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No Procedure for Investigating Abuse in Long-term Care Facilities

Summary

Many families report that loved ones are imprisoned and isolated in long-term care facilities, sometimes denied contact with loved ones for years.  Some families report physical abuse, chemical restraint, and sexual assaults by caregivers. 

Many law enforcement jurisdictions take the position that elder abuse is a civil matter.  Adult Protective Services (APS), long-term care ombudsmen, and Community Care Licensing may take the position that facilities have authority to forcibly imprison and isolate residents against their will. Investigations are kept confidential, preventing effective oversight or accountability.  There is no appeals process for victims or their families.

In San Bernardino County, an APS investigator substantiated abuse of a facility resident, and then she walked away.  The long-term care ombudsman substantiated abuse, and then she walked away.  Community Care Licensing cited the facility, but they did not require a correction. A sheriff’s deputy substantiated abuse and then facilitated further abuse. He threatened to charge the victim’s daughter with a crime if she reported his misconduct. The DA insisted, “There is nothing out of the ordinary.”

CEDAR receives similar reports from across the state.  Facility residents are abused with impunity, often until death.

Existing Law

Welfare and Institutions Code 15600(i) States in part:

Therefore, it is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this chapter to provide that adult protective services agencies, local long-term care ombudsman programs, and local law enforcement agencies shall receive referrals or complaints … and shall take any actions considered necessary to protect the elder or dependent adult and correct the situation and ensure the individual's safety.

California’s DSS website states:

County APS agencies investigate reports of abuse of elders and dependent adults who live in private homes, apartments, hotels or hospitals.
The [ombudsman] … has jurisdiction for investigating reports of abuse that occur in nursing homes, residential care facilities for the elderly, adult residential facilities, intermediate care facilities, adult day health care facilities, and adult day programs.
Abuse reports may also be made to your local law enforcement agency.

Rationale

Statewide protocols for investigating abuse in facilities,  accountability for investigations, and appeals processes could provide victims and their families with instruments to intervene in abuse.