HEALTH CARE FACILITIES
As the number of senior citizens grows, the state must meet the increased demand for elder health care facilities and residences; and in the last decade, there has been tremendous growth in both the number and variety of long-term health care options for elder Californians. However, in trying to meet demand, dangerous shortcuts are too often taken. Staff may not be properly trained or educated; accommodations may not be adequately maintained or equipped; and facilities may become overcrowded and understaffed as more senior citizens seek services. All of these factors strain not only the elder health care system as a whole, but also the individual caregivers working in such precarious environments.
The relationship between stress and increased incidents of abuse and mistreatment of residents is well-documented. Working in a long-term health care facility is demanding both physically and mentally, and dealing with verbal and physical aggression from residents while completing difficult tasks on time is challenging for even the most competent caregiver. These stressors can lead to unintended and, sadly, intended actions by caregivers, which may result in abuse, neglect, or mistreatment. Generally, there are five major risk factors that have been identified as leading to abusive behavior on the part of long-term health care staff:
- Poor attitude: Too often, staff members do not view residents as individuals, but rather as tasks to be completed. Also, some staff view residents as children in need of discipline. These attitudes are likely to lead to abusive behavior.
- Burn-out: Working in long-term health care is often emotionally and physically draining. This alone can result in high levels of stress, which may lead to abuse.
- Conflict: If not properly trained, staff members are often unprepared for the high degree of conflict that may exist within long-term health care facilities; thus, they may become abusive or neglectful, being unable to properly respond to the challenges of their job.
- Aggressive resident behavior: Long-term health care staff are at significant risk of abuse from residents. Without continued training on why such behaviors occur and how to handle these behaviors, staff members are likely to resort to improper methods for dealing with these situations.
- Lack of supervision and failure to enforce patient abuse laws: Unfortunately, staff members are more likely to commit abusive acts if they believe that their work is not being monitored, or if they are not concerned with the consequences of abuse or neglect.
In the case we are currently working on, Carl v. Rancho Specialty Hospital & Vista Health Care, poor attitude, lack of supervision, and other risk factors contributed to our client’s treatment at the hands of staff members. For example, Mr. Carl was forced to lie in his own waste for hours, resulting in pressure sores, burns, and wounds. Requests for cleaning were not answered promptly and a request for more frequent cleanings was ignored. In fact, when his wife posted a sign above Mr. Carl’s bed requesting that he be cleaned more often, the sign was replaced by a sign from staff warning of the presence of feces on Mr. Carl’s hands.
SEEK EXPERIENCED ELDER ABUSE COUNSEL
All of us should feel safe and secure in our homes. The same is true for elderly Californians living in long-term healthcare facilities. If you have a loved one living in a nursing home or other senior residence, and he or she exhibits signs of elder abuse or neglect, do not hesitate to contact The Law Offices of James R. Gillen for immediate advice and assistance.