultural beliefs, including beliefs about gender roles, may also influence family dynamics and lead to abuse. Other social and cultural norms may keep an abused individual from reporting the treatment. Educating people who work with the elderly about cultural differences can help them recognize when behaviors cross the line and become abuse.

A Reminder: Abuse is Abuse, Regardless of the Reason
Some abusers fit our image of true-life monsters. Others do not. This post discusses some factors that may turn an “ordinary person” into an abuser. These are explanations, NOT excuses. Elder abuse is wrong, regardless of the “why” behind it. We believe that increased awareness, including an understanding of some factors that lead to abuse, can help people identify abuse and protect the victims.

If you believe someone you know is the victim of elder abuse, or if you are a victim yourself, please report it. A useful guide on reporting elder abuse in California is available on the Department of Consumer Affairs’ website. Our office is also prepared to advocate for the victims of elder abuse in San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, and surrounding regions. Our San Francisco elder abuse law firm promises to treat you with the sensitivity these issue demand while ensuring we protect the legal rights of elder abuse victims.

See Related Blog Posts:
Elder Abuse Forensics Centers: A Collaborative Approach to Combatting Elder Abuse

Identifying the Many Forms of Elder Abuse

Financial Elder Abuse: A Case Study Involving a Fake Sweepstakes and Scammers Posing as Government Officials

April 29, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

We’ve written a lot about financial elder abuse in recent weeks, from the abuse allegedly perpetrated by Judge Seeman (a case particularly disheartening to those of us in the legal field who rely on the honor and wisdom of judges) to a general overview of common abuse schemes. It may seem like we are talking too much about this issue, but the sad truth is that the world is not talking enough about elder abuse in all its forms. Our Northern California elder abuse law firm understands that elder abuse is a general problem that occurs in specific instances, involving distinct individuals and unique circumstances. One such case is the complex scheme to defraud an elderly woman that has finally resulted in a jail sentence for one of the perpetrators, a sentence that comes only after the woman was scammed out of $45,000. The case stands out for the fraud’s two-part format: an initial scheme followed by a continued fraud involving scammers posing as investigatory officials.

Woman Sentenced in Complex Financial Fraud Scheme Targeting Elderly Woman
Last week, as reported by Mercury News, a California court sentenced 43 year-old Jacqueline Dove of Santa Clara to nine months in jail for her role in defrauding an elderly woman out of much of her life savings. The sentence follows Dove’s guilty plea to the felony-level charge of theft by false pretense. She was also ordered to pay back the $45,000 that had been taken from the victim.

piggybank.jpgIn October, the unidentified victim was notified that she had won a sweepstakes jackpot totaling more than half a million dollars. She was told that she needed to send a $4,000 fee to an agent, an amount the callers said represented a “nonresidential tax.” The victim complied. After doing so, another individual contacted the victim, saying that he was from the FBI and regretted to inform her that she had not won a prize but instead had been the target of a scam. He told the woman that the $4,000 had been used by recently-arrested murderers to purchase guns and that she would need to pay $25,000 to avoid litigation. Additional calls, now believed to have originated from Jamaica, followed with people posing as CIA and IRS agents and asking for additional money. Eventually, Jacqueline Dove arrived at the victim’s home and, using the password “In God We Trust,” collected these funds. Even after authorities became aware of the scheme and arrested Dove, the victim continued to receive calls from other scammers involved in the fraudulent scheme who are still asking for money.

FBI and Prosecutors on How and Why Scammers Target Seniors
A statement released by Prosecutor Cheri Bourland praised Santa Clara police officials for their work on the case. She added that scams targeting the elderly are so common that they rise to the level of an epidemic. Bourland added that predators literally scour databases to identify trusting targets, often focusing on the elderly. Once a victim is identified, the scammers will work the scheme until they’d tricked the victim out of every possible cent. Bourland called upon residents to be on the lookout for potential swindles and asked people to keep an eye out for friends, relatives, and neighbors who might be vulnerable to financial scams. The FBI, in a discussion of “Common Fraud Schemes," notes that the elderly may be targeted because they often own their homes, have accumulated a significant “nest egg,” and have good credit. These attractive traits combine with the tendency to be trusting and also to simply feel it is inappropriate to hang up on a caller. The elderly also tend to be less likely to report being scammed, perhaps due to feeling embarrassed or a sense that they need to accept the results of their choices, even when the choices are the product of a scammer’s lies.

Protecting Yourself and Your Loved Ones From Financial Elder Abuse
If you believe that you or someone you care about is being scammed, call police first and then call an experienced financial abuse lawyer. Attorney Greg Brod understands the complex issues (and emotions) involved in these cases and will work to get justice for the victims of financial elder abuse in San Francisco, Oakland, or elsewhere in the state of California.

Remember: The civil system exists separate and apart from the criminal law system and victims should always consult a civil elder abuse attorney regardless of whether a criminal case is pending. Also, it is never rude to ask for identification from people claiming to represent government institutions. You can even call a local field office to confirm the identity of an agent.

See Related Blog Posts:
Judge in Elder Abuse Case Finally Resigns

The National Council on Aging’s Top Ten Financial Elder Abuse Schemes

Judge in Elder Abuse Case Finally Resigns

April 27, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

As the awareness of elder abuse grows, it is very fortunate that the amount of cases being reported have grown as well. Elder abuse comes in many forms and is perpetrated by many different types of individuals. It can include emotional, physical or financial abuse by friends, family members, or strangers alike.

Elder Abuse Legal Prosecution

In the past several decades, legal provisions have made it easier to report cases of elder abuse and pursue prosecution of those who commit it. In the early 1980’s, the California Penal Code 368 was enacted, which allowed for the prosecution of those abusing dependent adults. In this case, an “elder” was any person of age 65 years or older. The punishment for theft or embezzlement of elders could include fines, jail time, or both. In 1991, the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act provided elders with a way to sue in civil court for financial abuse. More recently, the Financial Elder Abuse Reporting Acts of 2005 requires employees of financial institutions, including credit unions and banks, to report any suspected financial abuse to their local adult protective services or law enforcement agency.

County Judge Charged with Abuse

Nearly a year ago, our Bay area office first heard of a very disturbing case of financial elder abuse perpetrated by an unexpected figure, an Alameda County Judge, after an attorney contacted police to report suspected embezzlement. Followers of our blog might remember hearing of about Judge Paul Seeman’s alleged financial elder abuse of his neighbor Anne Nutting. Seeman was charged last June on one count of elder theft, 11 counts of perjury, and 20 additional crimes.

Seeman was the neighbor of Anne and her husband, who were forced to leave their home because it was inhabitable due to excessive hoarding. In 1998, Nutting’s husband fell, and that is when Seeman first began to interact with, and assist the couple. In 1999, he obtained power of attorney after stating he had found $1 million worth of stock certificates and uncashed dividend checks in the house. By August of 2004, Seeman had, “taken over almost all of the victim’s financial affairs, putting his name on her bank accounts as joint tenant and on her investment accounts as TOD (transferee on death,” as reported in a police report. The estimated worth of Nutting at this time was over $2.2 million. After the Nutting attorney initially contacted authorities about his suspicions, a two year long investigation took place before Seeman was finally charged.

Finally, after 9 months since his charge, Seeman has agreed to resign and never be a judge again. Seeman had initially remained on the bench and receive a paycheck even though he had not appeared in court since his arrest. Seeman agreed to resign in exchange for the Commission of Judicial Performance halting its investigation on him. Seeman is out on a $525,000 bail and is awaiting trial.

Most elders are not aware of the value of their assets. Complement that with a lower sense of awareness and possible disabilities that make them dependent on others for help, they are extremely vulnerable to being taken advantage of. CNN reported last year that senior citizens are swindled out of billions of dollars every year. MetLife, an insurance provider, presented research that shows in 2010, people over the age of 60 lost nearly $2.9 billion because of financial abuse. This is up 12% from $2.6 billion in 2008. There is no doubt that financial elder abuse is a big and growing problem in the United States. With a slow economy and an aging population, who holds the majority of the nation’s wealth, more cases are expected to be reported for an even greater amount than $2.9 billion.

This was a very saddening case of a public figure, who was supposed to uphold the values of justice, failing to do so personally. Nutting’s attorney was fully in the right to report his suspicions, whether he did it because of legal provisions or moral obligation. If you believe a neighbor, friend, or loved one is a victim of abuse, or if you yourself is a victim of elder abuse, contact our elder abuse attorney, Gregory Brod, today for a free consultation. Elder abuse is never okay, and we are here to help.

Related Articles:
Accusations of Financial Elder Abuse

East Bay Judge Charged with Elder Abuse Resigns
Alameda County Judge Charged with Elder Theft
National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse

The National Council on Aging’s Top Ten Financial Elder Abuse Schemes

April 22, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

After every tragedy we hear about fake charities taking advantage of people’s generosity (here’s one recent example, including tips on avoiding scam charities). In addition to preying on people’s desire to help following a tragedy, scammers also use fake charities to target seniors. Our San Francisco elder abuse law firm believes it is important to be aware of the common forms of financial abuse targeting seniors, in order to prevent future abuse and help victims recognize when a fraud has occurred.
According to the National Council on Aging (“NCOA”), financial scams targeting seniors are growing more prevalent and are becoming “the crime of the 21st century.” Perpetrators assume seniors have accumulated savings and the crimes are considered “low-risk” because they often go unreported (note: more than 90% of all elder abuses cases are perpetrated by family members). However, the scams can devastate victims who are often unable to recoup their losses.

The NCOA provides a “Top Ten” list of the most common financial scams targeting seniors:

  1. Health Care, Medicare, or Health Insurance Fraud – Perpetrators may pose as a Medicare representative in order to get a victim’s personal information or may offer a bogus “medical service.” They then use this information to bill Medicare or private insurance and pocket the money.

  2. Counterfeit Prescriptions – This scheme often occurs online, where people often go seeking lower medication costs. Fake medication schemes not only target a victim’s wallet, but may be dangerous to their health due to missed doses and hazardous substances used in some fake pills. In the 1990s, the FDA investigated 5 cases a year. Since 2000, the number has risen to 20.

  3. Funeral & Ceremony Scams – Scammers may call a recently widowed senior (identified via obituaries or funeral services), claim the deceased owed a debt, and try to extort money to settle the non-existent debt. In another variation, unscrupulous funeral homes add unneeded charges to the bill, taking advantage of the family’s unfamiliarity with funerals and funeral costs.

  4. Fake Anti-Aging Products – Capitalizing on society’s love for all things youthful, these scams range from fake topical products to medicines and fake injectable substances.

  5. Telemarketing – As a group, seniors make twice as many over-the-phone purchases than other groups. Schemes include fraudulent sales, fake charities, and calls pretending a loved one was in an accident and needs immediate funds.

  6. Internet Fraud – Internet scammers prey on the fact that older people may be less familiar with internet technologies. Victims may unknowingly download a virus or pay for unneeded software (ex. a pop-up window says the user needs to purchase a program to combat a fake threat, resulting in the user buying a fake service or downloading an actual threat). Other “phishing schemes” purport to be contact from a real company (or even the IRS) and ask the user to “verify” personal information.

  7. Investment Schemes – Scammers target seniors desire to safeguard or grow their savings. Bernie Madoff’s case and people purporting to need help claiming inheritance or legal settlements fall into this category.

  8. Homeowner/Reverse Mortgage Schemes – Seniors may be more likely to own their own homes, a fact used by scammers. In contrast to legitimate reverse mortgage companies, a criminal may offer unsecured reverse mortgages, promising money or another asset in exchange for title to a senior’s home (and then not delivering on the promise). Other real estate schemes include offering to fake reassessment to avoid a similarly-fake tax increase.

  9. Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams – A perpetrator may inform potential victims that they have won a lottery but need to make a payment to “unlock” the prize. Victims are often sent a prize check to deposit. The check is eventually rejected but, in the few days this takes, the perpetrator collects the “fee” (or “tax”), depositing the victims’ genuine check before the “prize money” check bounces.

  10. Grandparent Scams – A scammer calls an older person saying “Hey Grandma, guess who this is?,” easily learning the name of a grandchild. The caller then asks for money to help with an unexpected need, begging that the caller not mention it to the grandchild’s parent who would “be angry” (and might identify it as a scheme!). The scammer asks the victim to send money by Western Union or MoneyGram, services that may not always require identification to collect funds.

We hope this list helps keep seniors, and people of all ages, safe from scammers. We also hope it helps victims feel less alone and less embarrassed about falling victim to a common crime. Attorney Brod has experience helping victims of elder abuse, including financial scams. If you or a beloved relative has fallen victim to one of these crimes, please call our San Francisco financial abuse lawyer for help.

