Chain | Cohn | Stiles files lawsuit against Bakersfield convalescent hospital after patient’s fall, death

August 2, 2017 | 8:03 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed a lawsuit against Valley Convalescent Hospital in Bakersfield on behalf of the family of an 80-year-old patient who died as a result of neglect at the facility.

Robert Hopkins fell from his bed in February while housed at the facility after a nursing assistant failed to ensure a guard rail was properly set. He suffered a fracture in his vertebrae below the skull, spent a week in the hospital, returned to Valley Convalescent Hospital on Feb. 28, and died the following day.

The California Department of Public Health determined Hopkins’ death was a result of his fall. The Department fined the facility $100,000 and it received the most severe penalty under California law (Class AA Citation). Chain | Cohn | Stiles filed an elder neglect and wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Hopkins’ family.

“The purpose of filing this lawsuit is to prevent these types of tragedies from occurring again in the future,” said attorney Neil K. Gehlawat. Chain | Cohn | Stiles announced the filing of the lawsuit during a press conference, streamed live by KERO-23, ABC. “Valley Convalescent and other skilled nursing facilities need to understand that if they drop the ball when it comes to patient safety, there will be consequences, and those consequences will be severe.”

Valley Convalescent Hospital has had a long history of complaints for elder abuse and neglect. Since 2012, the California Department of Public Health has recorded nine complaints of patients falling, and has taken action against the facility 15 times since 2006, according to reports. Valley Convalescent has been fined more than $160,000 since 2003. This year, it has received eight complaints, and the Department has found 28 deficiencies, reports show.

The family of Robert Hopkins hopes to prevent future similar incidents in Kern County. The Hopkins family is being represented by Neil K. Gehlawat and Felicia Schoepfer-Altmiller of Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

— By Michael Earnest for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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VALLEY CONVALESCENT FINES, PENALTIES COVERAGE

LAWSUIT MEDIA COVERAGE

Speak up for those who can’t during Elder Abuse Awareness Month

June 21, 2017 | 9:07 am


More than 500,000 incidents of elder abuse are reported to authorities each year in the United States. Additionally, an estimated 5 million, or 1 in 10, older Americans are abused or neglected each year, according to the U.S. Administration on Aging.

Sadly, many cases go unreported.

During June’s Elder Abuse Awareness Month, Chain | Cohn | Stiles wants to remind everyone of the importance of speaking up for those who can’t — our oldest, frailest and most vulnerable citizens. For decades, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been at the forefront in fighting for victims of elder abuse in Bakersfield, Kern County and beyond. For example:

Joining Chain | Cohn | Stiles in honoring the awareness month locally, the Kern County Board of Supervisors recently proclaimed June as Elder Abuse Awareness month as well.

In all, Elder Abuse Awareness Month aims to focus attention on the problem of physical, emotional, and financial abuse of elders. It also seeks to understand the challenges and opportunities presented by an ageing population, and brings together senior citizens, and their caregivers, national and local government, academics, and the private sector to exchange ideas about how best to reduce incidents of violence towards elders, increase reporting of such abuse, and to develop elder friendly policies.

A challenge, however, lies in the reporting of elder abuse and neglect. For every case known to programs and agencies, 24 are unknown; for financial abuse, only one in 44 cases is known, according to the National Center of Elder Abuse.

So why does elder abuse go unreported? Many times, elders have no family to report to. They also fear retaliation from “caregivers,” or they feel shame in regards to abuse. Another reason is they fear they will lose independence, or fear they will upset their own family members. Many times, however, victims simply lack understanding of how to report abuse.

Another issue lies is recognizing elder abuse and neglect. In fact, elder abuse can take many forms including:

  • Physical abuse: Inflicting physical pain or injury on a senior (slapping, bruising or restraining by physical or chemical means).
  • Sexual Abuse: Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.
  • Neglect: The failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder.
  • Exploitation: The illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit.
  • Emotional Abuse: Inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts (humiliating, intimidating, or threatening).
  • Abandonment: Desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
  • Self-neglect: Characterized as the failure of a person to perform essential, self-care tasks and that such failure threatens his/her own health or safety.

Lastly, how do you recognize elder abuse and neglect, and what are the warning signs. Here are a few of them:

  • Bruises, broken bones, abrasions and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect or mistreatment.
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
  • Sudden changes in financial situations.
  • Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene and unusual weight loss.
  • Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.
  • Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person.
  • If you notice changes in a senior’s personality or behavior, you should start to question what is going on.

It’s important to alert others if you have suspicions, and to retain an attorney. In an emergency, call 9-1-1. To report cases of elder abuse, whether it is on your own behalf or that of someone you know, please call Adult Protective Services as part of the Kern County Aging & Adult Services, or contact the Long-Term Care Ombudsman.

