We are receiving more details about the alleged elder abuse that occurred at San Francisco’s Laguna Honda Hospital. Through two recently filed lawsuits, we are given more insight into how patients were sexually, verbally, and emotionally abused by hospital staff and the negligence of hospital officials and city officials allowed the elderly abuse to continue for far too long. Our California elder abuse attorneys urge family members and patients to come forward if they were subjected to abuse at Laguna Honda Hospital.
Allegations of Elder Abuse at SF’s Laguna Honda Hospital
In one lawsuit against Laguna Honda, a female patient alleges that hospital staff members took photographs of her while naked. The photographs were not for medical purposes and were distributed by text to other individuals. The incident subjected the patient to ridicule and embarrassment.
Additionally, the patient claims that she was the victim of racial mistreatment and physical abuse. A hospital employee caused abrasions when pulling the patient across her hospital bed. The employee also used a racial slur in reference to the patient.
In a separate lawsuit, a male patient accused hospital employees of taking pictures of him while receiving an enema. The employees distributed the photographs to other individuals by text message for the purpose of making sexualized and inappropriate jokes. The lawsuit alleges that the photo was taken without the patient’s consent. As a result, the patient has suffered physical pain, emotional distress, anxiety, discomfort, fear, and humiliation.
City and County Named in Lawsuit Along with the Hospital
In addition to alleging elder abuse, sexual abuse, and misconduct by individual hospital employees and staff members, the lawsuits also name the City and County of San Francisco, Laguna Honda Hospital, and the Department of Public Health as defendants. The lawsuits allege various causes of action, including privacy violations, dependent adult abuse, elder abuse, negligence, and confidentiality violations.
The City of San Francisco has paid a $780,000 fine for a privacy violation. Additional fines and penalties could be assessed. Investigations are ongoing regarding the allegations contained in the complaints.
Elder Abuse in Hospitals and Nursing Facilities Extremely Common
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in six individuals aged 60 years and older experience elder abuse in community settings. The rate of elder abuse in institutional settings is higher. Elder abuse in nursing homes and long-term care facilities is common. Two in three staff members reported they abused patients during the past year.
In a 2017 study, approximately 16 percent of people 60 and older were victims of abuse. However, this rate is probably much lower than the actual rate of elder abuse because abuse is underreported. Elderly individuals are afraid to report abuse or are unable to report the abuse because of emotional, mental, or physical impairments.
Types of Elderly Abuse and How Abuse Impacts Patients
Elder abuse can take many forms. Abuse of elderly patients includes:
- Physical Abuse – Abuse may involve hitting, punching, pulling, kicking, biting, slapping, and physical restraint. Physical abuse can result in broken bones, lacerations, bruises, welts, and cuts.
- Sexual Abuse – Sexual abuse involves any form of unwanted sexual contact. Sexual abuse can result in bruising, sexually transmitted infections, tearing, bleeding, and emotional distress.
- Financial Abuse and Material Exploitation – Financial abuse and material exploitation may involve stolen property, theft of money, fraud, and stolen identities.
- Neglect – Neglect can result in a variety of emotional, mental, and physical damages, including depression, anxiety, weight loss, dehydration, illnesses, bedsores, and untreated medical conditions.
- Verbal Abuse – Verbal abuse is yelling, screaming, racial slurs, and other forms of verbal bashing. It can result in anxiety, fear, depression, and mood changes.
- Psychological and Emotional Abuse – Elderly patients who are abused emotionally and psychologically often develop emotional disorders, including PTSD, anxiety, and depression. The abuse can result in withdrawal, self-esteem issues, and other mental disorders. In many cases, a caregiver belittles and berates an elderly patient.
- Abandonment – Abandonment is similar to neglect, except that the caregiver leaves permanently causing the elderly person to be without sufficient care.
Why Does Elder Abuse Occur in Hospitals and Long-Term Care Facilities?
Elder abuse occurs in hospitals and long-term care facilities for a variety of reasons. In some cases, the facility is partially at-fault for the abuse, even though specific individuals are responsible for the actual abuse of an elderly adult. In many cases, the abusers are employees of the hospital or long-term care facility. However, visitors, independent contractors, vendors, and other patients may also be guilty of elder abuse.
Common reasons why elder abuse occurs in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and hospitals include, but are not limited to:
Some facilities are managed better than other facilities. Inadequate management is a common reason why elder abuse occurs in hospitals and other facilities. If management does not develop and implement safety and accountability standards for patient care, staff members may not feel compelled to treat patients with respect or provide quality care. Without a strict process for accountability, employees quickly learn they can get away with abusing patients.
A lack of management also implies that the facility does not place a high priority or patient care or safety. It fosters an environment in which wrongdoing has no consequence.
Also, improper management can lead to a lack of due diligence when hiring employees. Failing to conduct adequate background checks and interviews can be as negligent in a hospital or nursing home environment as a lack of supervision and leadership.