See Related Blog Posts:
Identifying the Many Forms of Elder Abuse

Consumer Reports Focuses on Financial Elder Abuse

(Photo by Ken Teegardin)

Study Finds Elder Abuse Leads to Increased Rate of Hospitalization

April 15, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

Sometimes the outcome of a study leaves us thoroughly surprised. Other studies have results that seem like common sense. While a recent elder abuse study falls firmly in the latter category, it is still a study of great importance. First, our San Francisco elder abuse lawyer believes firmly that any study that forces people to focus on the problem of elder abuse is important. Second, the study presents yet another reason why elder abuse must be considered an important issue by pointing to a major economic cost that impacts victims and our society as a whole. Third, by confirming a suspected link, the study also provides one more “sign,” noting an outcome that should raise suspicions and encourage professionals to consider whether elder abuse may be affecting a particular individual.

The Study: Methods and Conclusions
hospitalbed2.jpg A study published in the April 8 issue of the Journal of American Medical Association and detailed in a press release from Rush University Medical Center concluded that older adults who experience elder abuse or neglect are more likely to be hospitalized than other seniors. Dr. XinQi Dong, the study’s lead author, noted that while elder abuse clearly led to an increased mortality risk, especially due to cardiovascular problems, no prior study had focused on the relationship between abuse and health care utilization in the senior population. His study involved 6,674 community-dwelling seniors (i.e. those not living in a care facility) in Chicago, including 106 whom social services groups concluded were victims of elder abuse between 1993 and 2010.

On average, the seniors not experiencing abuse were hospitalized 0.62 times per year. In sharp contrast, those experiencing elder abuse were hospitalized 1.97 times annually. When researchers controlled for other factors (including socioeconomic factors, medical issues, cognitive function, and psychological well-being), elder abuse led to independently higher hospitalization at a rate of 2.00. The study also separated out the rates of hospitalization by certain types of abuse finding that psychological abuse led to a hospitalization rate of 2.22, financial exploitation to 1.75, neglect by caregivers to 2.43, and two forms unidentified in the JAMA abstract to a 2.59 rate ratio. Overall, this means the study conclusively showed that elder abuse led to higher hospitalization rates, especially in the case of caregiver neglect.

The study authors also released other details about the studied population. Compared to other study participants, those subject to elder abuse were more likely to be female, black, and have lower levels of both income and education.

Drawing on Research to Combat Elder Abuse and Represent Victims
Commenting on the study, Dong noted that hospitalization is a major contributor to the fast-growing increase in health care costs. He referred to elder abuse as “a serious, common and under-recognized public health and human rights issue,” noting that the field is more than two decades behind the fields of child abuse and domestic partner violence. Dong expressed hope the hospitalization study will allow health care providers to improve screening, intervention, and preventing elder abuse. An additional benefit to reducing elder abuse would appear to be a reduction in unnecessary health care costs.

Staying informed about elder abuse issues helps us to bring the best possible service to elder abuse victims in San Francisco and surrounding communities. If you or someone you love has been the victim of elder abuse in Northern California, please call our office to arrange a free consultation and discuss how we can help abuse victims recover crucial economic damages.

See Related Blog Posts:
Elder Abuse Forensics Centers: A Collaborative Approach to Combatting Elder Abuse

Be an Informed Advocate and Prevent Sacramento Nursing Home Abuse with the Help of a Skilled Attorney

(Photo by Michele Federico)

Elder Abuse Forensics Centers: A Collaborative Approach to Combatting Elder Abuse

April 8, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

To start, we’ll say that we believe the answer is “Yes.” The question is one posed in a recent article carried by and The Crime Report – “Can elder abuse be stopped?” We believe the answer is yes, but we know this cannot occur without widespread efforts from law enforcement, courts, interest groups, and individuals. Our Northern California elder abuse law firm is proud to be a part of these efforts.

A “Dirty Little Secret”
As The Crime Report article notes, Americans over age sixty-five are the fastest growing demographic in the nation. Abuse targeting this growing population of seniors ranges from the economic to the physical, including sexual abuse and neglect. One advocate referred to elder abuse as “[a] dirty little secret” and experts agree too little is being done to stem the growing problem. A key obstacle to the battle against elder abuse is the lack of coordination between groups addressing the problem, including law enforcement, social services, and medical practitioners.

team.jpg A New Approach
A new approach to elder abuse may help change this, with a handful of “elder abuse forensic centers” working to bring together groups that have previously battled this problem separately. One such effort is the Los Angeles County Elder Abuse Forensic Center, a project launched in 2006 at the University of Southern California Davis School of Gerontology and based out of USC’s Medical Center. Attorney Belle Chen, a prosecutor who oversees the Los Angeles DA’s office elder abuse unit, noted that collaboration allows the group to develop strategies and a focused approach to elder abuse cases. The first elder care forensics center opened in 2003 at UC Irvine. There are currently centers in operation, three in California, two in New York, and one in Texas.

The collaborative approach fostered at the forensics centers appears to be working. In May 2012, a study published in The Gerontologist found that the USC-based center’s efforts on financial elder abuse helped lead to an eight-fold increase in prosecution of such cases by the Los Angeles district attorney’s office between April 2007 and December 2009. Dr. Diana Homeier, the director of that center, said this is a natural outgrowth of the center’s approach. She noted that when she began practicing as a geriatrician 13 years ago she quickly saw the lack of communication among different agencies serving the elderly. In contrast, in the forensics center model the various professionals can gain insight from the others, an arrangement Dr. Homeier says increases the probability they will work together to achieve the shared goal of reducing elder abuse: “The model is on the cutting edge. It’s a whole new way of looking at elder abuse cases.” Risa Breckman, the executive director for the New York City center, adds that the concept allows for more robust responses with the experts able to examine cases more thoroughly and efficiently from the various perspectives.

Our Commitment: Partnering with Other Experts and Helping the Victims of Elder Abuse
Our team, led by Attorney Gregory Brod, a lawyer who represents the victims of elders abuse in Sacramento and throughout Northern California, adamantly believes that working together can allow us to bring an end to elder abuse. Partnering with other experts is something we do throughout our legal practice. We work with doctors, law enforcement, and subject-matter experts to analyze evidence and, where earlier resolution proves unsuccessful, present information to juries. We cannot promise to solve the socio-cultural problem as a whole, but was can make a very real impact for the victims who engage our services. We believe this halts more cases than just the one before the court in several ways: 1) By making people take notice (some abuse is actually unintentional, an overburdened family member doesn’t know how often to turn an elderly person); 2) It can lead to changes in policy and procedure that keep others safe when a nursing home or other institution is involved, and; 3) In cases with a related criminal prosecution, it can take a wrongdoer out of a role that includes authority over the elderly or infirm.

If someone you love has been the victim of elder abuse in San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, or elsewhere in Northern California, please call to arrange a free consultation with Attorney Brod. For general information on reporting elder abuse in California, visit the California Department of Consumer Affairs .

See Related Blog Posts:
Bringing Attention to the Elder Abuse Problem at Both the National and State Levels

Be an Informed Advocate and Prevent Sacramento Nursing Home Abuse with the Help of a Skilled Attorney

(Photo by "thetaxhaven" on

Identifying the Many Forms of Elder Abuse

April 1, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

oldhands.jpgWhen people learn that our team serves as a law firm for elder abuse victims in San Francisco and throughout Northern California, and when they learn how incredibly common the problem is, they often ask how they can help. These people often express concern about their ability to identify elder abuse. This is an understandable concern. Like other forms of abuse, mistreatment of seniors is often hidden. Victims may be unwilling to report the problem due to fear of retribution or unable to report abuse due to physical and/or mental infirmities.

We want to provide an overview of several forms of elder abuse in order to help our concerned community members identify the problem. In order to do so, we consulted a guide provided to a specific group on individuals who are required to report elder abuse by California law. The guide, titled Reporting Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse, is given staff members at a range of California elder care facilities. It breaks elder abuse into the following categories to help these mandated reporters understand the issue:

  • Physical abuse – This includes physical assault, unreasonable restraints, misuse of medications, and sexual abuse. Indicators of abuse can include bruises, broken bones, fractures, bloody/soiled clothing, appearing excessively drugged, and exhibiting intense fear. These signs do not always mean abuse exists and physical abuse can also exist where these signs are absent.

  • Neglect – Neglect includes the negligent failure of a caretaker to provide the level of care a reasonable person would deem necessary. It can also include the failure of the person themselves to exercise such a level of care. Examples include: Failure to provide food/clothing/shelter, Failure to help with personal hygiene, Failure to care for physical and mental health needs, and Failure to keep the person safe. Possible signs include unkempt appearance, bedsores, skin disorders, untreated health issues, and sudden weight loss or other signs of malnutrition.

  • Abandonment – This form of abuse involves the desertion other willful forsaking of a dependent adult or elder by a caretaker when a reasonable person would have continued providing care and maintaining supervision/guardianship of the individual.

  • Financial abuse – Financial elderly abuse occurs when someone takes or retains the property of a senior with the intent to defraud or wrongfully use the property. This includes failing to give the victim property or resources due to them. Signs include missing papers or legal documents, inappropriate assistance with banking tasks, lack of amenities or resources that should be available to the elder, and denial of necessary services.

  • Isolation – Isolation constitutes abuse when it involves intentionally preventing a victim from receiving mail, calls, or visitors. It can also involve telling another person that the elder is unavailable or unwilling to make contact when this is contrary to the victim’s express wishes. False imprisonment and restraining the victim from contact are also included in the definition of isolation. Clues to this abuse include the inability to speak freely and acting unusually withdrawn or timid.

No set of definitions can ever cover every possible instance of abuse. If you suspect something is wrong, speak up. Do not question your instincts or assume someone else will report the problem. Preventing elder abuse requires the efforts of our entire community. More information on elder abuse can be found at the Administration on Aging’s National Center on Elder Abuse.

Attorney Brod serves Northern California, including working as San Francisco, Oakland, and Sacramento elder abuse attorney. Our team represents victims seeking financial reparations in civil court but we are also available to help concerned family members and others identify and report elder abuse in our region.

See Related Blog Posts:
California Enacts New Law Expanding Mandatory Reporting of Elder Abuse

A Website Aimed at Preventing Elder Abuse and Helping the Victims

(Photo by Jonas Boni)

Jury Awards $23 Million in Punitive Damages in Sacramento Nursing Home Abuse Case

March 18, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

In recent months, we’ve often discussed the issue of elder abuse, including the problem of nursing home neglect. These posts contain some truly distressing information about the frequency of abuse and the utter callousness that the perpetrators show. It is good to be reminded that courts and juries are working to hold people responsible for these acts. As a Sacramento elder abuse law firm, we hope these verdicts serve to compensate victims, punish wrongdoers, and warn others that the law will hold them responsible for the mistreatment of our elderly population. In cases of nursing home abuse, we hope these verdicts remind companies that placing profits over care will not be tolerated. We also think it is important to keep in mind that these verdicts are victories, but that each one represents one or more victims of cruel acts who deserve to be remembered.

Boice v. Emeritus Corporation: Case Against Senior Care Corporation Ends in Huge Verdict
nursing2.jpg Twenty-three million dollars is a verdict people typically associate with corporate litigation, lawsuits between large companies over a business deal gone wrong. On Friday March 21, it was the amount of punitive damages that a Sacramento jury found due in a case of elder abuse. According to the Sacramento Bee, Joan Boice moved to Emeritus at Emerald Hills, an Auburn facility operated by a major senior care corporation, in September 2008. Boice, who already suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, developed bedsores while at the facility. According to the evidence at trial, a caregiver alerted a nurse to the sores, only to be told “just don’t let anybody know” because disclosing the sores would have meant Buice being removed from the facility. This was just one element of a case involving systemic understaffing and inadequate training, practices that placed profits above care. By the time Boice left Emerald Hills in December, the sores had grown serious. She died only three months after leaving the center and bedsores were listed as a significant condition leading to her death.

Boice’s family filed a civil suit in Sacramento Superior Court. The court divided the trial into two phases. In the liability portion, the jury found Emeritus guilty of fraud, oppression, and maline in Boice’s death. They awarded $3.875 million for Boice’s pain and suffering and $250,000 to the family for the loss of her companionship. However, the judge noted that California law places a $250,000 cap on pain and suffering awards in medical malpractice cases and said that limit applies in Boice’s case. On Friday, the jury concluded the second portion of deliberations and handed down $23 million punitive damages verdict against Emeritus Corporation. Plaintiffs’ counsel had actually recommended more than twice that figure, suggesting that the jury give the company a “timeout” and award a figure equal to twelve days of revenue at an average of $4.3 million per day.

“The World Needs to Know What’s Going On”
As we’ve often noted in these posts, no amount of money can ever truly compensate people facing a serious injury or coping with the loss of a loved one. This verdict does not bring back Joan Boice or take undo the suffering she likely experienced in her final months. However, it shows that juries take these cases seriously. If you suspect elder abuse, please speak up and reach out. Our Sacramento nursing home abuse attorney can help you seek justice. One juror’s statements following the Boice decision sum it up perfectly, “the world needs to know what’s going on -- California needs to know what's going on with elder abuse in these homes. We need to open our eyes to what's going on around us."

