REPORT, without citation summaries — click here to download (PDF).
San Francisco — A new report — Nursing Home Abuse and California’s Broken Enforcement System, released today by California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) — lays bare the physical, sexual and verbal abuse that are shocking realities for hundreds of nursing home victims throughout California. The unabated, tragic levels of abuse are a powerful indictment of practices by many nursing home operators, and of California’s broken nursing home enforcement system.
The CANHR report reviewed “citations” (fines) issued by the California Department of Health Services (DHS) against nursing homes from January 2004 through April 2006 and found at least of 266 cases of abuse. CANHR researchers classified the types of abuse: physical abuse (39%); sexual abuse (12%); mental abuse (13%); verbal abuse (19%); abuse committed by non-staff (17%).
“Rapes, beatings, neglect, and mockery are certainly not what nursing home residents should experience when they depend on others for care,” said Patricia McGinnis, CANHR’s Executive Director. “Unfortunately, the incidents that are cited are the tip of the iceberg. Because the Department has abandoned its role as a consumer protection agency, more residents are at risk for abuse than ever before in the history of California’s nursing homes.”
Analysis of the citations issued shows that incidents of abuse are under-reported, and incident descriptions portray widespread acceptance of abusive behavior. Among the findings:
• Nursing homes are required to report suspected abuse, but some operators do not.
• Some abused residents are victimized again when their abuse is reported to nursing home licensing officials at DHS.
• The DHS abuse investigation system is severely compromised by slow investigations, tardy citations, and tiny fines that have little deterrent value and no relation to the physical and emotional trauma suffered by abuse victims.
In October 2005, CANHR and the daughters of deceased neglect victims sued DHS due to its pervasive failure to investigate nursing home complaints within the mandatory 10-day response time required by California law. The case is pending in San Francisco Superior Court. DHS oversight failures are well documented by Senate hearings, a recent legislative order mandating an audit of its licensing division, a series of critical reports issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, and other official sources.
“The litany of sexual, physical and verbal abuse is shocking and disturbing,” said Ms. McGinnis, “as is the lack of legal remedies for most abuse victims.”
The report contains specific recommendations for DHS and the legislature.
As a condition of approving the Governor’s pending proposal to increase the DHS Licensing and Certification budget, CANHR is urging the Legislature to mandate that the Department comply with existing laws and policies. An Assembly budget subcommittee is scheduled to review the budget proposal today in Sacramento.
To provide fair compensation for abuse victims, CANHR recommends that the Legislature strengthen and preserve the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act and increase the $500 limit on civil damages for violations of a resident’s rights. The report also seeks increased fines for abuse and the release by DHS of oversight information that will allow consumers to monitor care of loved ones.