Consider the case of Elsie Fossum. Fossum was 95-years-old when she checked herself into as assisted living facility. Instead, she died and her family has been waiting for seven long years to find out what happened. All they know is that she died as a result of injuries sustained at the assisted living facility. In fact, the home’s administration suggested Fossum had fallen.
As it turned out, the real cause of her death was revealed by the home’s former nursing director, who stated her injuries did not come about as the result of a fall, but because she was punched. The former director described the woman’s injuries as miserable: swollen eyes, knuckle shaped bruises, and damaged eyes. Apparently, no one knew who inflicted such horror on Fossum and there have been no charges filed.
This case is just the tip of the iceberg. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, abuse complaints are steadily increasing, but many of those complaints are in limbo or on hold. In fact, it appears state regulators created cold/hold files for over 900 incidents, even files that included death under suspicious circumstances. It seems the Department of Public Health has hundreds of uninvestigated and unassigned cases waiting for attention, which they may never get.
With a change of department management in 2011, things have begun to slowly turn around, with screening within two days. Unfortunately, it also appears that many current investigations are being done only by phone, not by going to the scene, a situation that may result in missing vital information and leaving vulnerable seniors at risk.
Elsie Fossum’s case, now deemed a homicide, is now in the hands of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for a closer look. If you have concerns about a loved one in care, contact an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer. Do not wait.