California Elderly Abuse In Nursing Homes: What Really Happens

A wide range of facilities exist that provide care to elderly people. Some are licensed; others are not. In a recent interview, J. Niley Dorit, a California nursing home abuse lawyer whose practice consists of elder and dependent neglect, elder and dependent abuse, medical malpractice and general personal injury cases, provided us with information about what really happens in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and home care situations.

Facilities frequently involved in elderly abuse care cases

While any California facility can be responsible for elder and dependent abuse, Dorit said that certain facilities are more frequently involved in these cases than others. He explained:

The types that I see most often are elder and dependent neglect cases in assisted living facilities. In California, we call those residential care facilities for the elderly, or RCFEs. Those are not licensed as health care facilities, although they are licensed by the State of California.

These are generally apartment buildings or small homes where elderly residents get extra care and attention above and beyond what you would get in a normal apartment building. That is, there will be a nurse on the premises and their medications will be managed. We’re seeing a large number of cases involving RCFEs. The staff employed by RCFEs is not required to be licensed in health care and often we find that they’re not properly trained or educated to provide the care that’s needed for the residents.

The other category of cases arises out of skilled nursing facilities – known as SNF’s or “sniffs.” Those cases concern patterns of neglect arising out of the custodial aspects of the care.

California Regulations, licensing and training of nursing home

Dorit provided the following information about regulations, licensing and training – and some of the problems associated with each:

  • Regulations. In California, RCFEs and assisted living facilities are regulated by the Community Care Licensing Department of the State of California – a wonderfully proactive and very thorough state division that monitors, regulates, inspects and investigates residential care facilities. Skilled nursing facilities are also regulated by the State of California under the Health and Safety Code and by the California Department of Health Care Services as well. So they also do investigations and monitoring, issue fines and things of that nature.
  • Licensing. There are licensed health care providers at skilled nursing facilities. There are also unlicensed health care providers who work as assistants. Caregivers at residential care facilities are frequently not licensed. Sometimes they have training and sometimes they don’t. So, there is a problem at the residential care facility level where you’ll see important medical decisions being made by people who are improperly trained or not trained at all – which can be problematic.
  • Training. Lack of training can be a significant issue. In some cases, particularly in residential care facilities, the staff are underpaid or simply not qualified. It’s a cost cutting measure. In order to make larger profits, some of the facilities cut their costs at the bedside level which results in employing people who are more like babysitters. Sometimes they just don’t pay attention and problems arise.

An nursing home abuse attorney will be able to evaluate your situation, recognize any red flags and determine whether damages may be available.