While visiting grandparents or elderly relatives at a nursing home or an assisted living facility, reminiscing and enjoying a meal or activity as a family, we want to know our loved one is receiving the best care. The last thing on our mind should be that someone could be causing an elderly loved one harm, neglecting them, abusing them, or that they’re suffering in any way at the hands of those assigned to care for them.
It’s difficult enough for families to see their elderly loved ones in what appears to be a hospital setting (although nursing homes are not hospitals, we often equate the elderly’s slow loss of independence with one). We may even feel as if we should’ve done more for our loved one, or that they could never live out their golden years happily in a nursing home.
Fortunately for those with elderly loved ones in Florida’s nursing homes–most of the time this isn’t the case. In fact, many of Florida’s care facilities and nursing homes provide impeccable, compassionate care for one of our most vulnerable populations. Whether after extended illness, injury, or because family feels their loved one can no longer live alone, in nursing homes, the elderly can begin to once again thrive when their needs are met consistently. Many seniors regain their lost health when placed in a safe setting with 24/7 access to care, their needs are being met quickly and with their best interests in mind.
Florida families face difficult care decisions
When our beloved relative doesn’t regain their health and in the worst-case scenario, passes away in the facility, the reality that it could be due to nursing home abuse is difficult to process in a time already full of grief and mourning. We’ve lost a parent, grandparent, or great grandparent and knowing they may have had many years left to enjoy old age causes a great deal of mental anguish for the surviving family members.
We may feel we made the wrong decision admitting our loved one to a nursing home. Personal Injury lawyers see this guilt on a daily basis when families must retain legal representation after an elder abuse related wrongful death. The family must know it’s not their fault, and that they could not have reasonably known the care facility they chose for their loved one was unsafe.
The hidden horrors of nursing home abuse
While many of Florida’s nursing homes are safe and fully uphold the standard of care on every level, nursing home abuse sadly happens more often than we’d suspect in places where the elderly population is higher than average, such as the state of Florida, where many senior citizens come to enjoy our scenic beaches and sunshine after retirement.
Senior citizens at large are among the most vulnerable demographic when it comes to abuse and assault. When a vulnerable senior can’t speak for themselves, they can become the target of catastrophic nursing home abuse and neglect; this can be a one time incident or a well hidden, prolonged experience for the resident. Whether it involves a nurse that’s having problems at home and takes her frustrations out on her elderly patients, or an assigned caregiver that hasn’t been properly trained in geriatric conditions such as Alzheimer’s and becomes annoyed with the client for behaviors they cannot control (sundowning, wandering, falling to name a few). All of it falls under the same umbrella: nursing home abuse.
No exceptions to quality care
First, let’s look at what defines a nursing home:
“a private institution providing residential accommodations with health care, especially for elderly people.”
There are some specific details that go into differentiating nursing home abuse from other types of abuse, and many of them are drastic, prolonged, and fatal. This is one reason every nursing home is required by law to have their elder abuse prevention policies in writing to be furnished to the family and the potential resident prior to admission. There is no exception to this rule and a family should be wary if they are not provided with this documentation in a timely manner.
There should never be an exception made to a senior citizen receiving quality care in a nursing home.
Florida families consider everything
Loved ones consider everything when placing their elderly family member in the care of someone else, and no small detail should be overlooked, and no question left unasked. When selecting a nursing home, families should ask themselves some basic questions:
- Is this facility clean and compliant with OSHA standards?
- Do the residents look happy and well cared for?
- Are staff members, nurses, and other employees all certified to do their job?
- What type of licensure do nurses at this facility have? (CNA, LPN, RN, BSN, MSN, ARNP, etc.)
- Are staff members approachable and able to answer any questions our family has? Does staff avoid answering certain, repeated questions?
- What emergency procedures are in place in the event of something life threatening happening to my loved one?
- What is the protocol for natural disasters in this facility?
If the elderly person’s loved ones feel satisfied with the facility and choose to admit their relative, they’re entrusting that facility to provide care as compassionate and attentive as they would provide their loved one, if possible, at home. Most of the time, this turns out to be the case, and the elderly often find great joy in bonding with their new caregivers. Caregivers are there to help with meals, bathing, and get seniors interested in various activities the nursing home may have to offer. Social interaction is important for the health and happiness of the elderly, and can offer them many more years of life.
