Elder Abuse News and Changes to Nursing Home Legislation - Q1 (2022)
Elder abuse includes any form of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse of the elderly by another person. Other common forms of elder abuse are abandonment, neglect, or exploitation of the elderly. This form of abuse steals a senior’s dignity and can worsen their health or result in their death. Elder abuse is an ongoing problem, with approximately one in ten people over the age of 60 experiencing some form of abuse.
If you suspect your elderly family member is suffering abuse in a nursing home, take immediate action. An elder abuse lawyer is experienced in identifying nursing home misconduct and can help you file a civil action against the facility to hold them accountable. Learn how recent legislation and plans for future reform help keep your loved ones safe in nursing homes.
Updates to Nursing Home and Assisted Living Visitation
Visiting your elderly family members regularly is essential for their mental, emotional, and social wellbeing. It also ensures your loved one is receiving adequate care from nursing home staff. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sets national guidelines for nursing home and long-term care facility visitation. As a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic, changes were made to nursing homes’ visitation rules and operating guidelines.
All visitation was restricted at the start of the pandemic to help lower transmission of the virus because elderly residents are more likely to suffer from severe illness and have a higher risk of death from COVID-19. Many family members found alternatives to visiting in person.
Visitor restrictions loosened as the pandemic progressed, though some policies remain in place for the safety of seniors. This includes testing and vaccination requirements for visitors and where visits are allowed.
California’s Department of Public Health (CDPH) released further guidance for visitations in the state. Every skilled nursing facility must allow for outdoor, indoor, and in-room visitation. COVID-19 testing or vaccination is not required for outdoor visits but is necessary for visits inside the facility.
Indoor visitors must show proof of vaccination or follow testing requirements to visit their loved ones. The CDPH requires that all nursing facilities develop and implement a vaccination verification program and a COVID test tracking program for all indoor visitors. Visitors who aren’t fully vaccinated or cannot show proof of a negative COVID test cannot visit their loved ones indoors.
What Serves as Proof of Vaccination?
Proof of vaccination includes:
- A COVID-19 vaccination card with the name of the visitor, the type of vaccine received, and the dates of vaccination
- Documentation of COVID-19 vaccination from the visitor’s healthcare provider
- A physical or digital photo of a visitor’s vaccine card
- Digital vaccination record that includes a QR code the nursing home staff can scan for verification
Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated visitors must provide negative COVID-19 test documentation before allowing indoor visitation. The negative test must be taken within two days before the visit for PCR testing and one day prior for antigen testing. If a skilled nursing facility can’t provide testing for visitors, the testing requirement for indoor visitation is waived.
White House Plans for Nursing Home Reforms
President Biden announced a new set of nursing home reforms in February 2022 to reduce patient harm in long-term care facilities. These reforms are developed and implemented through the Department of Health and Human Services to improve the quality of nursing home care and the safety of patients. They’re also meant to increase transparency so patients and their families can make informed decisions.
Reforms are needed, as the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that infection prevention and control deficiencies were the most common deficiencies in nursing homes nationwide. Problems in their survey include improper hand hygiene and failing to take preventative measures during infectious disease outbreaks.
Steps to improve nursing home care include establishing minimum staffing requirements, reducing patient room crowding, strengthening safeguards against unnecessary medications, and enhancing oversight and accountability.
Minimum Staffing Requirements
Nursing homes must be adequately staffed to provide essential care and services to residents. CMS will conduct research to determine the minimum staffing levels needed for quality care and patient safety as part of the proposed reforms.
Once these levels are determined, all nursing homes must meet this standard and will be held accountable if they fail to do so. Establishing minimum staffing levels ensures that nursing home staff have the necessary support to provide care for all residents.
Reducing Room Crowding
Many nursing home residents share a room with others instead of having their own private space. Multi-occupancy rooms increase the risk of transmitting infectious diseases, including COVID-19. The White House is directing the CMS to increase single occupancy rooms and eventually phase out multi-occupancy rooms.
Safeguards Against Unnecessary Medications
Nursing homes and other care facilities are illegally evicting their residents. Some nursing homes do not allow residents to return after being transferred to a hospital or other facility due to an injury or illness. This is called “resident dumping” and is illegal if the proper procedures aren’t followed.
Residents of the nursing home have protection against evictions and can only be evicted if:
- They fail to pay rent within ten days of the due date
- They fail to follow written facility policies that are part of their admission agreement
- They aren’t complying with state or local laws after receiving a notice of violation
- The facility determines they can no longer provide adequate care of the resident’s needs following a formal assessment
- The facility is rendering its operating license and changing its purpose
Nursing home facilities are required to give residents 30-day written notice to evict. If a nursing home gives residents less time or doesn’t meet the eviction regulations, they are acting illegally and violating the rights of nursing home residents.
Legislation Heads to California State Senate
California Assembly Bill 1502, also known as the Skilled Nursing Facility Ownership and Management Reform Act of 2021, was passed by the state Assembly and is awaiting the Senate’s approval. This legislation ends the problem of zombie nursing home licenses when the licensee has left. In these cases, the facility is operated by another person or entity who hasn’t been approved and is unaccountable for their actions.
The bill creates more detailed licensing procedures and ends the practice of offering temporary operating licenses to nursing homes. It establishes standards for nursing home ownership and operation and makes it harder for unsuitable individuals or entities to get a license. The legislation and the recently enacted AB 849 make it easier to hold nursing homes accountable for their actions in California.
If You Suspect Elder Abuse
While new reforms are in the works to cut down on elder abuse, neglect, and abuse of nursing homes and assisted living, residents continue to be a serious problem. Staying in contact with loved ones, whether in person or through virtual visits, and knowing how to identify the signs of elder abuse helps keep residents safe.
Nursing home residents have rights and are protected from neglect and abuse by California law. Contact an elder abuse attorney if your family member shows signs of common nursing home injuries and you suspect neglect or abuse. This protects their rights and stops any abuse from continuing.
Speak with Berberian Ain if You Suspect Elder Abuse
At Berberian Ain, we understand the devastating impact of elder abuse on seniors and families. Our experienced attorneys are here to help investigate abuse and nursing home misconduct. If elder abuse occurs, we’ll help you file a civil action and litigate your case to hold facilities and staff accountable. Contact us today for a free consultation.