See Related Blog Posts:
Bedsores: A Serious Medical Ailment and a Possible Warning Sign of Elder Abuse

Study Finds For-Profit Nursing Homes and Other Healthcare Facilities Place Money Above Care

(Photo by Derrick Tyson)

Northern California Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer on the Threat of Nursing Home Prescription Theft

March 11, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

There are few advances as important to our society as modern prescription medication. It wasn’t long ago that people died from illnesses we now treat with a basic course of antibiotics. Many medications save lives. Others help manage severe pain and other health problems, making life more livable. However, as the news outlets often remind us, there is a huge problem stemming from prescription misuse. Abuse and addiction are followed by crimes associated with obtaining and selling medications. An often under-recognized form of this crime is prescription theft in senior care settings. Our San Francisco nursing home abuse lawyer understands this threat and is working to help victims of nursing home drug theft throughout Northern California.

One Example of a Widespread Threat: Florida Nurse Caught With 126 Pills Stolen from Elderly Patients
pillbottle.pngNursing home medication theft is a nationwide problem that strikes communities of all size, as a recent headline demonstrates. On February 24, according to the Crestview Bulletin, the sheriff’s office in Okaloosa County, Florida received a call about a theft at The Manor of Bluewater Bay. The Manor is a 120-bed facility providing both long-term nursing home and short-term rehabilitation services in Niceville, a city of 13,000 on Florida’s panhandle. The Director of Nursing told the responding deputy that he’d observed surveillance video footage showing a nurse stealing prescription medications from patients. When confronted, 32 year-old Renee Lorraine Stern admitted to stealing the drugs. The nurse had 126 pills in her possession belonging to a number of different facility residents, including pain killers and anxiety medication. She reported that the drugs were for her own use to treat pain stemming from a prior surgery. Police charged Stern with larceny and several counts of possessing a controlled substance. They have set a court date of April 9.

Fighting the Threat of Nursing Home Drug Theft
A quick Internet search demonstrates the fact that the problem of prescription theft in nursing homes and other care facilities is both widespread and growing. Concerns about the problem led Ohio’s Attorney General Mike DeWine to include a plan to curb nursing home drug theft in the state’s prescription abuse prevention initiative. reported on DeWine’s July 2012 promise to offer investigative services to nursing facilities in Ohio facing drug theft issues. In his announcement, DeWine referenced a number of cases of employee medication theft, including those perpetrated for the employee’s own drug use, for use by a loved one, or for sale and financial gain.

We hope California officials will consider Ohio’s lead and undertake concerted efforts to combat the threat of prescription drug theft in nursing homes. It is also important that people recognize that prescription theft is a form of nursing home abuse. The thefts deprive patients of vital medical care, causing pain, illness, and, possibly even death. There is an added insult in the fact that the thefts are being carried out by people entrusted with the care of elderly and infirm patients.

Many of the victims of these thefts cannot advocate for themselves and they rely on their loved ones to help protect their interests. If your loved one has been a victim of prescription theft in a Northern California nursing home, please contact our San Francisco elder care law firm. We can help you advocate for your family member and reinforce the message that prescription drug theft is a serious crime that victimizes the very people the perpetrator was obligated to protect.

See Related Blog Posts:
Bedsores: A Serious Medical Ailment and a Possible Warning Sign of Elder Abuse

Elder Abuse Through Medications: The Threat of Dangerous Drugging

Case of Elder Abuse in Bronx Nursing Home

February 28, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

As the presence of elder abuse in our society is made more aware to the public, we are finding that the problem may be bigger, and worse, than initially suspected. An increasing number of elderly citizens are put in nursing homes but there has always been a suspected underreporting of elder abuse cases. This may be because there is a lack of training on detecting abuse and the elderly themselves may be reluctant to report abuse due to fear or threat or the inability to do so cognitively. Though statistically, there is an increasing trend in reports of elder abuse, studies estimate that only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse come to light.

New York Woman Hides Camera to Catch Abuse of Grandmother
Last week, a story came to light of a New York woman who suspected her 89-year-old grandmother Ana Louisa Medina, who suffers from both dementia and Alzheimer’s, was being abused in the Bronx nursing home she was placed in. After noticing unusual markings and bruising on her body, Diana Valentin initially inquired the administrators of Gold Crest Care Center of what was going on. She was told the injuries were incurred when her grandmother banged her hands on the bed railings. Still feeling suspect, Valenin decided to place a hidden camera inside of her grandmother’s room. Valentin says the hidden camera recorded approximately 600 hours of footage and was enough to have her send Medina to an emergency room, and later to a different nursing home. 945156_wheelchair.jpg

Footage recorded was clear evidence of abuse. Valentin stated, “The first video that I saw, she grabbed my grandmother’s arm, twisted it back, lifted her off the bed, and slammed her into the bed.” Valentin is referring to the nurse’s aide assigned to her grandmother, Sandra Kerr. Other footage shows Kerr pushing Medina into a metal bed railing and of her hitting the sides of Medina’s body. As of now, Kerr has been arrested and is being charged with endangering the welfare of a physically disabled person. Additionally, three workers have been fired from the Gold Crest Care Center because of this investigation.

Ana Louisa Medina is now being cared for in a nursing home in New Rochelle where she is safe from the abuse she experienced in her time at Gold Crest. Unfortunately, many cases of elder abuse do not get the same happy ending. Many seniors who are admitted to care facilities such as nursing homes are done so because they have unique vulnerabilities and need close care. This also means they can be more vulnerable to abuse however.

Common law rules of reasonable care are required to be followed in these types of facilities at all times. This means that if a resident is being harmed while under the care of a nursing home, the victim and family can seek compensation for losses if harm could have reasonably been prevented. Diana Valentin was right not to let her suspicions go uninvestigated. If you believe a loved one is experiencing abuse in a nursing home facility, take action. Talk to administrators about your suspicions and if continual abuse occurs, legal action may be the best course of action. Our Bay area based elder abuse attorney can help you receive the compensation deserved. Contact our office at 1(800)427-7020 for a free consultation today.

Woman Says Grandmother Abused at Nursing Home
Alleged Nursing Home Abuse Caught on Camera
National Center on Elder Abuse

Bringing Attention to the Elder Abuse Problem at Both the National and State Levels

February 25, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

lonelysenior.jpg Our San Francisco and Oakland elder abuse law firm has been working for years to raise public awareness of the problem of elder abuse. We are proud of this work and believe it is essential to preventing and addressing the mistreatment of our seniors, but we know our voice is not enough on its own. Often, campaigns for socio-political change need to have a big name celebrity who helps draw the fame-crazed public’s attention to a serious and important matter. In March 2011, Mickey Rooney took on this role, talking about his first-hand experience as a victim of elder abuse. This bravery helped move the fight against the abuse of seniors ahead, but there is still much that needs to be done.

Actor Mickey Rooney Tells His Story in 2011 U.S. Senate Hearing
CNN covered Rooney’s testimony, given at age 90 before the Senate Special Committee on Aging. According to the actor, a member of his family took control of his life. Rooney said the abuse left him “scared, disappointed, yes, and angry,” noting that no one ever expects to become a victim of elder abuse. He spoke of suffering the abuse in silent, fearing the problems it might create in the family. In addition to the initial difficulty in mustering the courage to speak up, he said he was told to be quiet when he did voice his concerns. Eventually, however, Rooney did get help and he filed a restraining order against two step-children, claiming financial and emotional abuse.

In his testimony, Rooney called upon Congress to stop the emotional, financial, physical, and sexual abuse of seniors by family members or other caregivers, specifically asking the Senate to pass a law making elder abuse a distinct crime. Other evidence presented included the story of a woman left to quite literally rot to death from bedsores while her son lived off her pension and used earplugs to block her cries. The committee also heard of a Government Accountability Office report that found that over 14% of non-institutionalized seniors experienced elder abuse of some form in 2009. Experts noted they believe the problem is significantly underreported, with one geriatrics doctor suggesting that 23 or 24 cases go undetected for every one that makes it into an official report.

Limited Federal Response Disappoints, California Serves as Leader in State Response
After the hearing, the committee chairman, Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, introduced legislation to create a specific Office of Elder Abuse. It is now two years later and it does not appear that such an office has been created. The Department of Justice has a website focused on Elder Justice Initiatives, but the site carries a “last updated” date of February 9, 2004. A research arm of the DOJ, the National Institute of Justice, does carry more recent modifications such as a page on Identifying Elder Abuse modified in early 2012. However, it appears that the problem remains largely left to the states to manage, especially in cases where the abuse occurs outside a nursing home setting (an area governed by a more extensive rubric of regulations, including Medicare and other federal bodies of law). While state leadership can allow for positive innovation, the problem of elder abuse requires more attention on the national level, especially since financial abuse in particular is frequently perpetrated across state lines.

California has been one of the states leading the push to bring attention and, ultimately, an end to elder abuse. In addition to criminal laws and a specific push for broader mandatory reporting, the state’s civil courts take the problem of elder abuse seriously. Our Oakland and San Francisco elder abuse law firm represents victims in lawsuits involving all forms of elder abuse including physical, sexual, emotional, and financial mistreatment of seniors. We hope that one day these services will be unneeded, that the problem of elder abuse will one day be a mere memory. We will work to make this day come and we hope other voices will join this fight. Until then, we will represent the victims with care and sensitivity, making sure to show a special level of respect to these clients as we go after the abusers and zealously seek justice in California’s civil courts.

See Related Blog Posts:
California Enacts New Law Expanding Mandatory Reporting of Elder Abuse

A Joint Effort – Criminal and Civil Liability for Nursing Home Abuse

Bedsores: A Serious Medical Ailment and a Possible Warning Sign of Elder Abuse

February 18, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

Bedsores are one of the most common signs that an individual with limited mobility is suffering from neglect. While patients may develop bedsores despite a high level of care, they can also be a warning sign that something is amiss. Such warning signs are especially important when the patient is unable to communicate effectively. In an effort to help people identify mistreatment, our San Francisco nursing home neglect law firm is using today’s blog post to talk about bedsores and how they can indicate abuse.

hospitalbed.jpg What are Bedsores?
The Mayo Clinic explains that bedsores, also known as pressure sores or pressure ulcers, are injuries to the skin and tissues resulting from prolonged pressure. They most often arise on skin that covers bony areas including the hips, buttocks, heels, ankles, and under or around the head in bedridden individuals. Bedsores are categorized by four stages of severity. In Stage One, the skin is intact but may be discolored (may not occur with darker skin) and the area can become painful or feel either warmer or cooler than surrounding skin. Stage Two is characterized by an open wound and damage to or loss of the outer and underlying layers of skin. Stage Three is marked by a deep wound that has a crater-like appearance, exposing some fat, and may involve damage beyond the primary wound. Stage Four is the most serious and involves a large-scale loss of tissue that may expose muscle, bone, or tendon. These stages are illustrated on the bedsore page of Apparelyzed, a spinal cord support forum.

Bedsores can have serious consequences. As the Apparelyzed site notes, untreated sores can lead to amputation and potentially lead to fatal complications. Even well cared for patients can die if an infection sets in, as demonstrated by the death of Christopher Reeve in 2004 when a pressure sore led to a system-wide infection. A recent study by UCLA confirmed a direct link between bedsores and mortality rates. Researchers found that seniors who developed bedsores during a hospital stay were more likely to die, had longer hospital stays, and were more likely to be readmitted within a month of discharge from the facility.

Who is at Risk?
Bedsores appear most often in individuals who have a medical condition limiting their ability to move and to shift positions, leading to confinement in a wheelchair or in bed for prolonged periods. Incontinence is also a major risk factor since wet skin is more prone to developing sores. In order to prevent pressure sores, nursing home residents with such mobility limitations should be moved or repositioned by caregivers frequently. Lubricants or protective padding can also help. Some studies suggest proper nutrition can also help prevent bedsores.

Bedsores as a Sign of Nursing Home Neglect
If you notice bedsores on a loved one, you should be concerned. Bedsores are frequently a sign of caregiver neglect and they are often seen in cases of nursing home neglect. While they are not conclusive evidence of mistreatment, they should prompt loved ones to investigate further. Although it was prepared in 2002, the California Department of Justice’s “Citizen’s Guide to Preventing and Reporting Elder Abuse” is one useful resource for those concerned about a possible case of elder abuse. If you believe abuse has occurred, The Department of Consumer Affairs also provides a list of places where you can report suspected elder abuse, including cases of nursing home neglect.

You should also reach out a skilled Northern California elder abuse law firm. Victims of nursing home neglect have recovered substantial amounts in civil injury cases. These monies can help with medical costs and allow the victim to afford higher quality care. In the most tragic of cases, family members may have a wrongful death claim. In addition to compensating victims, these cases help send the message that our communities will not tolerate mistreatment of the elderly or the infirm. Call to arrange a free consultation with our San Francisco nursing home neglect lawyer.