However, there are the tragic instances where all isn’t as it seems, and a child or grandchild may stop by unannounced to surprise their family member only to find that their situation has taken a horrific turn for the worse. How could this have happened? When did this happen? Grandma or grandpa seemed to be in perfect health and in good spirits during the last visit.
When this occurs, nursing home abuse could very well be the culprit.
If a person, whether a loved one or a nursing home employee, finds themselves in a situation where they suspect abuse is the cause of a once healthy, vibrant senior citizen deteriorating rapidly, there are steps that can be taken to protect the elderly resident from coming to further suspected harm.
What are some of the more obvious signs that a client, patient, or loved one is the victim of nursing home abuse?
- Unusual bruises
- Open wounds or bed sores
- Cuts or scrapes that can’t be explained
- Soiled clothing and/or poor hygiene
- Frequent infections
- Torn or stained clothing
All these signs indicate that those who suspect the abuse should act quickly in ensuring the safety of the patient or family member, and remove the suspected staff member from their care team. A change of caregiver should be requested before further abuse has the chance to be inflicted upon the resident. Unfortunately, when a loved one has already suffered the pain and suffering of abuse, or worse, has passed away as a result, their family will need to seek experienced, compassionate legal representation.
Choosing the right elder abuse lawyer
Shaked Law Firm is highly experienced in cases of nursing home abuse and neglect and we have successfully won hundreds cases on behalf of our elderly clients and their families all over Florida. Choosing a Board Certified lawyer means a family’s loved one’s injury or death due to nursing home abuse is taken seriously from Day One–because the best lawyers start working on a case as soon as they complete the consultation.
Unlike Personal Injury factories, with “paper pusher” lawyers who only see a dollar sign, Board Certified lawyers offer compassion and courtroom experience in equal measure. That’s the Board Certified difference! Over the course of many years these senior lawyers have gained the in-the-trenches understanding that can only come from seeing trial and truly helping clients. As Board Certified lawyers, we know firsthand that losing a loved one cannot be given a dollar amount.
No one wants to think about what could happen when it’s time to place an aging family member in a nursing home, even if it’s safest place for them to be. We put trust in nurses and allied healthcare employees to maintain the highest level of compassion and care for the people we love. It’s hard enough to come to terms with a loved one suddenly needing more care than we can give them ourselves. It should always be considered unacceptable when loved ones are not treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.
When the reality of abuse is clear: families have rights.
An elderly family member has been abused, what happens now?
The family should have been provided with the nursing home abuse policies in writing prior to the victim’s admission to the care facility. If they were not, the facility has violated the law and it’s important to seek legal representation to offer advice specific to the situation.
If the family does have a copy of the policies as per Florida state law, the lawyer should review them with the family carefully. It’s important to follow Florida’s guidelines for filing a formal complaint and a lawyer will be able to further advise how to do this in the time allowed by law.
There’s proof that a loved one is being abused, what are their rights?
If a family member, caregiver, nurse, or employee has witnessed elder abuse, it is of utmost importance to have documented such abuse with: date, time, and any staff members names that cared for that resident. Note the following wherever possible:
- What was witnessed
- Who else was present in the room or on the floor that may have witnessed the abuse (this will be necessary should litigation be brought)
- Anything else that may help a lawyer seek compensation on behalf of the elderly family member.
It is of great importance to file the complaint to the letter and in a timely manner, as Florida has a (2) two-year statute of limitations on the ability to file a lawsuit in the event of nursing home abuse or neglect.
What happens if someone witnesses the tragic aftermath of elder abuse?
The Statute of Limitations remains the same as stated above, but what’s able to be documented changes. Upon visiting the victim of suspected abuse, the following should be noted:
- Their mental state (are they coherent? Do they seem to have been given too much medication and can they be considered “out of it”?) Family members know their loved one well and can attest to things being amiss right away.
- Do they have visible signs of physical abuse such as bruises, bedsores, or broken bones that are quickly explained away by the caregivers?
- Has the victim’s hygiene suffered since the last visit with them?
While The Law Resource Blog makes every effort to provide the facts our readers need to be fully informed about the common practices and events surrounding Personal Injury law, this writeup has presented just some of the points that should be taken into consideration in the event of nursing home abuse. A Board Certified lawyer is always the best person to advise families on every detail that goes into the law providing justice for a victim of elder or nursing home abuse.