Recent estimates conclude that over 400,000 elderly individuals live in nursing homes or elderly care facilities in California. That staggering number is only increasing as our population grows. In California, elder abuse is considered neglect, exploitation, or “painful or harmful” mistreatment of anyone who is 65 or older. Elder individuals are at a higher risk for abuse as they generally are physically more vulnerable and often are isolated from family members.
Older individuals may also not know what constitutes abuse and may have memory problems that prevent them from reporting or acting on abuse. These factors increase the number of elders abused in California. If you suspect an elderly citizen is being abused, speak with a Sacramento nursing home lawyer to learn what legal actions to take.
Why Does Abuse Happen?
It’s unfortunate physical and emotional abuse even occurs, but there are a variety of reasons it happens, including the following:
- Understaffed facilities
- Staff is underpaid
- Failure to conduct thorough background checks
- Failure to train and supervise staff members
None of the above serve as an excuse for elderly abuse. It is important you speak with a Sacramento nursing home lawyer if you or someone you love has been a victim of abuse. It’s important to remember that elder abuse does not necessarily mean outward violence towards an older individual. There are other forms of abuse, such as:
- Emotional abuse – threats, isolation, ridicule
- Neglect – endangering an individual or failing to care for an individual for example by feeding or bathing them
- Sexual abuse
The state of California has several laws covering four basic requirements each nursing home should provide:
- Physical, mental, and medical assistance
- Ensuring the patient’s situation does not worsen unless it is unavoidable
- Ensuring the patient has maintained or improved health through medical care and treatment
- Ensuring the patient has the right to choose whether or not to engage in care and treatment offered.
Violations of these legal obligations and malicious or neglectful abuse may lead to misdemeanor or felony penalties. When the defendant’s actions were likely to cause great bodily harm or death, California nursing home abuse is what is known as a “wobbler” in California law. It can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the specific circumstances.
Misdemeanor nursing home abuse carries the following maximum consequences:
- 1 year in county jail
- A fine of $6,000
Felony nursing home abuse carries the following maximum consequences:
- Four years in California state prison – an additional 3 to 7-year sentence may be implemented if the victim actually suffers great bodily harm or death
- A fine of $10,000
Penal Code 243.4 PC is California’s sexual assault law. It prohibits the unwanted touching of an individual’s intimate parts for an individual’s sexual gratification, arousal, or pleasure. No one wants to imagine their loved one being taken advantage of in such a perverse manner, but fortunately, there are laws protecting them and the consequences for individuals deemed responsible. If anyone is a victim of any type of abuse, it’s important a Sacramento nursing home lawyer brings them to justice.
Misdemeanor abuse typically applies when an individual’s life was not put in danger. The below examples of felony sexual abuse are exceptions to this rule. Felony sexual abuse penalties may apply when the victim:
- Was unaware of the nature of the act because it was done under the guise of professional necessity (e.g. a breast exam)
- Was unlawfully restrained
- Was institutionalized and either medically incapacitated or seriously disabled.
As per California Penal Code 290, an individual convicted of a misdemeanor or felony sexual battery charge must register as a lifetime sex offender. The following must be established for that consequence:
- The contact was made to an intimate part of the victim
- The contact was made against the victim’s will
- The contact was made for specific purposes of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse
Who Can Be Charged?
Every case is different but generally, cases relating to nursing home abuse charges can be brought against both:
- The individuals who work directly with the patient
- Administrators or other individuals responsible for supervising nursing home staff involved in the case
Speak with a Sacramento nursing home lawyer regarding your specific scenario to learn the best course of legal action. Remember, even if you are not the victim, it’s imperative you report any suspicion of elderly abuse.
What to Do If You Suspect Abuse
Report suspected elder abuse immediately! If there is a possibility that the individual is in immediate danger, call 911! If you are worried about the care of an elderly family member and are not able to check in at their assisted living residence, you can call the local police department and ask for a welfare or well-being check.
Call a Sacramento Nursing Home Lawyer for Questions Regarding Elder Abuse
If you or a loved one may have been a victim of physical or psychological abuse at a nursing home, it is important to contact a knowledgeable and motivated Sacramento nursing home lawyer. The sooner you find legal advice, the more likely you are to receive the help you need and the compensation you deserve. Give us a call at (916) 357-6767 for a free consultation.