See Related Blog Posts:
Elder Abuse Through Medications: The Threat of Dangerous Drugging

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

(Photo by Rick Kempel)

Consumer Reports Focuses on Financial Elder Abuse

February 4, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

Consumer Reports, known for investigations aimed at protecting our finances, recently turned its attention to the epidemic of financial elder abuse. The article opened with the story of philanthropist Brooke Astor whose son teamed with a family attorney to amend the will to favor the son, picked paintings off her walls while she lay in adjoining rooms, and stole millions without Astor’s consent. In another portrait, a 72 year old woman entrusted family members with her finances only to find her daughter and granddaughter drained all her resources before abandoning her at a nursing home. These stories are chilling, but sadly not surprising to Attorney Brod and his team, an experienced and dedicated San Francisco elder abuse law firm.

Financial Elder Abuse: Overview and Statistics
piggybank.jpgSpeaking broadly, financial exploitation of seniors is the improper and/or illegal use of property, funds, or other assets of a person aged 60 years of older. In the recent article, Consumer Reports shifted attention from stranger-based scams, like fake sweepstakes and falsified calls from stranded grandchildren, to claims perpetrated by people the victim trusted such as family, neighbors, and employees. A Ventura County judge called these crimes “the ultimate betrayal,” noting she sees around forty cases involving such abuse each month in courtroom. Financial exploitation is the most reported form of elder abuse with cases running a huge gamut from misappropriation of a Social Security check to draining a senior’s life savings.

While awareness is growing, a 2011 study based in New York estimated only 1 in 44 incidents of financial elder abuse is ever officially documented due to a variety of factors including victim’s shame and the fact that some victims do not recognize they’ve been victimized. A Met Life study suggested financial elder exploitation costs at least $2.9 billion annually and researchers suspect that is a gross underestimate. Notably, the average loss in studied cases of fraud by strangers was $95,000. In contrast, the average loss in fraud perpetrated by family, friends, caregivers, and other know persons was much higher at $145,000. One study found that 90% of financial abusers are family members or other trusted individuals. Home aides and other caregivers, a group known for being poorly paid and having close access to seniors, can pose a significant risk with researchers in a New York study finding health aides responsible for 12% of elder abuse cases.

Addressing the Problem: Official Efforts and What You Can Do
Law enforcement and other professionals have noted the problem and some improvements have been made in communication and coordination among service areas. The article notes that some California jurisdictions have created dedicated courts to address elder abuse cases, although budget constraints may hamper these efforts. Financial institutions in half of all states must report suspicious activity on seniors’ accounts and the American Bankers Association is working to educate financial professionals on behavioral and transactional signs of financial abuse. Federal laws do exist, including the Elder Justice Act which was part of the 2010 health care reform law, but the failure to fund some efforts has kept them from being effective. Ironically, this is likely to end up costing the government when victims become indigent and end up needing to rely on government support rather than their own savings.

Consumer Reports provides some advice to both potential victims and their loved ones. Advice for protecting oneself includes: Hire dedicated financial professionals; Set up documents carefully (including giving power of attorney to a trustworthy person who will operate in your interest, this may not be the closest relative); Arrange everyday accounts (including setting up withdrawal alerts); Secure your home (i.e. do background checks on caregivers); and Do not leave mail unsecured/Shred personal documents. As for protecting relatives, the most important piece of advice is to avoid isolation of the individual, a potential breeding ground for fraud. Be available to the relative and set up rules for all those involved in care.

Useful resources for preventing and addressing financial abuse include the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Adult Protective Services Association. If you are in San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, or the surrounding areas, you can also call our Northern California elder abuse lawyer for advice on your legal rights (or the rights of your loved one). We can help you bring a civil claim to recover money and also connect you to other area resources.

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Comments on Financial Elder Abuse Following Aptos Scheme to Take Thousands from Two Elderly Women

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Comments on Financial Elder Abuse Following Aptos Scheme to Take Thousands from Two Elderly Women

January 28, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

When most people hear the term “elder abuse,” they picture bruises, sores, and other physical injuries. These are disturbing images. As a Northern California elder abuse law firm and as members of the San Francisco, Sacramento, and Oakland communities, we are dedicated to helping prevent physical abuse of seniors and seeking justice for victims. We also know that elder abuse goes well beyond physical mistreatment. Financial elder abuse is a growing problem. Seniors and relatives of older community members should be alert for scams targeting older Californians. Our team is prepared to help people identify financial abuse and file civil claims seeking money damages from the perpetrators of these schemes.

Posing as Contractors, Two Men Scheme Two Women in the 90s Out of Thousands of Dollars
Central Coast News Kion 46 is covering an unfolding story of financial abuse targeting two elderly women in Aptos, a small town in Santa Cruz County. According to Bill Atkinson of the Santa Cruz District Attorneys Office, Sonny Costello approached a 92 year-old woman in June 2012 pretending to be a licensed contractor. He tricked the woman into paying $2,000 for unnecessary driveway resurfacing work at her Sunset Way home. Four months later, Steve Costello returned to the same home and demanded more money for the same unneeded project, eventually convincing the confused woman to pay him an additional $1,800. A similar scheme occurred earlier this month when Sonny Costello convinced a 94 year-old woman to pay him $3,100 for roof resurfacing at her Cuesta Drive home. Per investigators, the work was never completed.

Investigators are looking to find both Sonny and Steve and community members are asked to call the Santa Cruz Police Department if they see either suspect. Despite the shared last name, investigators are not sure if the suspects are related and do not know if they are working together. Both men face counts of elder financial abuse. Atkinson commented that the crimes targeted vulnerable citizens who grew up in a generation that was taught to trust people. He suggests people keep tabs on their own money and assist elderly relatives with their finances.

A Broader Look at Financial Elder Abuse
piggybank.jpg Last summer, USA Today carried the results of a study by the Investor Protection Trust (“IPT”) into the problem of financial exploitation of elderly people. IPT conducted the examination at the request of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The report found that 20% of Americans over age 65 have been victimized by some form of financial abuse. IPT cited another study in which MetLife concluded financial schemes cost elderly victims at least $2.9 billion in 2010, an increase from $2.6 billion in 2008. The most common form of abuse involved family members stealing or diverting money or other property, followed by caregiver theft and schemes perpetrated by strangers. In some cases, particularly those run by strangers, the perpetrators drained the entirety of a victim’s life savings.

The threat of financial abuse is increased when seniors either lack the financial savvy to understand that a crime has occurred or feel too embarrassed to report the scheme. IPT’s study suggested caregivers and health care providers are the key to addressing the problem and the group created an Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation (EIFFE) prevention program aimed at educating medical professionals about the financial threat to the elderly. As of the USA Today report, EIFFE had trained more than 3,000 professionals to identify financial exploitation, particularly instances targeting seniors made vulnerable by diminished mental capacity.

For more information about the threat of financial abuse of seniors, see the resource page created by the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse. If you or a loved one has been the victim of financial elder abuse in San Francisco or another Northern California community, please call our office. Attorney Brod has the knowledge and experience essential to helping victims of all manner of elder abuse recover monetary damages in civil court. Do not let fear or even embarrassment prevent you from seeking justice. Our team pledges to treat every client, especially those dealing with sensitive matters, with the highest level of respect. We believe that taking good care of our clients is essential to meeting their legal (and sometimes emotional) needs.

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Elder Abuse at the hands of a Pinole Police Officer
San Francisco Fraud Attorney on Financial Scams Targeting the Elderly and Research Into Aging Brains

Elder Abuse Through Medications: The Threat of Dangerous Drugging

January 21, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

Medicine can improve, and save, lives. Medicine can also be dangerous. In recent years, the media has called attention to the recreational abuse of both prescription and over-the-counter medications. However, much less attention has been paid to another medication-related threat – the misuse of medication to sedate or restrain elderly individuals. As an experienced San Francisco nursing home abuse lawyer, Attorney Brod believes it is crucial that people become aware of this dangerous form of elder abuse. We can only prevent nursing home abuse when we as a community stay informed about the threat.

California Nurse Sentenced to Three Years in Nursing Home Drugging Case
pillcup.jpgAttorney General Kamela Harris recently issued a press release announcing the criminal conviction and sentencing of a nurse for misusing drugs to chemically restrain nursing home residents. Gwen Hughes previously served as the Director of Nursing for a hospital-based skilled nursing facility in the Kern Valley Healthcare District. According to the evidence, Hughes ordered that psychotropic medications be administered to twenty-three elderly nursing facility residents. The medication was not given for therapeutic purposes but rather intended to quiet and control the patients for the convenience of the facility’s staff. The patients who received the medications were considered noisy, argumentative, prone to wandering, and had been known to complain about conditions in the home. Investigators concluded the medicines hastened three patients’ deaths and caused some form of adverse reaction to all twenty-three patients, many of whom were being treated for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

In October, Hughes entered a “no contest” plea to one count of felony elder abuse contributing to the victim’s death. This month, the court sentenced her to three years in prison for the crime. Pamela Ott, the district’s chief executive, also pled no contest to a single felony conspiracy count and was sentenced to probation, restitution and community service. Medical Director Dr. Hoshang Pormir, who failed to monitor or examine the patients, also received a sentence of community service and restitution.

The Extent of the Drugging Problem
Both state and federal laws apply to the treatment of individuals in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Most residents of these facilities depend on medications to maintain their health and quality of life. However, the misuse of medication, both through error and intentional acts, is a major problem. Nursing home residents have the right to be free from any unnecessary drugs, including medications used without adequate indications of necessity or those administered in excessive amounts, for undue duration, or without proper monitoring.

One example of the threat of improper and unnecessary drugging is the use of antipsychotics in patients with dementia. In the spring of 2011, CBS reported on this issue noting that such medicines have never been approved for elderly patients with dementia and the FDA had actually warned that the use of antipsychotics in such patients could lead to sudden death. Despite this clear direction, a government study found a whopping 88% of Medicaid approved antipsychotics given to nursing home residents went to patients with dementia. The report also found that in the six month period from January to June 2007, there were 300,000 instances of nursing home residents receiving unnecessary antipsychotic medications, with more than half those cases involving excessive doses of the drugs.

Experts refer to the misuse of medication a form of chemical restraint. They cite issues of training and problematic relationships between care centers and drug companies as key factors leading to this chemical abuse.

Working to Protect California Nursing Home Residents
In the press release on the Hughes sentencing, Attorney General Harris commented on the general problem of nursing home abuse, stating: “Elder abuse in skilled nursing facilities is a particularly heinous crime because vulnerable victims and their families have placed their trust in the facilities to provide quality care, preserve their dignity and enjoy a better quality of life.” She further noted that drugging patients for the convenience of staff is malicious and outrageous conduct. We agree and we are committed to seeking justice for victims of nursing home abuse in San Francisco and throughout the Northern California region. Call to schedule a free consultation.

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(Photo by John Russell)

Elder Abuse at the hands of a Pinole Police Officer

January 14, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

Modern medicine and an awareness of the public to important steps of living out a healthy lifestyle have helped life expectancy rates rise. As more and more people live well into old age, family members get a chance to enjoy their elderly relatives for a longer period of time. However, as these elderly citizens age, their ability to care for themselves, their mental capacity, and their sound decision making skills deteriorate. This makes them vulnerable to being taken advantage of by virtually anyone, from family members, to nursing home workers and even in some cases, public service officers.

Pinole Elder Abuse by Police Officer

When the phrase “elder abuse” is heard, most people think of physical abuse committed on an elderly individual. However, elder abuse does not only pertain to physical abuse. Often, elder abuse refers to when someone takes advantage of an elderly citizen for financial gain. This exploitation includes “illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets”. This is what happened to an 82 year-old woman, Jean Phyllis Jones by former Pinole police commander and his wife, Matthew Messier and Elizabeth Regalado. Messier was a neighbor of Jones’s who beginning in January of 2012, began taking control of Jones’s financial assets. Messier drafted documents that gave him control of Jones’s estate and placed himself as the sole beneficiary if and when Jones passed. Ms. Jones was noted to have diminished mental capacity and an inability to make financial decisions. She was unable to identify the legal documents concerning this matter and could not even recall Messier’s name.

Pleasanton police were alerted to the possible case of abuse and after months of investigation, have now charged both Matthew Messier and Elizabeth Regalado with defrauding the 82 year old. Messier had used his position as an officer of the law to gain Ms. Jones’s trust, eventually taking control of bank accounts, cars, and safety deposit boxes amounting to the sum of $750,000.
In this particular case, the type of elder abuse ranged from grand theft to the practicing of law without a license as Messier drafted the legal documents himself that gave him control of Jones’s estate. Fortunately, the Alameda County Adult Protective Services agency became aware of the situation and was able to alert police to investigate the matter. If you believe someone is sustaining elder abuse, here are some signs to look for:

• Physical
o Bruises,
o pressure marks,
o broken bones,
o abrasions,
o burns
• Emotional
o Withdrawal from normal activities
o Unusual depressed
• Financial
o Sudden changes in financial situation
o Unauthorized use of property or assets

Please note that this list is not a comprehensive or guaranteed list of abuse. For a more comprehensive list, visit the National Center on Elder Abuse.