  • Adult Protective Services (APS) responds to reports from individuals, concerned citizens, social service and health providers, and law enforcement representatives about developmental disabled adults, physically and mentally disabled adults, and the elderly who may be physically or financially abused, neglected, or exploited. Upon receipt of a referral, APS sends a social worker to make a home visit or contact the elder or dependent adult. Reach the 24-hour hotline at 800-277-7866 or 661-868-1006.
  • The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program investigates elder abuse complaints in long-term care facilities and in residential care facilities for the elderly. The primary responsibility of the program is to investigate and endeavor to resolve complaints made by, or on behalf of, individual residents in these facilities, including nursing homes, residential care facilities for the elderly, and assisted living facilities. The goal of the program is to advocate for the rights of all residents in long term care. You can reach them at 661-323-7884.

— By Alyssa Wood for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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If someone you know is the victim of elder abuse or neglect, it’s important to retain an elder abuse lawyer right away. Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been representing victims of elder abuse and neglect for decades. Reach the elder abuse law firm at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website bakersfieldelderabuse.com.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles files wrongful death, elder neglect lawsuit after man drowns in senior living facility

July 6, 2016 | 10:10 am


Bob Fink loved to golf, to glide, and to spend time with his dog Molly and his family. He was married for 50 years, but when his love passed away in August of 2013, he moved to Bakersfield where his daughter lived.

His daughter Kathryn Dawson chose the Glenwood Gardens senior living facility (now known as Brookdale Riverwalk, Senior Living Solutions) as his new home. Fink was 77 and entering the early stages of dementia, in addition to being depressed from his wife’s passing. His seven kids thought the community at Glenwood Gardens would help him.

“We knew he was right there, and he was safe,” Dawson told KGET-17 News. “So we thought.”

On Aug. 1,  2015, the Kern County Coroner’s Office called the family and informed them that Robert Kenneth Fink had died. Fink had drowned in the pool at Glenwood Gardens.

It should have never happened. Residents must be cleared by a doctor to swim in the Glenwood Gardens pool, and, in fact, Fink had a letter from his doctor stating he should avoid the swimming pool.

Fink’s family, with the help of Bakersfield-based law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles,  has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming negligence and elder neglect in Fink’s death.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorneys David Cohn and Neil Gehlawat, who have vast experience with elder abuse and elder neglect lawsuits, spoke with KGET Channel 17 about the case.

“When incidents like this come up, then you start to wonder whether or not what they are saying in terms of what they provide is really true,” attorney Neil Gehlawat said.

Glenwood Gardens offers accommodations for independent living, assisted living, Alzheimer’s and Dementia care, and skilled nursing and rehabilitation. Concerned that Fink was unable to care for himself — as he would forget to eat meals and take his medications — his children decided it would be best for him to be admitted to a senior living community. Fink was admitted in March 2014.

But Fink was never authorized to use the pool, which needed a key for access. On Aug. 1, a receptionist handed Fink a key to the pool area. There were no lifeguards on duty.

“This is the only way that we think they’re actually going to learn their lesson from this and make changes so these kinds of things don’t happen again,” Gehlawat said.

The family, along with Chain | Cohn | Stiles, has filed a lawsuit for wrongful death damages, and funeral and burial costs.

MEDIA COVERAGE

Elder Abuse Awareness: Signs to identify physical, emotional, financial abuse of loved ones

June 29, 2016 | 7:00 am


World Elder Abuse Awareness Day took place earlier this month — and is recognized each year on June 15 — but it’s important to focus attention on the problem of physical, emotional, and financial abuse of elders every day.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, about 5 million cases of elder abuse occur every year; however, only about one in every 23 cases get reported. It can happen in a nursing home, in the home of your loved ones by an in-home nurse, or ever over the phone or on the Internet.

At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, our attorneys for decades have focused on helping victims and families who have experienced elder abuse. In fact, David Stiles, who serves as “of counsel” at the law firm, has been recognized as one of the most respected elder abuse lawyers in California.

Elder abuse can take many forms:

  • Physical Abuse: Physically harming an elderly person, by a caregiver for example.
  • Emotional Abuse: Mentally harming an elderly person by insulting him or her, or talking down to the victim.
  • Sexual Abuse: Touching of a victim inappropriately by a caregiver and without consent.
  • Exploitation: Tricking an elderly person into giving them money or property rights, and taking advantage for profit.
  • Neglect and Abandonment: Disregarding the needs of an elderly person, and leaving him or her alone for long periods of time with no help.

Unfortunately, elder abuse can take place at any time, and it can happen to anyone, and that’s why it is important to be aware of it. Here are a few warning signs, courtesy of National Center on Elder Abuse, to keep a watchful eye:

  • Unexplained bruises or welts on their body.
  • Loved ones becoming isolated or not allowed to contact family.
  • Caregiver is overly controlling or verbally abusive.
  • Bruises around pelvic and genitalia areas, or unexplained sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Sudden changes in loved one’s finances.
  • Ulcers from not being moved around properly, malnutrition and lack of basic hygiene.

A new video by Chain | Cohn | Stiles focuses on the effects of elder abuse and neglect on families, and how our attorneys can help. Click here to watch the video featuring attorney Neil Gehlawat.

Currently, Chain | Cohn | Stiles is representing the family of a man who drowned while unsupervised in a senior living facility in Bakersfield formerly known as Glenwood Gardens.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was launched in 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations. Its purpose is to “provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.”

— By Marisol Earnest for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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If you or someone you know has been a victim of elder abuse, call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.