When we are faced with the decision of placing our loved one in a nursing home, we look for the very best place where he or she will receive the most tender, loving care possible. We want our loved ones to be safe and well taken care of for the final days of their lives, no matter how long that may be. Unfortunately, there are some nursing homes out there that do not care about your loved one’s care and dignity as much as you do.
Although nursing homes are regulated by the states that they are in, not all of them follow the standards to which they are bound. The nursing home may not be clean or provide quality care, or worse yet, your loved one could be the victim of neglect or abuse. This could result in injury, illness, or even death, and you may be entitled to compensation for the lack of care your loved one received.
Types of Abuse and Neglect
Neglect: Neglect differs from abuse in the sense that neglect is the failure to provide adequate care to an elderly person. Abuse is actively hurting a patient in one of the ways listed below.
Physical Abuse: This is the most obvious type of abuse. It is also the easiest type of abuse to prove. Physical abuse includes pushing, slapping, hitting, kicking, improperly restraining, shaking, pinching, burning, shoving, or other acts that cause physical harm to an elder. Over-medicating a person so that he or she becomes more compliant is also a form of physical abuse.
Psychological or Emotional Abuse: This type of abuse is more difficult to prove, but can be just as devastating to the elderly victim. This type of abuse occurs when an elderly person is verbally berated, harassed, intimidated, threatened with punishment or deprivation, criticized with demeaning comments, or isolated from family and friends. Ignoring them can also be considered emotional abuse.
Sexual Abuse: Nonconsensual sexual contact of any kind is considered sexual abuse. This can include rape, sodomy, coerced nudity, assault and battery, or sexually explicit photography. This type of abuse is not as common in a nursing home setting, but it still happens, so you must be on the lookout for this type of abuse, as well.
Financial Abuse: Improper use of an elderly person’s funds, assets, or property is financial abuse, and can include things like cashing checks without permission, forging signatures, forcing/deceiving an older person into signing a document, or using an ATM/debit card without permission. Asking an elderly person to reveal financial information or stealing his or her identity also falls into this category.
Resident to Resident Abuse: This type of abuse occurs when one resident of the nursing home is allowed to abuse another resident. The abuse may include physical, sexual, or psychological abuse.
How to Recognize Abuse
Although abuse and neglect can take many different forms, it is important to keep an eye on potential signs of abuse. These signs may include:
- Fear, anxiety, agitation, and anger.
- Isolation, withdrawal, depression, non-responsiveness, ambivalence, and resignation.
- Contradictory statements, implausible stories, confusion or disorientation, and hesitation to talk openly.
- Broken bones, bruising, cuts, and welts.
- Bed sores, frequent infections, and dehydration.
- Unexplained weight loss, poor physical appearance, and lack of cleanliness.
- Caregivers who do not want patients to be left alone with others.
Not all elderly residents who show these signs are being subjected to abuse or neglect, but it is always best to take extra precautions to be sure your loved one is safe. Just like all other states, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs has a hotline to report suspected neglect and abuse. However, it is extremely important to consult with an attorney skilled in elder care law who will fight for your loved one’s rights.
If You Suspect Neglect or Abuse
If you think that your loved one may be the victim of abuse or neglect, it is important that you take immediate action to protect them. Florida Statute 400.022 says that nursing home residents are entitled to a set of basic rights, including being treating with respect, dignity, and fairness; freedom from physical, mental, emotional, and financial abuse; and many more. Steps to take if you suspect abuse or neglect include:
Recognize the Signs: Pay close attention to how your loved one acts in the presence of caregivers and staff. He or she might be frightened around certain people. Keep an eye out for signs of physical abuse as well as emotional abuse.
Be Aware of Immediate Danger: If you feel like your loved one’s life is in immediate danger, do not hesitate to call 911.
Obtain Evidence: If you feel like there is no immediate threat, try your best to identify the source of the neglect or abuse. Take photographs, obtain copies of medical records, and talk to relatives and friends of other residents to see if they have noticed anything.
Notify the Nursing Home: Tell someone in charge what you suspect, and if they do not seem concerned or fail to provide a resolution to your concerns, do not hesitate to remove your loved one from the situation.
Reassure Your Loved One: Be sure to tell your loved one that he or she did nothing wrong and are not to blame for what has happened. Let them know they are safe and everything will be okay.
File a Formal Complaint: File the appropriate paperwork with the police and your local social services department to be sure that the abuse or neglect is documented.
Contact an Attorney: Contact an attorney experienced in elder care who can guide you in filing charges and taking legal action to ensure that you and your loved ones are compensated for their experiences and to ensure that the neglect and abuse does not continue to happen to other residents.
Filing a legal claim for abuse or neglect against a nursing home has a statute of limitations (a limit as to how long a person can wait to file a lawsuit) that ranges from two to four years in Florida. Due to these limitations, it is important that if you suspect your loved one has been abused or neglected, that you report it immediately and take appropriate legal action.
Since 2013, 196 Florida nursing home residents have died because of negligence and abuse, although the owners of the nursing homes denied the claims, 87 of them have been settled out of court, 104 continue to fight their case, and five others were closed for other reasons.
Because the law regarding elder care can be confusing, it is important to hire an attorney who has handled these cases before, like the attorneys at Brill & Rinaldi. With locations in Daytona Beach, Miami, and Weston, they have the experience to help you get the compensation you deserve.