Newly-Launched Focuses on Silent Epidemic in United States
Cop, Wife Charged in Elder Abuse Case
Former Pinole police commander arrested for ripping off 82-year-old

Continue reading "Elder Abuse at the hands of a Pinole Police Officer" »

California Enacts New Law Expanding Mandatory Reporting of Elder Abuse

January 14, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

Justice always requires someone willing to seek it. In many cases, the first step towards justice is a witness or victim speaking up and reporting a wrong. All too often, as our Oakland elder abuse law firm knows from first-hand accounts, witnesses and victims are afraid to speak. Even the most well-meaning and good-hearted people can be worried about retribution or be paralyzed by doubt about their role and whether it is their place to speak up. The law can help by clarifying responsibilities. A new provision in California law on mandatory reporting of elder abuse seeks to do just this, making it clear that certain witnesses have an obligation to speak up when they see a wrong and allowing the law to guide them when they might doubt the proper response.

Obligation to Report Elder Abuse Expanded for Care Center Staff
oldhands.jpg As reported recently in The Napa Valley Register, a new law took effect on January 1st that aims to help combat the problem of caregivers abusing, neglecting, or stealing from seniors by expanding mandatory reporting requirements. Assembly Bill 40 doubles prior reporting duties for those required by California law to report witnessing abuse of long-term care center residents. The mandatory reporters covered by the provision are employees, supervisors, and administrators at such facilities. Such individuals no longer have the option of choosing between reporting alleged crimes to either the center’s ombudsman or law enforcement; they now must notify both. This duty includes contacting local law enforcement by both phone and written report within two hours of a suspected incident involving an injury or within twenty-four hours when no injury occurs. Failure to comply with this duty to report abuse is classified as a misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty a $1,000 fine and/or six months jail sentence.

Why Mandate Reporting?
Discussing the new measure, Napa County District Attorney Gary Lierberstein notes that SB40 is consistent with similar legislation for other crimes such as the mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse. Both prosecutors and advocates for seniors say they hope the law brings more crimes to light and ensures abuse is reported quickly. The bill was introduced last March by Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada of Davis in response to findings from the state Senate and Disability Rights California noting spotty and delayed reporting of abuse in the senior care environment.

Prior studies also noted that nursing home ombudsmen are torn between conflicting duties. The ombudsman program is run by the state Department of Aging and the county-level agents must work with care centers to improve living conditions while at the same time investigating violations by the same homes they are charged with working with on similar issues. Ombudsmen lack law enforcement privileges and federal law requires that they get a victim’s consent in order to report alleged abuse, theft, or neglect to police or other officials. A study conducted in 2009 found as many as 75% of patients refuse to consent or unable to effectively give consent due to dementia or other issues. According to one representative from the program, some seniors fear retaliation if they agree to report a problem and ombudsmen are bound by the patient’s decision (or, as noted, limited by the inability of a patient to consent). The expanded reporting rules of SB 40 seek to resolve this issue by expanding reporting requirements.

Working Together to Help the Victims of Elder Abuse
The Brod Law Firm is proud to serve as a law firm for California elder abuse victims and their loved ones. Our team supports efforts to crack down on this growing problem. We hope the new elder abuse law helps to improve reporting so that fewer seniors are forced to live with financial, emotional and/or physical abuse. We also encourage everyone, including those not covered by any mandatory reporting law, to speak up when witnessing abuse or mistreatment, especially where the victim may be unable or too afraid to report the abuse themselves. For help, visit the Department of Social Services or the Department of Consumer Affairs, both of which provide information on reporting elder abuse in California.

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(Photo by Jonas Boni)

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

January 7, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

We have recently focused a number of entries on this blog on the problem of elder abuse in California. This is not a new issue and it is not a new area of practice for our experienced Northern California elder abuse attorney. However, the problem is growing at a startling rate and we are committed to informing the public about the threat to our seniors. We hope this knowledge allows our readers to be better equipped to spot elder abuse and encourages them to speak up if they suspect someone they know is being mistreated. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to protect our older residents, especially those made vulnerable by physical or mental decline.

We have written about physical abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation of the elderly. This post will focus on a familiar topic but one that people rarely associate with the senior population. It speaks well of most of us that we’d never imagine the crime, but it is important that people become aware of the very real threat of sexual abuse of seniors, a danger lurking in nursing homes, other care centers, and even private homes.

Investigators Suspect More Victims May Be Involved in Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Case
A recent AP report, carried in the San Francisco Chronicle, focuses on an ongoing investigation to a nursing home sex assault case. Last month, suspect David Moreno entered a not guilty plea to charges that he sexually assaulted a sixty-nine year old disabled woman at an elder care facility in Yorba Linda. Moreno, a twenty-eight year old Riverside resident, worked as a janitor at the Emeritus Senior Living center. On January 2, detectives and prosecutors announced that there may be more victims and have asked for the public’s help in the case. Moreno has another court date on Monday January 7 and is free on $100,000 bail.

The Problem of Sexual Abuse of Seniors
Although it is relatively rare compared to other forms of elder abuse, more and more studies are finding that sexual abuse is a significant problem for a substantial number of older Americans. In general terms, sexual abuse is non-consensual physical contact, including rape, molestation, or any form of sexual contact with someone who lacks the needed mental capacity to effectively consent. Sexual abuse of the elderly can occur in private home settings, where it can be perpetrated by relatives (including a spouse) or other community members. Additionally, sexual abuse can occur in senior care facilities where attendants, center employees, and even other residents can be responsible. Most of the identified victims are women, but older men have also been victims of sexual abuse and may be less likely to report the issue. Seniors who suffer from physical and/or cognitive disabilities are particularly at risk. Perpetrators are more likely to target those who are isolated and lack social support. Elderly victims of sexual abuse are at an increased risk of injury or loss of independence as a result of the crime.

Across the board, sexual abuse is a difficult crime to combat because it often goes unreported for a wide-range of reasons. Reporting is an even greater issue in the case of senior victims who may lack resources or may be physically or mentally unable to report the assault. Concerned community member should stay alert for both physical and behavioral signs of abuse including: genital or anal injury; bruising on thighs or genital areas; torn, bloody, or stained clothing; sexually transmitted disease; inappropriate/increased aggression, especially of a sexual nature; or signs of an inappropriate relationship with a suspect.

Two useful resources on the issue of sexual elder abuse (both of which inform this discussion) are the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the National Center on Elder Abuse (part of the federal government’s U.S. Administration on Aging). If you suspect someone you care about is the victim of elder abuse, or you are a victim yourself, seek help. In addition to the aforementioned resources, the California Department of Aging hosts a webpage that provides information on reporting elder abuse.

Our Commitment to Fighting Sexual and Other Forms of Elder Abuse in Northern California
Our San Francisco elder abuse law firm helps victims of sexual abuse among California’s elderly population, including abuse perpetrated in nursing homes and other settings. Attorney Brod and the entire staff understand the sensitivity of these matters and we promise to treat all elder law client with the respect and compassion these subjects demand. We will help you explore all available civil claims to help you obtain justice in addition to money damages. We are also dedicated to putting an end to all forms of elder abuse and hope that keeping our readers informed will help empower them to join us in this fight. Our whole community must work together to bring this epidemic to an end.

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Study Finds For-Profit Nursing Homes and Other Healthcare Facilities Place Money Above Care

January 2, 2013 by Gregory J. Brod

All too often in our world money trumps morals. One arena in which this problem is particularly pronounced is the nursing home industry. As a San Francisco elder law attorney, Greg Brod helps victims of nursing home neglect and other mistreatment. These abuses often coexist with Medicare overbilling, a problem discussed in a recent Bloomberg report carried by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Article Ties Overbilling and Profit Motives to Elder Neglect
wheelchair.pngBloomberg’s research delved deeper into a November report in which federal health care inspectors concluded the nursing home industry overbills Medicare to the tune of $1.5 billion (yes, with a “b”) annually for treatments patients either don’t need or never actually receive. The further study focused on profit motives, noting that investigators deemed thirty percent of reviewed studied claims from for-profit facilities improper, compared to a significantly smaller (though still too high) twelve percent from non-profit homes. At least six other studies undertaken by government and academic bodies in the past three years reached similar conclusions, finding that the rise in the number of for-profit providers is leading to waste and fraud. Likewise, this profit-driven culture is fueling patient harm.

Between 2008 and 2012, federal prosecutors brought 120 civil and criminal claims against nursing homes and individuals in the industry, twice the number brought in the prior five year period. In some cases, the homes overbilled Medicare for unnecessary procedures that caused harm and suffering rather than providing actual treatment. In other cases, companies skimped on staffing leading to patient neglect that included leaving patients in soiled clothes for hours, denying them baths, and causing malnutrition and preventable infections. Between 2003 and 2008, the ten biggest nursing-home chains operated by for-profit facilities employed 37% fewer registered nurses per patient day than their non-profit counterparts. This figure is likely part of the reason that the for-profit homes received 59% more deficiency notices from the government than nonprofits did in that time frame.

The problem of for-profit companies placing profits over care extends beyond the senior care arena. For-profit groups manage 96% of outpatient surgery centers, a major growth sector in the health care field. For-profit hospice care companies have also been cited for overbilling and providing inappropriate services. Home health care and dialysis centers have also been moving to more for-profit management. Notably, hospitals are more resistant to the trend with 88% of hospital revenues in 2010 coming from government and non-profit operated facilities.

Fighting Nursing Home Neglect in California
A couple of quotations jumped out to our San Francisco nursing home law firm as we reviewed the article on the Bloomberg investigation. Staff members at one for-profit facility reported, “we have been encouraged to maximize reimbursement even when clinically inappropriate.” That nursing home settled a wrongful death and elder abuse lawsuit involving a woman who fell several times, allegedly because of profit-driven understaffing. In another case, the California attorney general brought a lawsuit against a for-profit nursing home. Discussing an understaffing issue, the jury foreman commented “You can’t make people lie in their own filth because you’re too focused on profits to hire enough nurses.”

Elder abuse and nursing home abuse must not be tolerated. Companies are taking advantage of a vulnerable population, risking health and safety in order to make more money. If you believe a nursing home or other facility has sacrificed care leading to injury or death of a Northern California nursing home resident, please call our office. As an experienced San Francisco nursing home neglect lawyer, Attorney Greg Brod can help you protect your loved one and seek justice in civil court.

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(Photo by Craig Toron)

A Website Aimed at Preventing Elder Abuse and Helping the Victims

December 24, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

With the holidays upon us and with the tragedy in Connecticut still fresh in our minds and our hearts, many people are holding tight to the core values of family and community. Along with thinking about the joy and beauty of youth, many are also visiting with older family members and friends, embracing traditions and the knowledge that comes with age. Our San Francisco elder law team believes in protecting the elderly and in supporting efforts to combat the alarming epidemic elder abuse.

oldhands.jpgThe Upsetting Numbers: One in Ten Seniors Report Occurrence of Elder Abuse
An article in the San Francisco Chronicle contains an appalling figure – there were almost six million reported cases of elder abuse in our nation in the year 2010 alone. This number, reported by the National Center on Elder Abuse (“NCEA”), means that nearly one in ten American seniors reported some form of abuse. While this seems high, it is actually likely that the figure is even higher since many victims do not report the problem because they fear some form of retaliation. Reporting can be especially difficult in cases of abuse by a family member, a significant issue given that the NCEA study found 68% of elder abuse cases involved abuse by a family member of loved one

Elder-Abuse.Net Web Site Seeks to Provide Information and Resources
Thankfully, there is a new web-based resource dedicated to helping prevent and stop abuse of senior citizens. spokesperson Dan Daniels labeled the problem of abuse against the elderly “a silent crisis in the U.S.” He further notes that the issue does not get the level of attention required to bring the crisis to an end. They hope that the newly-launched web portal will shine a light on this silent crisis. As we noted in passing earlier in this post, cases of abuse tend to go unreported. Victims, no matter what kind of abuse they had endured, are left with deep, painful, and permanent emotional scars. This often leaves them feeling alone and without anyone to turn to for support. Daniels says this new site should help provide a voice for those for feel voiceless

As it progresses,, will house a wealth of information, covering elder abuse from a wide range of angles. The site discusses the different forms of abuse, including financial fraud and physical/emotional mistreatment as well as how neglect can constitute abuse. Victims and concerned loved ones can also visit the site to locate state and local resources and learn how to report abuse. The site also gives some general insight into elder law and advice on hiring an elder abuse attorney.

As Daniels notes, it is important that victims identify resources for help before it is too late and that they feel comfortable asking for assistance. Further, our society as a whole must declare that any form of elder abuse is unacceptable and commit to bringing this tragic epidemic to an end.

Choosing The Brod Firm for your Northern California Elder Abuse Law Firm
Why choose The Brod Firm to represent you or a someone you love? Greg Brod is an experienced California elder abuse lawyer. He knows the legal system and the specific issues involved in senior abuse claims. His education and experience allow him to present your case with authority and to prepare for every facet of a civil law elder care dispute. The entire San Francisco elder law team at the Brod Firm is committed to treating every client with respect. We recognize that these are serious issues, filled with a range of emotions. We will work with you to end the abuse and recover all due compensation, keeping you informed and helping you seek justice for these horrible crimes.

