What You Need to Know About Subacute Care Facility Abuse and Neglect

What You Need to Know About Subacute Care Facility Abuse and Neglect

Subacute care facilities are designed for patients who need intensive care beyond what traditional nursing homes provide, such as specialized rehabilitation or recovery after surgery. Because their patients are more vulnerable, these facilities typically require staff with higher skill levels.

Unfortunately, more highly trained staff doesn’t always mean these facilities are free from abuse and neglect. Many subacute care facility residents suffer mistreatment, such as physical or emotional abuse or subpar living standards, leading to injuries or emotional distress.

If you have a loved one in a subacute care facility in California, it’s essential to know what to do to protect their rights and well-being. Learn the signs of abuse and neglect and how an elder abuse and neglect attorney can help you file a complaint on behalf of your loved one.

What is Subacute Care?

Subacute care is a level of medical care designed for patients who require more attention than typical outpatient or home care settings but less intensity than acute hospital care. This type of care is often necessary for patients transitioning from hospital to home, providing an intermediary step in the recovery process.

A subacute care facility is a specialized environment equipped to handle such needs, bridging the gap between hospital and traditional nursing home care. These facilities focus on stabilizing medical conditions and promoting recovery through a multidisciplinary approach without providing the high-level, constant monitoring found in hospitals.

What Does a Subacute Care Facility Do?

A subacute care facility provides complex care for patients with illnesses, injuries, or other medical conditions that exceed the capabilities of a regular nursing home. These facilities specialize in various treatments and therapies not typically found in less intensive care settings.

Examples of services offered in subacute care include:

  • Dialysis
  • Mechanical ventilator support
  • Intravenous therapy for medication, fluids, or nutrition
  • Rehabilitation for physical, occupational, or speech impairments.
  • Respiratory therapy, tracheostomy care, and wound treatment

Many of these facilities in California are part of the Subacute Care Program. It sets the service standards for subacute care facilities and requires them to assess the medical necessity of their services.

Criteria for admission include the need for tracheostomy care, parenteral nutrition, or specialized equipment for co-occurring conditions like sleep apnea that cannot be managed at home. Generally, the focus is on conditions that require ongoing, intensive medical intervention and monitoring.

Abuse in Subacute Care Facilities

Abuse in subacute care facilities can take many forms, including physical or psychological abuse and neglect. Here are types of abuse, along with signs to watch for in your loved one:

Type of Abuse Examples Signs
Physical Abuse Pushing or shoving, rough handling, improper use of restraints, and physical violence are all physical abuse.
Unexplained injuries such as bruises, cuts, fractures.
Signs of restraint, like welts or markings on the wrists or ankles.
Flinching or nervousness around caregivers or other residents.
Psychological Abuse Emotional abuse can be verbal abuse and intimidation, isolation from social activities, excessive control over decisions, financial abuse or coercion Sudden and uncharacteristic withdrawal from social activities.
Fearful behavior towards staff or certain individuals.
Unexplained changes in sleep patterns or frequent nightmares
Neglect Failure to provide adequate nutrition, not administering medications properly due to misdiagnosis and lack of assistance with personal hygiene can be subacute care facility neglect. Weight loss or signs of malnutrition
Worsening of medical conditions or development of bed sores
Poor personal hygiene
Signs of discomfort or distress

What to Do If You Suspect Mistreatment at a Subacute Care Facility

If you suspect mistreatment at a subacute care facility, act promptly to protect your loved one. The process begins with documenting the suspected abuse and meeting with the facility administrators to address it quickly.

  • Document evidence of the abuse. Begin by collecting detailed evidence to support your concerns. This should include the following:

    • Record dates and times of any incidents that raise concerns.

    • Take detailed notes of physical symptoms or injuries, including bruises, cuts, or sudden weight loss.

    • Note any behavioral changes, such as withdrawal from social activities or unusual anxiety.

    • Capture photographs of visible injuries or poor living conditions if possible.

    • Keep a record of any complaints made by the resident or unusual interactions with staff.

  • Meet with facility administrators. After gathering evidence, schedule a meeting with the facility administrators. This shows you reported the issue and is the first step recommended during the formal complaint process with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
    • Schedule a meeting with the facility’s administration to discuss your findings.
    • Present the documentation clearly and request a detailed explanation of the care and conditions observed.
    • Ask for the facility’s response to each specific issue and discuss potential steps they will take to address and resolve these issues.
    • Request information on how they plan to monitor and ensure improved care going forward, including changes in staff training or management oversight.
  • Your local long-term care ombudsman can assist you in resolving issues regarding your loved one’s care and advocating for their rights. If your loved one is 60 or older or legally considered a dependent adult, you may also report the facility to your county’s Adult Protective Services (APS) office.

Reporting Abuse and Protecting Your Rights

A subacute care facility responsible or complicit in the abuse or neglect of a resident violates the California Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act, which means you can take legal action against them. If you believe a subacute care facility has abused or neglected your loved one, you have the right to report the facility to begin an investigation.

  • Report the facility to DPH. Contact the CDPH and file a complaint on the Cal Health Find online portal. Follow the agency’s directions and provide them with all the information they request.
  • Comply with the investigation process. The agency must assign an inspector within two business days of filing a report. Investigations are typically completed within ten business days.

    If the CDPH finds evidence of abuse, it may initiate a lawsuit on your loved one’s behalf or take other actions, such as penalties and sanctions against the facility. This can result in a settlement for damages.

  • Inform your California Assembly Member and Senator. Contact your elected officials about the issues in the licensed facility, as they are responsible for creating laws that govern such institutions. If the CDPH does not adequately respond to your complaint, communicate your experiences to your legislators and encourage them to take action.

  • Report to the Division of Medi-Cal Fraud & Elder Abuse (DMFEA). If your complaint involves serious neglect or abuse, send a copy to the DMFEA, a division of the California Attorney General’s office. This entity investigates and prosecutes neglect and abuse in long-term care settings. You can file your complaint online through the DMFEA website.
  • Contact an attorney. If you are dissatisfied with the investigation or need further guidance on your legal options, consult an elder abuse attorney. A skilled attorney can investigate your claim, advise on all legal options, and represent your loved one in a civil claim seeking compensation for their medical bills and pain and suffering.

Protect a Loved One in a Subacute Care Facility

Many subacute care facilities provide professional medical attention to those who need it most. However, if your loved one experienced abuse or neglect when staying in a subacute care facility, you can take immediate action to protect their health and well-being. Remember to gather evidence, consult an attorney, and file a formal complaint to hold the perpetrators accountable and get compensation for your injured family member.