Monday, December 8, 2008

New Laws to Take Effect in 2009 to Assist California Elders

As 2009 quickly approaches, several new laws affecting elder and nursing home abuse will take effect on January 1. Hopefully, they will help protect elders from financial abuse and encourage and make it easier for nursing home residents and their families to report theft and abuse in nursing homes.

Several Laws Aim to Protect Elders from Financial Abuse
Financial abuse is one of the greatest threats to elders. Whether it is by family members, nursing homes and their staff, or scam artists who are complete strangers, elders are particularly vulnerable because of their often poor health and mental state. The most important law taking effect at the start of 2009 will amend the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act. The law’s goal is to make it easier for elders and their families to recover from financial abuse due to undue influence. Undue influence occurs when someone pressures an elder to give away money that he or she would not normally have voluntarily given.

This law also makes it easier for families to sue by extending the statute of limitations to four years. Therefore, if you believe a family member has made a financial decision due to undue influence, you now have four years in which to sue for recovery. An extra year can be very helpful because it can often take some time to discover that financial abuse has occurred.

Law Hopes to Encourage Reporting of Property Theft in Nursing Homes
Supporters of another important law taking effect January 1 hope that it will encourage elders and their relatives to report stolen property – primarily cash and valuables like jewelry – to the local police and ombudsman offices, and not just to the nursing home administration. The new law would require local police and the ombudsman to immediately report suspected or known theft and abuse to the local District Attorney’s Office.

According to San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Paul Greenwood, nursing home staff will often keep reported thefts quiet and handle such matters internally instead of going to the police. This means that property is often never recovered, because many nursing homes say that most property is simply lost and misplaced by elderly residents, as opposed to being stolen by staff.

The best way to prevent elders’ valuables from being stolen is to remove them from the nursing home and store them in a secure place. Also, family members should immediately report any missing items to the nursing home administration, but if the property is not recovered within a day, they should contact the police directly.

Thank you for reading my blog. If you have a question or comment, feel free to respond to this posting, but keep in mind your response will not be confidential. If you or a loved one have been the victim of abuse, negligence, or neglect by a nursing home, contact an attorney to find out your legal rights and options. You can also contact me to discuss your matter confidentially.