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(Photo by Daoro)

Oakland Elder Care Attorney Comments on the Danger of Neglect Following Death of Concord Senior Care Facility Resident

December 17, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

Placing a loved one in a senior care facility is never an easy decision. When you select a nursing home or other care center, you place trust in the hands of the institution and the people who work there. You trust that they will take good care of a loved one who can no longer care for him or herself. Our Oakland nursing home abuse law firm is here to help when this trust is violated. We also understand that neglect can be as dangerous as physical or emotional abuse and we work with families to seek justice when nursing home neglect has serious, even tragic, consequences.

Alzheimer’s Patient Dies of Heatstroke After Wandering Away from Concord Assisted Care Center
The Oakland Tribune recently provided an update on a tragic case of elder care neglect that shocked many in our Northern California community this fall. Eighty-six year old Yolanda Membreno suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and was being cared for at Julia’s Home, a residential assisted care center. On September 30, she wandered away from the facility. She was later found dead at a park, located only a little more than a block from the center. According to a recently completed autopsy report, Membreno died as a result of heat stroke. Her family reports that, aside from the dementia related issues, she had been in good health. The Tribune noted that current law requires care facilities to alert the state when a resident leaves and may be in danger, but they are not required to contact police. Membreno’s family is working with police to pursue possible criminal charges against those who operate the facility.

Neglect as a Form of Elder Abuse Under California Law
California law addresses the problem of elder abuse in the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act. Section 15610.07 of the state’s Welfare and Institutions Code specifies that neglect is a form of elder abuse. This is expanded upon by 15610.57 which defines neglect to include the failure to provide the care that a reasonable person would provide in a similar position. The section further provides examples of failures that constitute neglect including failing to provide needed nutrition, physical and mental health care, and assistance with personal hygiene. Additionally, the law includes failing to protect against health and safety hazards as a form of elder neglect.

It is important to remember that elder abuse can occur in any setting, including a private home where the elderly individual is being cared for by a family member as well as a nursing home or other care facility. In nursing home and other care center settings, neglect often stems from inadequate staffing. This can include having too few staff members and also having staff members that are not properly trained or qualified to provide certain forms of care. Neglect can lead to malnutrition or dehydration; injuries, such as bedsores; falls; and, exacerbated health conditions that could be treated with adequate care. Additionally, when individuals suffer from cognitive impairment, neglect can lead to residents wandering away and suffering injury or even, as in the case of Yolanda Membreno, death.

Protecting Loved Ones From Elder Abuse & Nursing Home Neglect
Family members should take care when choosing a elder care facility and should also continue to monitor the care provided by the center. For those who suspect abuse or neglect, the California Department of Aging provides an online resource sheet on reporting elder abuse. Additionally, family members should reach out to an experienced elder law attorney. As an Oakland elder care lawyer, Attorney Brod can help family members put a stop to mistreatment and seek justice when neglect or abuse leads to injury or death. Call to arrange a free consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:
A Joint Effort – Criminal and Civil Liability for Nursing Home Abuse

California Class Action Lawyer on Patient Suit Against Nursing Home Group

(Photo by C & More)

San Francisco Fraud Attorney on Financial Scams Targeting the Elderly and Research Into Aging Brains

December 10, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

As a San Francisco elder abuse attorney, Greg Brod knows that mistreatment of older Americans comes in many forms. In addition to representing victims of physical elder abuse, his team also represents clients in an even-less discussed arena – financial abuse of seniors. Financial fraud against seniors is a growing problem and Attorney Brod is dedicated to helping Northern California victims and their families recover in civil court.

Study Finds Older Brains Less Able to Detect Facial Signs of Trustworthiness
Perpetrators of fraud, not surprisingly, seek out the most vulnerable targets. An interesting study recently revealed one of the factors that may make seniors more likely to fall victim to fraud. As discussed in a U.S. News & World Report article, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles found that older people are less capable of spotting untrustworthy faces. They determined that older adults have lower rates of activity in a portion of the brain called the anterior insula, an area tied to disgust and that helps people identify untrustworthy faces. Shelley Taylor, a researcher and psychology professor, explained this change as a reduced warning signal where the brain fails to send a “Be wary” message like it would in a younger person.
The study involved 119 older adults (between 55 and 84, with an average age of 68) and twenty-four younger people (average age of 23). They found the groups had similar responses to both trustworthy and neutral faces but that, in comparison to the younger group, older participants were more likely to report that untrustworthy faces were approachable and trustworthy. In a second study, the investigators studied brain scans as a group of older adults (55-80 years old, average age of 66) and younger adults (average age of 33) studied facial pictures. In the younger participants, the scans showed anterior insula activation when viewing and rating the faces, especially with portraits of untrustworthy faces. The older individuals, in contrast, showed little activity in that region of the brain. The overall findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on December 3.

What made researchers deem a given face untrustworthy? Professor Taylor said that untrustworthy faces show an insincere smile and that the eye contact is off. In sum, the study showed that there are differences in how the brain responds to such faces with age. Young adults have a strong reaction in the brain allowing them to rate trustworthiness, but the brain’s response is more muted in older individuals.

The Rising Threat of Financial Fraud Targeting Older Adults
U.S. News noted that older people may be targeted in their 70s, the time when they start to take required annual distributions from 401K accounts. One study estimated that people over age 60 lost at least $2.9 billion due to financial exploitation in 2010 alone, a 12% increase from 2008. These crimes range from home-repair scams to complex financial scams. Notably, and in line with the recent study’s findings, older people appear to be especially susceptible to interpersonal solicitations, possibly due to a reduced ability to gauge trustworthiness.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of financial fraud targeting the elderly in Northern California, please contact our team. Attorney Brod is an experienced San Francisco victim’s rights attorney and our legal team is dedicated to helping those harmed by these despicable crimes recover money damages in civil court. Additional information on financial abuse of the elderly is available via the Elder Financial Protection Network, a San Francisco non-profit dedicated to preventing financial abuse of older individuals through public awareness, community outreach, and professional training events.

See Related Blog Posts:
Accusations of Financial Elder Abuse Against Alameda County Judge

A Joint Effort – Criminal and Civil Liability for Nursing Home Abuse

Elder Care, Food Safety, and Other Legal Issues Implicated in Sacramento Poisoning

November 14, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

In law school, students take classes focused upon specific areas of the law, examining topics separately in order to grasp each legal concept. However, in the actual practice of civil litigation, legal issues overlap and a single incident can involve many different areas of law. Our Sacramento injury law firm understands this reality and Attorney Greg Brod’s experience representing victims in a range of civil matters ensures he can help in the very real world where clients need legal counsel capable of seeing the wide range of issues implicated in a single case.

Poisonous Mushrooms Leave Two Dead, Four Ill at Loomis Elder Care Facility
The Sacramento Bee is following a tragic incident that left two dead and four ill at a senior living facility in the Sacramento area. The Gold Age Villa is a small assisted living facility located in Loomis and licensed for up to six residents at a time. Among the qualities touted on its website is the attention to special dietary needs and the preparation of homemade meals, an element that can attract people who dislike the institutional feel of the food services at other, typically much larger, senior care facilities. The facility is owned by Raisa Oselsky who has also run the home for more than five years. Last Friday, a caregiver at the home made a tragic error and prepared a homemade soup using wild mushrooms. Unfortunately, the mushrooms were toxic and the meal led to the death of eighty-six year old Barbara Lopes and seventy-three year old Teresa Olesniewicz. Four others, including the caregiver, also fell ill after consuming the soup. Oslesky did not answer calls about the incident. The Placer County Sheriff’s Office ruled the deaths accidental.

Expert Casey Jonquil, who owns Alpine Foragers in Oregon and certifies up to 8,000 pounds of wild mushrooms daily, noted that amateurs take a significant risk when they harvest their own wild mushrooms. Health concerns lead the California Department of Public Health to periodically issue warnings to the public about consuming wild mushrooms. Currently, the sought after wild chanterelle mushrooms are in season in Northern California. However, poisonous varieties including the North American amanitas, also referred to as the “death cap” or “death angel” species, are also common in our area and can look similar to certain edible varieties. More than 1,700 cases of illnesses due to eating mushrooms were reported in California during 2009 and 200, including ten serious poisonings and two deaths. Severe cases of mushroom poisoning can lead to renal and liver failure.

Sacramento Plaintiff’s Lawyer Reflects on the Multiple Legal Issues Implicated in a Single Case
Although the poisoning at the Gold Age Villa appears to have been accidental, incidents of this case can give rise to civil lawsuits on behalf of those sickened or killed by the tainted food. While we cannot give counsel on this exact situation without further details (and can never give specific legal advice without being engaged as legal counsel for a party), circumstances of this nature could involve a range of civil law issues. We’ve often written about food safety issues on this blog and the law holds individuals and institutions accountable when negligent food handling leads to illness or death. Depending on the case, a civil suit for food-related illness can involve sellers, preparers, and others in the food service chain. Likewise, a case like that in Loomis could involve elder law issues. Our firm has specific experience in senior care law, an area that can extend to harm that is accidental and the result of negligence in addition to cases of outright malicious abuse. If a case involved a significant number of facility residents sickened in a food related incident, it could also trigger a class action if the plaintiffs and the court deem a group lawsuit more effective than individual claims. Class actions are often useful where a single event results in harm to a number of individuals, such as in a mass poisoning.

Attorney Brod is dedicated to fighting for victims in Northern California. His legal experience allows him to work with victims to consider all the different legal issues that can arise from a single incident. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, we can help. Please call our Sacramento victim’s law firm for a free consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:
Study Calls Attention to Rise in Foodborne Illness in 2012
California Class Action Lawyer on Patient Suit Against Nursing Home Group

A Joint Effort – Criminal and Civil Liability for Nursing Home Abuse

November 9, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

We are proud to serve as a Sacramento nursing home abuse law firm, helping victims and families bring claims in civil court. As we have noted many times, the civil and criminal systems are separate and the viability of a civil claims does not depend on the success of a criminal case. However, while the systems are separate, the courts serve victims best when both parts work together to achieve justice that punishes wrongdoers and compensates victims.
A recent report in the Sacramento Bee examined the issue of criminal prosecution in nursing home abuse cases. The article cited the case of Don Esco, a California man who spent over four years seeking to hold nursing home personnel criminally liable for his wife’s death. Although he had settled a prior civil case, Esso continued to believe the incident merited criminal accountability. The state reopened a criminal case earlier this year bringing charges that substandard care and the failure to supervise staff contributed to Johnnie Esco’s death following a thirteen day stay at the care center. Don Esco passed away last month, just weeks before the case moved forward with one nurse pleading no contest and another agreeing to cooperate in the case against a supervisor.

While Don Esco did not live to see the nurses and facility held criminally accountable for Johnnie’s death, his persistence is making a difference in the state’s stance on criminal nursing home abuse cases. State Attorney General Kamala D. Harris recently committed to prosecuting more criminal cases relating to nursing home abuse. The AG’s office is setting up three specialized teams aimed at pursuing charges against administrators and employees where the team believes systemic problems led to resident mistreatment. Each team will include an attorney, a nurse, and an auditor and will have support from medical personnel specializing in geriatrics. The teams will build criminal cases involving charges of systemic abuse against facilities that oversee daily activities for older patients, focusing on people and groups that put profit ahead of care rather than isolated incidents of employee error.

Unfortunately, criminal prosecution of nursing home companies and employees in abuse cases has been quite rare. Although local district attorneys are also able to file criminal nursing home abuse charges, they rarely do so in California which leaves the job to state-level offices. Criminal elder abuse cases brought by the state attorney general fell from 112 cases in the 2002-3 fiscal year to only 60 in the 2011-12 period. Some groups have expressed doubts that the new team system will deliver on the stated goals. Although the state officials express confidence, they do note that these cases are often challenging and involve the use of experts and the review of voluminous medical records.

As victim’s rights advocates, our team believes in holding companies and individuals accountable when they mistreat nursing home residents and other long-term care patients. Together, the criminal and civil systems can ensure justice is served. We hope the state continues to work to improve the criminal system’s handling of systemic abuse cases. At the same time, we will continue to work on behalf of victims of nursing home abuse in Sacramento and throughout Northern California, helping our clients win civil judgments and obtain the compensation they are owed.

See Related Blog Posts:
California Class Action Lawyer on Patient Suit Against Nursing Home Group

New Tool Aims to Prevent Nursing Home Abuse

Accusations of Financial Elder Abuse Against Alameda County Judge

June 18, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

Abuse stories are always disturbing, as they should be to someone who believes in treating others, especially those who are most vulnerable, with kindness, love, and care. As an Oakland elder abuse law firm, our team has heard about some upsetting occurrences. It is particularly shocking when the abuse comes at the hands of people who should have been a source of comfort to the victim or whose position is one we usually associate with trust.


