It can be a very sad time for families that have to make the decision to move an elderly parent or relative into a nursing home, assisted living facility, (ALF), or other type of life-care residential setting. But that scenario becomes even more tragic when the people you have entrusted with the care of your loved one break that trust by abusing or neglecting someone close to you.
There are so many cases like this in Florida, thanks largely to the huge number of senior citizens here. According to the Florida Department of Children and Families, there were 1,448 verified cases of elder abuse or neglect statewide in 2011, and that number shot up to 2,525 in 2015 – an incredible 74% increase. Throughout Florida, over 800 caregivers were charged with some form of elder abuse over those 5 years, but only 370 of those were convicted. Proving a case of abuse or negligence in a nursing home or ALF can be difficult – which is exactly why you need the services of a skilled and experienced nursing home negligence attorney in your corner if you find yourself needing help.
Nursing Home Negligence & Abuse Comes in Many Forms
While there are some cases of nursing home negligence that can be easily discovered, there are many cases in which verifying a nursing home did not act responsibly in the care of one of their residents may not be readily apparent. Some of the different types of abuse or neglect of the elderly can include:
- Neglect – Ignoring the needs or life-threatening medical care of the patient
- Abandonment – Withholding care or services of an elderly patient, or not establishing any type of plan for their reasonable care
- Physical Abuse – Actual bodily harm inflicted on a nursing home resident by slapping or hitting, pushing them or some other form of personal injury
- Psychological Abuse – This is also known as emotional abuse, and may involve hateful or derogatory comments directed at the patient, threatening them with bodily harm or withholding food or medication, verbal abuse ignoring the patient or refusing to allow them visitations by friends or family members. While psychological abuse is not always a circumstance that is a basis for legal help, it can be a red flag for other types of abuse or neglect.
- Sexual Abuse – When a nursing home caregiver physically assaults the patient in a sexual manner, or forces them to view or participate in a sexual act
- Financial Abuse - Theft of a resident's money, credit cards, blank checks, jewelry or other personal property, absconding with retirement funds or other financial benefits, like social security payments. Financial abuse can also involve a caregiver's unlawfully altering a person's bank or investment account information to gain access to their money, or changing the names on a real estate title or will.
People Think it Will Never Happen to Them…
When you entrust any kind of nursing home to provide competent and reasonable care for a family member, you seldom stop to consider all of the ‘what if' situations that could come up later. Initially, everything is generally OK, in that the staff and management want to try to show you that you have selected the right facility. Everyone is all smiles, and the caregivers will go out of the way to impress you with their caring, loving attention to all of their residents.
Problems come later, once the staff at the nursing home figure out that certain residents may not have anyone who ever comes to visit to check up on them. And unfortunately, this scenario is far too common. The sad reality is in many cases, the nursing home resident may simply outlived any nearby family members or friends, or had none when they were admitted to the facility. To a caregiver with evil intent, this can be an invitation to abuse or neglect the resident.
The majority of those who are victimized by a negligent or abusive nursing home staff are women. Female residents can appear to be easier targets, less likely to put up too much of a physical struggle or offer any resistance. The nursing home staffer who is intent on committing an act of abuse or neglect will often target those with some sort of mental incapacity or dementia, like Alzheimer's Disease, or a severe physical impairment. Unscrupulous caregivers are praying on the weak and the infirmed, with the thought there will less of a chance the resident will be able to alert someone to their plight.
The fact is that nursing home negligence or abuse of a resident can happen to almost anyone. When it's discovered, you'll need to enlist every ounce of legal ammunition you can to prove what is happening to your family member or loved one. The nursing home negligence and abuse attorneys at the Goldberg Law Firm will be at your side every step of the way should you decide to pursue a claim against a facility or one or more of their staff.
How Can I Tell if Someone is Being Abused or Neglected?
If you have an elderly parent or other family member who lives in some type of assisted living care environment, of course you will keep your eyes open for any troubling signs of abuse when you go to visit them. But there are circumstances where signs of abuse or neglect may not be readily apparent, so you need to be constantly aware of the physical, mental, psychological and environmental conditions of the resident.
Nursing home negligence can also mean improper supervision of your family member or friend. Locally here in Southwest Florida, there has been more than one instance in which a nursing home resident has been unsupervised and ended up walking out of the facility. In January 2016, an Alzheimer's patient residing at the Sandhill Gardens Retirement Center in Port Charlotte, Florida, was able to open a sliding glass door at the facility and wander away. The woman was found dead nearby the following day. These types of situations involve the negligent security provided by the facility, which falls under overall negligence and grossly improper level of care. You can read more about the Port Charlotte case here.
What To Look For:
Here are a few signs that could be an indicator of trouble:
- Depression or confusion that was not previously noticeable
- Sudden weight loss with no apparent reason
- Signs of anxiety or stress
- Inability to sleep
- Violence or agitation
- Unexplained bruising or scars, cuts, bumps or burns
- Bed sores or other physical signs of abuse
- Withdrawal from previous daily activities
- Unkempt or messy appearance
It's vitally important to communicate with the resident as much as possible to try to determine what is going on. In many cases, they may be hesitant to tell you anything because they fear what will happen once you leave. Sadly, some staff members may resort to retaliation against the patient if they feel they have been ‘outed' as an abuser.
How Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Can Affect Your Loved One
As bad as physical ailments like bedsores or bruises can be, the long-term results of psychological or mental abuse can be far more devastating. In some cases, the staff at a nursing home or assisted living facility will make the resident feel as if they are to blame. Emotional wounds are much more difficult to determine, and to begin to rectify.
Living in constant fear of being neglected or abused in a nursing home is a terrible way to live. The resident will often feel trapped in their situation, with no one to turn to for help. In Florida, according to State Statute, any person who is aware of a case of nursing home abuse or neglect is required by law to report it to proper authorities. In extreme cases where a family member or friend feels there is the risk of eminent danger to the nursing home resident, calling 911 will be your best option. In situations where you feel a resident is being abused, neglected or otherwise not being cared for in a professional and caring manner, reporting the circumstances to local and state authorities needs to be done immediately.
Here are some agencies that should be notified in the event you feel a nursing home or assisted living resident is being abused or neglected:
- Florida Abuse Hotline – 1-800-962-2873. This toll-free number is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- FAX - Send a detailed report in writing via fax to 1-800-914-0004.
- ONLINE - To make a report of abuse online, visit: dcf.state.fl.us/programs/abuse/report.shtml
If You Suspect a Case of Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect, Goldberg & Noone Can Help
Our nursing home abuse attorneys have decades of experience helping victims who have been abused or neglected in a nursing home, assisted living home or other adult-care residential environment. In many cases, the victimized person or their family may be entitled to financial compensation under Florida law. Obviously, getting the proper local and state agencies involved should be your highest priority. After that, consulting with one of our nursing home negligence lawyers can be your best step in making sure you have a skilled legal ally in your corner.
If you feel you know a person who may be the victim of nursing home neglect or abuse, we urge you to contact The Goldberg Law Firm at once. You can fill out this simple form and we will contact you immediately, and your contact information will always be held in strict confidence. Or we invite you to call one of our offices in Fort Myers, Punta Gorda or LaBelle, and we will arrange a free, no obligation meeting to talk about your situation in person. We also have a toll-free telephone number that can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 888-461-2919.
The tragic circumstances resulting from nursing home neglect or abuse can be a devastating, life-changing event. In Florida, state statute of limitations mean a person has 2 years from the date of a wrongful death to pursue a legal claim. Taking action as soon as you see any signs of trouble can reduce your risk of losing a beloved family member or friend.