Understaffing at Hospitals and Long-Term Care Facilities
When a facility does not have a sufficient workforce to care for the number of patients in the facility, the risk of elder abuse increases. Understaffing can lead to a hostile and stressful environment that may foster physical and verbal abuse. Understaffing is also a common reason for neglect.
Low Pay Scales for Elder Caregivers
The rate of pay for hospital employees and nursing home staff members can be very low, especially for non-credentialed individuals. Lower pay scales do not attract quality workers. Staff members may also feel undervalued, which can cause them to care less about how they treat the patients. It can also foster an environment in which low standards of care are acceptable.
Lack of Training
Some hospitals, nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities hire employees who do not have the required training and background to work with elderly patients. Management may also fail to train employees on specific policies and procedures regarding patient care and standards of care required by law. A lack of on-the-job training and ongoing development can also contribute to incidents of elder abuse in long-term care facilities and hospitals.
Some cases of elderly abuse involve intentional wrongdoing, such as sexual abuse and theft. There may be no other underlying reason for the elder abuse other than the abuser chose to commit a crime against the patient.
Violations of Laws and Regulations
Elder abuse in hospitals and other facilities may be the result of violations of laws and regulations. The facility fails to follow laws and regulations enacted to prevent patient abuse. When facilities fail to follow the standards, policies, and procedures required by law, it can increase the risk of elder abuse.
Some patients may be at a higher risk of elder abuse than other patients. Elderly patients with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other conditions that prevent patients from reporting abuse and neglect can be a factor in why elder abuse occurs.
Holding Facilities Responsible and Liable for Elder Abuse
In many cases, elder abuse is a crime. Therefore, law enforcement agencies may be involved in cases of elder abuse. Generally, criminal charges are filed against specific individuals who committed the abuse. The objective of a criminal action is to punish the abuser.
Allegations of negligence, breach of duty, and other civil causes of action are filed against the hospital, nursing home, government agency, or other entity responsible for employing the abuser and operating the facility. The objective of a civil lawsuit is to recover compensation for damages. Civil lawsuits also serve an important purpose for public safety. These lawsuits help raise awareness of elder abuse in hospitals and other facilities.
Proving fault and liability for elderly abuse can be complicated. The legal requirements to prove liability depend on the specific allegations. However, in many cases, allegations of fault often involve general negligence.
In most cases, negligence is established by proving:
- The party owed a duty of care to the other party;
- The party breached the duty of care;
- The breach caused a person to be harmed; and,
- The person sustained damages because of the breach of duty.
An example of negligence by a nursing home would be failing to conduct thorough background checks. The nursing home owes a duty of care to its patients to ensure employees do not have a background of criminal violence or abuse.
The nursing home failed to run a background check on an employee with a history of abuse. The employee abuses a patient and the patient sustains an injury which causes a hospitalization. Therefore, the nursing home breached its duty of care which directly led to the patient’s injury by allowing a known abuser to get close enough to the patient to abuse the patient.
Knowing that the facility is guilty of negligence or wrongdoing and proving liability are two different matters. Hiring a California elder abuse attorney can help.
Why Do I Need a California Elder Abuse Attorney?
Proving liability for elder abuse can be difficult. A California elder abuse lawyer has the experiences, skills, and resources to conduct a thorough investigation into the allegations of elder abuse. In some cases, medical experts and professional investigators are required to uncover the truth about what occurred in a hospital or other facility.
Our California elder abuse attorneys help you in numerous ways, including but not limited to:
- Guide you through reporting elder abuse to law enforcement and other government agencies
- Investigate the matter to gather evidence, including collecting documents, interviewing witnesses, and requesting records
- Identify various government agencies and programs that can help you locate a safe facility for your loved one, including obtaining counseling and therapy
- Identify the various legal causes of action that apply in your case
- Locate all parties that might have liability for the elder abuse
- Research and analyze applicable laws, standards, and regulations
- Prepare a lawsuit against the parties who are responsible for the elder abuse and damages suffered by your loved one
Throughout the process, our legal team communicates with you to keep you up-to-date on the status of your case. We also work to settle the claim in the most effective and efficient means possible.
Our California elder abuse lawyers consider alternative dispute resolutions (ADR), including mediation and arbitration. We analyze the pros and cons of ADR and explain them to you so that you can decide how you want to proceed with the case.
Steps to Take If You Suspect Elder Abuse
If you suspect your loved one has been abused, contact the police to report the abuse. Secure a safe location for your family member and seek immediate medical treatment. Take careful notes of all conversations with law enforcement, government agencies, and medical providers.
As soon as possible, contact our California elder abuse lawyers to discuss your case. Our attorneys provide a safe, confidential environment where you and your family member can discuss the details of the abuse. Our goal is to provide compassionate, skilled, and trusted legal counsel for victims of elder abuse and their families.
Contact The Thompson Law Office Now to Speak with a California Elder Abuse Lawyer
The time to file an elder abuse lawsuit is limited. Please do not delay in contacting our office to schedule your free consultation with an elder abuse lawyer near you. Call 1-650-513-6111 for more information or to schedule your free case review.