Late Friday, according to an article in The Oakland Tribune , an Alameda County judge was arrested on charges of financial elder abuse and perjury, charges based on allegations that he secretly stole from a ninety-seven year old woman. Judge Paul Daniel Seeman, age fifty-seven, had been a respected presence on the bench and had been admired for his work helping people in need. He graduated from UC Berkley’s Boalt School of law and began work as a private sector attorney in 1980 with a focus on juvenile justice before moving to a position as a referee pro-tem for Alameda County juvenile court. Seeman became a court commissioner in 2004 and ascended to the judicial bench upon nomination by Governor Schwarzenegger three years later. As a judge, he served in the county’s drug court before moving to a role presiding over misdemeanor arraignments. Attorneys who appeared before Seeman spoke well of him, noting he seemed to really want to help people and was willing to give every defendant a chance to be heard. Seeman’s neighbors also praised him and expressed doubt that he could be involved in taking advantage of another individual.

Now standing on the other side of the courtroom, in the same courthouse where he one presided, Seeman declined to comment during Friday’s felony arraignment. In stark contrast to the picture painted by his neighbors and colleagues, police and prosecutors presented court records to support allegations that Seeman systematically executed a plan to take money from Anne Nutting over a twelve year span. Per the allegations, Seeman gained Nutting’s financial power of attorney and proceeded to sell off her possessions, including two properties in Santa Cruz, a Lionel model train set, and her collection of stamps and coins. Filings also suggest Seeman stopped making promised payments on a $250,000 loan from Nutting, although he did repay the loan after Berkley Police intervened. Eleven counts of perjury are based on court records that suggest Seeman failed to disclose

According to other news sources, Anne Nutting was Seeman’s neighbor. At some point, per the allegations, the Judge took over the management of finances for Nutting and her husband. Nutting’s husband died in 1999. Seeman is accused of slowly stealing money from that time until Nutting’s own death in April 2010 at the age of ninety-seven. One source said that the theft totaled at least $1.6 million. Nutting died with no blood relatives but her death certificate lists fifty-three year old Ali Mehrizi as her husband and the trustee of her estate. Berkley police have said that Mehrizi is not a suspect.

Attorney Michael Markowitz is representing Seeman and has declined to comment on the case. Seeman has been released on $525,000 bail. A plea hearing is scheduled for July 3.

Physical abuse is, of course, horrifying. Nonetheless, it is important to remember that abuse can take many forms. Our experienced Northern California elder abuse lawyer can help victims of financial abuse as well as cases involving physical abuse or neglect. If you suspect someone you care for is being abused in any fashion, or if you believe you are a victim yourself, please call for a free consultation. Help is available and no form of abuse should be tolerated.

Additional resources on elder abuse in California and nationwide:
National Center on Elder Abuse – A multi-disciplinary group that is part of the U.S. Administration on Aging. Website includes resources for victims and those concerned about possible abuse of a loved one.

California Department of Social Services, Adult Protective Services Agency – Information about reporting elder abuse in California

Woodland Arrest Focuses Attention on the Danger of Elder Abuse

April 30, 2012 by Gregory J. Brod

Children and the elderly are perhaps the two most vulnerable segments of our society. While child abuse is the subject of wide-ranging awareness and prevention campaigns, elder abuse in Sacramento and elsewhere in Northern California is often a subject that remains taboo. As a Sacramento elder abuse law firm, the team at The Brod Law Firm believes that awareness is a vital step in preventing and reducing instances of elder abuse in our communities.


Police in Woodland are continuing to investigate a suspected case of elder abuse. On Friday April 27, officers arrived at the 200 block of Ablele Street in response to a domestic disturbance report. When they arrived at the scene, they found an elderly man, identified in some reports as Jerry Woodall standing in the front yard of a home. The man was suffering from multiple, non-life-threatening injuries and additional responders were called in to transport him to Woodland Memorial Hospital for treatment.

Officers quickly focused suspicions on the elderly man’s son, 42 year old James Woodall. By the time police arrived, the suspect had returned inside a residence and he refused to open the door when the officers knocked. Police contacted the younger Woodall by telephone but he refused to emerge. Eventually, a team of officers, aided by a police dog, forcibly entered the home. They found that Woodall had barricaded himself in a bedroom and that he had started a fire. Officers retreated out of concern for their own safety. A negotiation team was called in and the suspect eventually began communicating and exited the back bedroom. Police were then able to subdue the man and they apprehended him with the aid of the police canine. The younger Woodland was treated for minor injuries sustained during the apprehension. He was then booked at the Yolo County Jail. He has been charged with suspicion of battery causing significant injury and elder abuse. Additional charges of arson and battery on a police dog have also been filed as a result of the stand-off.

The National Center on Elder Abuse (“NCEA”) is a resource center that seeks to prevent elder abuse nationwide. A 2005 NCEA report estimates that between one and two million Americans over age 65 have been exploited, injured, or otherwise mistreated by someone they depended upon for care and protection. Elder abuse statistics are very hard to compile because there is little agreement on a precise definition and because a large percentage of elder abuse cases go unreported. The same NCEA report suggested that only one in every fourteen cases of elder abuse in a domestic setting is brought to the attention of authorities. In additional to physical injury, elder abuse can also include financial exploitation, a form of mistreatment that may impact five million elderly Americans each year with estimates suggesting a mere one in twenty-five cases being reported.

Everyone can play a role in preventing elder abuse by keeping vigilant for potential abuse and staying connected to seniors who might be isolated from society, especially if they are suffering from dementia or other illness. Abuse can happen in nursing homes, hospitals, and even at home. If you suspect someone you know is the victim of elder abuse in Northern California, it is important that you speak up. Information about reporting California elder abuse can be found at the following website: Our experienced Sacramento elder abuse attorney can provide additional guidance to help investigate and stop abuse in Northern California. We can also assist the abuse victim in recovering compensation for both physical and financial harm. Working together as a community, we can bring attention to elder abuse and help prevent this egregious wrong.

See Related Blog Posts:
Sacramento Elder Abuse Lawyer Comments on Fall Prevention in Nursing Homes
Oakland-San Francisco Elder Abuse Attorney Comments on the Reporting and Prevention of Elder Abuse

Norovirus Outbreak At Area Elder Care Facilities

December 28, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

At The Brod Law Firm, we are proud to serve as lawyers for victims of nursing home abuse in Sacramento. The elderly can be a very vulnerable population and Sacramento elder abuse can go unrecognized because some older individuals are unable to report the incidents or are unconsidered unreliable because of dementia. We are proud to serve as attorneys for individuals who fall victim to these abuses and work closely with concerned family members to represent their interests.

Abuse and neglect are all too common, but it is important to remember that the nature of even well-run elder care facilities can create health concerns. On Tuesday, The Sacramento Bee reported that public health authorities were tracking an outbreak of the norovirus in senior care environments. The virus has been confirmed in three skilled nursing and assisted living facilities, is suspected to be the culprit in at least four other locations and is believed to have caused at least 174 residents and staff to fall ill. Norovirus cause a range of gastro-intestinal ailments and, especially in the medically vulnerable elderly population, can lead to dangerous dehydration. At one facility, 15 out of 85 residents are reported to have fallen ill from the highly contagious bug.

Norovirus itself cannot be treated but symptoms can be managed with palliative care, including rehydration where necessary. The disease is spread very easily and is particularly likely to spread in close quarters like cruise ships, schools, and nursing facilities. There are several strategies that can prevent norovirus and other contagious diseases from spreading. Hand-washing can be very effective in limiting the spread of illness, although it is often not done properly. The Center for Disease Control recommends that hands be vigorously rubbed with soap and water for a minimum of twenty seconds, noting that mentally singing “Happy Birthday” twice can help ensure hands are washed for a sufficient time. Since norovirus often originates in contaminated food, proper food-handling techniques are also key. Fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed and infected individuals should not be involved in food preparation. Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and laundering clothing and bedding can also help prevent norovirus from spreading.

We do not intend to assert that the current outbreaks are the result of any improper actions. However, given the medical vulnerability of the elderly and nursing home residents in particular, it is important that elder care facilities follow strict procedures to limit the spread of contagious disease among residents. When researching residential care for a loved one, it is important to ask about the measures taken by the facility to prevent the spread of disease and whether specific measures are taken when an outbreak is suspected. Caregivers should be trained to prevent the spread of disease and to recognize norovirus and other infections early so that symptoms can be treated and the contagion can be confined.

While most infections are an unfortunate reality of communal living, inadequate care and prevention is inexcusable. If you believe a loved one has fallen ill due to neglect in a Sacramento nursing facility, please contact our skilled Northern California elder abuse lawyer. Speaking up can help you recover the costs associated with your loved one’s care and can also let nursing facilities know that neglect and inadequate care will not be tolerated.

See Related Blog Posts:
San Francisco-Oakland Attorney Comments on Nursing Home Lawsuits
Nursing Home Neglect in San Francisco and Beyond

Sacramento Elder Abuse Lawyer Comments on Fall Prevention in Nursing Homes

December 1, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

According to The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, accidental falls are the number one cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries in adults older than 65. Of falls among older adults, most occur in nursing homes. Research conducted by The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control found that although only about five percent of adults 65 and older reside in nursing homes, older adults in nursing homes account for twenty percent of deaths from accidental falls from this age group.

On average, a nursing home reports 1.5 falls for every bed in the establishment. This statistic, of course, does not include unreported falls that occur in nursing homes. Nursing homes have higher fall rates due to the relatively fragile population that resides there. Most elderly people move to nursing homes precisely because they cannot take care of themselves properly and are at risk for injuring themselves.

433128_grandmas_birthday.jpg Nursing homes must adhere to the standard of care when providing services to their patients. For instance, a nursing home must implement and educate its staff about proper procedures for preventing or following-up on a fall incident in the nursing home. These procedures must measure up to the standard protocol implemented by other nursing homes under similar circumstances.

If you or your family member is living in a nursing home, it is advisable to investigate both the nursing home’s strategies to prevent falls and its follow-up procedures in case of a fall, as between half and three quarters of older adults in nursing homes fall each year.

Here are some tips to use when evaluating a nursing home:

• Be sure that the nursing home educates both staff and residents about common reasons for falls and ways to prevent bad falls.

• Ensure that the nursing home is well-lit and free of obstacles. Check that it regularly inspects items of common use and that it has an appropriate number of sturdy physical aides, such as handrails. Remember that 16% to 27% of falls in nursing homes result from environmental hazards.

• Ask about accessibility to call lights in case of injury or other cause for alarm. Also, look to see that beds and toilets are an appropriate height, making them easier to use.

• Pay attention to patient apparel. Residents of nursing homes should wear non-slip shoes or slippers.

• Make sure that the nursing home carefully reviews patients’ prescribed medicines to minimize disorientation and confusion. It should update prescriptions on a regular basis, including eyeglass prescriptions.

In addition to policies for fall prevention, nursing homes should have strict procedures following a fall incident. Post-fall procedures should include:

• Immediate assessment of the patient to look for medical conditions that may have contributed to the fall, as well as increased observation of the patient for 48 hours after a fall to watch for injuries that may appear after the fact.

• Inspection of the fall area for physical hazards.

• Identification of high risk or previous fall victims to staff and with clearly delineated precautions for such residents.

Falls that occur in older adults cause monetary and emotional damages. For instance in 2000, falls in older adults cost the U.S. health care system 19 billion dollars. Additionally, falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries in older adults, which heavily affects physical and mental functionality. Previous falls may make older adults anxious, decreasing their independence and activeness, and leading to feelings of helplessness.

If you feel that a loved one’s physical well-being is at risk because of bad practices at a nursing home, consider contacting a lawyer to advise you on preventing elder abuse. Please call for a free consultation at (800) 427-7020.

Greg Brod is an experienced personal injury lawyer practicing in the San Francisco Bay Area and surrounding regions. Mr. Brod fights against inadequate conditions in nursing homes across Northern California.

Continue reading "Sacramento Elder Abuse Lawyer Comments on Fall Prevention in Nursing Homes" »

Sacramento Nursing Home Neglect Hidden By Falsified Records

October 4, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

hands.jpgOur Sacramento nursing home abuse attorneys understand that local elder abuse and neglect occurs far more often than many area community members suspect. Not only that, but many long-term care facilities go to extreme lengths to cover up the poor care that they often provide to vulnerable seniors. For example, the Sacramento Bee recently published a series of stories explaining the widespread falsification of medical records undertaken by nursing home employees in an attempt to hide evidence of Sacramento elder neglect. State investigators continue to uncover stories of facilities throughout the area where patient information has been changed to make it appear that they received a satisfactory level of care, even though they did not. Fortunately, more and more family members of these victims are stepping up and demanding accountability.

While not always easy to catch, deceptive (and illegal) practices by these negligent facilities have been proven on a number of occasions. One supervisor at an area nursing home admitted that she was ordered to change a patient’s medical record to hide the fact that the man had died from severe bedsores caused by neglect. In another case, a deceased patient’s medical chart claimed that the resident received physical therapy sessions five times a week. However, nearly thirty of those documented sessions were supposedly led by nursing assistants who were not even at work at the time of the reported therapy. In yet another case a patient who died of neglect had a medical chart hurriedly produced with fake entries claiming check-ups from a nurse who did not even exist. The list of examples of these egregious attempts to hide Sacramento nursing home abuse goes on and on.

In many cases this information is modified after a resident has died from poor care in an attempt to evade legal liability for the inadequate treatment. However, in other cases, the false records are entered while patients are still alive—ultimately leading to deadly complications for the involved seniors. For example, sometimes patients are listed as showing no medical issues after a routine check-up that was never performed, causing residents who actually do have medical needs to fail to receive the emergency care they need. At other times a medication or treatment is charted before it is actually given. Cases have also been found of nursing home staff members who falsify consent forms so that residents can be illegally sedated or forge documents so that disagreements have to be settled through arbitration.

There is simply no excuse for any facility to tolerate sloppy record-keeping at these facilities. Of course all instances of intentional altering of records to avoid liability must be punished to the full extent possible—it is a crime to do so under California law. However, even record-keeping mistakes made out of sheer laziness can have life and death consequences. One 77-year old woman at the El Dorado Care Center in Placerville died after suffering fecal impaction. Her rectum was dilated a shocking 10 centimeters at the time of her death, but her medical chart claimed that she had several bowel movements in the previous days. Medical experts who examined the victim afterwards admitted that there was likely no way that the charts could have been accurate given her condition. Had the records been kept accurately and evaluated in a timely manner it is likely that the victim could have receive the care she needed before the medical problems killed her.

Continue reading "Sacramento Nursing Home Neglect Hidden By Falsified Records" »

Oakland-San Francisco Elder Abuse Attorney Comments on Rampant Abuse in Group Homes

March 15, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

According to the New York of Times, New York State is the operator of 2,000 group homes, which means that the state is responsible to care and protect about 10,000 residents with severe physical and mental disabilities. The Times claims the state is not doing its job and that group home abuse is running rampant. The conditions were documented by the New York Times and are described as appalling, and they are representative of the worst scandal Albany has seen in recent times. For example, a supervisor in an upstate home was discovered sexually abusing disabled female patient. Even though he was arrested and charged with rape, he was never fired. Improper screening for criminal backgrounds, drug abuse or psychological fitness, as we have been saying for a while, is to blame for lack of action by different groups that are supposed to help ensure quality care for the elderly and handicapped, such as the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and the Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons With Disabilities.

Several cases of elder abuse across the country have led to nursing and group home probes, lawsuits, and closures. There is no question that caring for the elderly is extremely stressful. But the problems begin when care workers, many of whom have inadequate training, abuse patients and then blame everyone else for their troubles. In addition to that most homes are understaffed and supervisors do not stay beyond the regular workweek hours. And sometimes employees are warned to keep quiet about episodes in order to avoid governmental investigations, which make it nearly impossible to bring change to the dysfunctional culture of abuse or hold individuals accountable.

If you or loved one suffered abuse at nursing home or other elder care facility, please contact our office for a free consultation. We have over 10 years experience aggressively handling, trying, and winning elder abuse cases.

San Francisco Bay Area Nursing Home Abuse Attorney Comments on OIG Report

March 10, 2011 by Gregory J. Brod

A recent report revealed that low federal standards and inconsistent state regulations have created lapses in the types of employees hired by nursing home facilities. The majority of nursing homes hired staff with criminal convictions, according to the Office of the Inspector General's (OIG) report in which investigators conducted background checks on all nursing home employees who were working on June 1, 2009 at 260 nursing homes across the nation. The report also revealed that 92 percent of the facilities had at least one employee on staff with a criminal conviction, and that five or more individuals with criminal records at just about half of the facilities. Nearly 98 percent of the facilities said they conducted criminal background checks on employees. Only 43 states mandate some sort of criminal background check and only 10, a state and FBI check. Checking in both formats enables nursing homes to see convictions over state lines; when both formats are not used, which occurs in the majority of cases, the inconsistency enables criminals to slip through the check if they have recently moved.
The offenses discovered included:
• crimes against persons, such as assault, battery, murder, rape, and robbery;
• crimes against property such as burglary, larceny, possession of stolen property, shoplifting, theft vandalism and writing bad checks; driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
• other driving related crimes such as leaving the scene of an accident or transporting an open container of alcohol in a vehicle;
• drug related crimes such as possession or sale of controlled substances and disorderly conduct, prostitution, resisting arrest or weapons violations.

A national program was created under President Obama’s health care law that standardizes federal and state nursing home background checks, but the program is voluntary. So what we have here, essentially, is a dysfunctional system being used to determine who will be responsible for providing care for our aging population during the most challenging time in their lives and a new law that is merely one small step in the right direction. If you or a loved one suffered injures due to negligence or abuse at a nursing home facility, please contact our firm for a free consultation.

Drug Misuse at Nursing Homes is the Same as Abuse, says San Francisco Personal Injury Attorney

December 21, 2010 by Gregory J. Brod

Did you know that some nursing homes homes and elder care providers are using psychotropic drugs to restrain unruly residents? According to a recent report, experts claim over-drugging is common nationwide, and the number of nursing home residents who are given these drugs is rising, and that one in every four patients is given anti-psychotic drugs. Some have suffered from a variety of adverse responses such as, tremors, dangerous lethargy, and a higher risk of harmful falls or even death. The food and drug administration has stated that the unnecessary use of these drugs kill 15,000 nursing home patients each year. In some situations, elderly people are actually held down and restrained against their will, and given excessive amounts of medicine to keep them quiet or from bothering staff.

Behavior problems, such as verbally or physically agitated behavior, are a challenge that many nursing homes do not know how to face. Sometimes antipsychotics are administered during a patient’s first week at a nursing home. Residents who are taken off psychotropic drugs must face withdrawal—and sometimes the discontinuation of medication can cause a worsening of behavior. It is illegal for nursing homes to prescribe these types of drugs without informed consent. A written statement of informed consent and valid psychiatric diagnosis must be obtained, and any resident whose level of cognitive function is sufficiently intact can be asked to provide consent for himself of herself. If a resident is unable to provide informed consent, a legally appointed guardian or family member responsible for their care should be contacted and asked to provide consent for them. If you or a loved one have been abused at a nursing home , please contact our firm for a free consultation. We have over 10 years fighting for the victims of elder and nursing home abuse.

Oakland-San Francisco Elder Abuse Attorney Comments on the Reporting and Prevention of Elder Abuse

December 3, 2010 by Gregory J. Brod

The laws regarding the handling of nursing home complaints may vary slightly by state, but most states have a policy requiring that investigation of nursing home complaints begin one to two weeks after they are filed. Individuals who file legitimate nursing home complaints have the right to be free from retaliation, to remain anonymous, to receive a response, and to accompany the investigator to the site if desired. According National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA), a recent national study of Adult Protective Services (APS), there were 253,421 reports of abuse of adults age 60 or older. Considering the large amount of underreporting, the Senate Special Committee on Aging estimated has that as many as five million older Americans may be victims of abuse, neglect, and/or exploitation every year.

There is good news in California, however, regarding the development of ways to prevent elder
and protect seniors. Specifically speaking, during 2010 new efforts were made at zeroing in and cracking down on the different types of abuse against elders. One such effort was the creation of a new software system to increase safety for domestic violence victims. The system, called the California Courts Protective Order Registry , will be used by the trial courts in all 58 counties and will help judges issue protective orders, including protective orders for elders. Another effort is being made by the California Department of Managed Care, which involves an investigation into insurance agents who defraud seniors by disenrolling them in Medicare-- without their knowledge-- and enrolling them in Medicare Advantage, a program where the federal government pays the premiums to the private insurer.

If your loved has been of elder abuse, please contact our office today. Or if you have questions regarding elder abuse law, please feel free to call us. Here at the Brod Law Firm we have over 10 years experience and a track record of successes in recovering compensation for personal injury victims.

San Francisco Injury Attorney Comments on Murder and Abuse in Nursing Homes

August 12, 2010 by Gregory J. Brod

Just the other day, we brought up the subjuct of Nursing home abuse as it pertained to an incident, and today we have different incident to discuss. According to, Britthaven, a North Carolina nursing home, faces charges in civil malpractice lawsuits related to serious injuries of two residents, and a nurse at the home faces murder charges in the morphine related death of her patient. According to the complaint in one of suits, Dr. Marion Orlowski, a former professor of pharmacology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and previous nominee for a Nobel Prize in 2004 for his pioneering drug treatment for blood-plasma cancer, was found on the floor of his room with a hip fracture and other serious injuries. The suit accuses the nursing home of negligence, which includes failure to monitor Mr. Orlowski’s dementia and not providing a bed with side rails. The nurse accused of murder faced charges of second-degree murder and patient abuse related to the death of a patient and the morphine-induced injuries of six other residents.
Last year, Britthaven was ordered to pay $216,400 in fines because it was out of compliance with Medicare requirement. Those penalties stemmed from the case of Mary Lou Barthazon, a 95-year old who broke thigh bones, when a nursing assistant dropped her while trying to lift her from a chair to her bed. The nursing home’s lawyer had tried to dismiss the lawsuit, denying that they had a duty to supervise or control the clinical care, treatment or judgment of any healthcare provider. Their motion to dismiss also denied that either state or federal nursing home standards, policies, regulations or standards of participation establish the standards of the health care applicable to the nursing home. The motion also states that even if the staff were negligent, the alleged but denied negligence was not a proximate cause of any injury or damage to Barthazon. Here at the Brod Law Firm we find this type flagrant disregard of elders’ rights by the nursing home, as well their denial, truly unconscionable. If you have question regarding elder rights and the laws surrounding nursing home, please contact our firm. Or if you would like to discuss a potential elder abuse case, please call to set up a free consultation.

San Francisco – Oakland Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer comments re: “greasing” of elderly

August 4, 2010 by Gregory J. Brod

Several elderly patients at Valley View Skilled Nursing Facility in Ukiah, California were covered with a greasy, ointment cream by nursing home staff as part of an apparent “prank”. The patient-victims suffered from dementia, and were unable to protest about the way they were treated. Six former employees of Valley View Skilled Nursing Facility were arrested, and California Attorney General Jerry Brown called the alleged abuse of the elderly patients "despicable behavior." The former employees are being charged by Mendocino County with misdemeanor counts of an injury to an elder or dependent adult; battery committed on elder or a dependent adult; conspiracy; and battery committed while on hospital property. In addition to the criminal charges against the nursing home staff, the California Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act provides a civil remedy for those who have been a victim of this kind of physical abuse.

If you or an elderly member of your family has been the victim of ) Financial Abuse; 2) Physical Abuse and Neglect; and 3) Abduction, please call the Brod Law Firm at (800) 427-7020 for a free consultation. If you prefer to send us an email with an inquiry, please email us.

Elder Abuse in San Francisco, a Potential Problem for Aging San Franciscians

November 4, 2009 by Gregory J. Brod

Between 1946 and 1964, 78 million babies were born in the U.S., creating a surge in population and a demographic bulge not seen before in the U.S. The babies of that generation, known as the baby boomer generation, grew up with rebellious and idealistic attitudes that promised to reshape society and the world. Boomers are expected to live longer than previous generations. By 2030, 20% of Americans will be over 65 and more than 35% will be over 50. Men are expected to live 22 years longer that previous generations, and women are expected to live 25 years longer. Now, as many of the first baby boomers are moving through their 60’s, one question remains: will baby boomers move through their next phase of life with health and vitality, or will they carry it out with the pain and disability associated with degenerative and chronic diseases? Evidence shows that many boomers are healthier both physically and mentally than their parents and are aging more slowly due to better eating habits and more exercise (just drive through Marin on sunny Saturday or Sunday and you will likely see many boomers on race bikes zip past you while you are sitting in traffic). But another scenario is that boomers could place a tremendous demand and burden on medicare, professional care givers, and family members if they become frail and dependent.

Whether at home or nursing home or care facility, potentially all aging persons will be exposed to some sort of abuse or neglect. Often, abuse and neglect of an elder in a nursing home or other type of care facility is profit driven. Even hospice care facilities have the same financial pressures as other elder care facilities and may sometimes neglect to offer a care rather than pay for expensive treatments related to a terminal diagnosis. Caregiver stress is also a risk factor for abuse and neglect. Family members who are thrown into the demands of daily care of an elder can feel frustration and anger. Professionally trained caregivers can experience the same intense frustration and anger as a family member who is not appropriately trained and may use physical force or neglect an elder person as a way of dealing with the situation that they feel they can’t manage.

Sometimes elders are subjected to a different kind of abuse, a malicious type of abuse known as financial abuse and it can range from scams created by salespeople, such as salespeople from drug companies, to misuse of elders funds by a care facility or family member. Financial abuse or exploitation includes taking money under false pretenses or denying an elderly person what is theirs either forced or without the older person’s knowledge. When this happens, it usually goes undiscovered until someone who cares about the older notices an unexplainable bill or funds missing from that persons account. Financial abuse is pervasive in the lives of the elderly because it can go on for long periods undetected or without ever being discovered. A person can die not knowing they were exploited for a profit or cheated by someone they trusted or loved. Here at the Brod Law Firm, we have a seen these kinds of cases first hand and have the experience and knowledge needed to help an abused elderly person or the family of an abused person.