Tens of thousands of families in Florida depend on nursing homes and long-term care facilities to keep their loved ones safe and well cared for. It’s an unfortunate fact, however, that the reports of elder abuse occurring in these facilities is on the rise. At Dennis Hernandez &Associates, P.A., our Tampa and Sarasota nursing home abuse attorneys have seen first-hand how devastating abuse and neglect can be to both victims and their families, and we are here to help.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, elder abuse occurs in community settings as well as institutional settings such as long-term care facilities and nursing homes. Its research shows that these are the most common types of nursing home abuse, in order of prevalence:
- Physical abuse
- Resident-to-resident abuse
- Psychological abuse
- Gross neglect
- Sexual abuse
- Financial exploitation
Nursing Home Residents’ Rights
The Nursing Home Reform Amendments made to the Omnibus Reconciliation Act (OBRA)—also known as the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987—created a set of standards of care and rights for people living in certified nursing facilities.
Medicare.gov lists the full rights and protections that Americans have as a nursing home resident; following is a list of just some of those rights. If you are a nursing home resident, you have the right to:
- Be treated with dignity and respect, including making your own schedule and taking part in the activities you choose.
- Be free from discrimination based on race, color, national origin, disability, age, or religion.
- Be free from restraints when those restraints are being used to discipline you for the staff’s own convenience. This includes physical restraints such as side rails and chemical restraints such as drugs.
- Make complaints to the staff of the facility or any other person without fear of punishment. In addition, the nursing home is required to promptly address the issue.
- Get proper medical care, which includes the right to be involved in the choice of your doctor and participate in the decisions that affect your care.
- Have your doctor and your legal representative or a family member notified by the nursing home if you are injured in an accident; have medical complications; have a life-threatening condition; or the nursing home decides to discharge or transfer you from the nursing home.
- Have your friends and family involved to ensure you receive high-quality care. They may visit, get to know the staff, meet with other residents’ families, and more.
- Be free from neglect and abuse, including verbal, sexual, physical, and mental abuse. The law requires nursing homes to investigate and report all suspected violations and all injuries of unknown origin with five working days to the proper authorities.
Many states have also created and adopted measures similar to the Nursing Home Reform Act. Section 400.022 of the Florida Statutes defines the rights of nursing home residents, as well as those who live in adult family care homes or assisted living facilities. You can read more on Florida’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program’s website.
Elder Abuse and Nursing Home Neglect FAQ
What are some of the signs of nursing home abuse or neglect?
Researchers believe that instances of abuse and neglect are underreported, so it’s important for the family members or legal representatives of nursing home or long-term care facility residents to know the signs of a problem. You should be concerned if your loved one:
- Has unexplained cuts, scratches, welts, or bruises
- Refuses to take medication
- Refuses to eat or drink
- Appears to be unclean or surroundings are unsanitary
- Doesn’t want to be alone with a particular nursing home employee
- Doesn’t want to speak when staff members are present
- Has bed sores or any sores that won’t heal
- Has an unexplained loss of weight
- Stops speaking
- Appears to be dehydrated
- Appears to be heavily sedated or medicated
- Has a change in his or her mental state, including anxiety or depression
What are some of the factors that can lead to neglect or abuse?
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (part of the National Institutes of Health), there has not been a great deal of research into the causes of abuse and neglect in residential long-term care facilities, but there is, however, “remarkable consensus” among surveys and studies on three factors:
- Staffing shortages and mandatory overtime, which contributes to staff burnout
- Stressful work situations
- Inadequate training for staff on how to handle difficult behavior, such as residents’ aggression
What should I do if I suspect nursing home abuse or neglect?
The most important thing is to act promptly—Florida has a statute of limitations on reporting incidents of nursing home abuse requiring reports to be made within two years of its occurrence.
You can report nursing home abuse online to The Florida Department of Children and Families’ Adult Protective Services division or call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-962-2873. After your report of the incident, an investigation may be initiated.
You may also file a criminal complaint if you believe laws have been broken and/or file a lawsuit. Contact Dennis Hernandez & Associates, P.A., to schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation with one of our expert nursing home abuse lawyers.
Who regulates nursing homes in Tampa and Sarasota?
Federal and state authorities regulate nursing homes and long-term care facilities. In our state, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and the Florida Department of Health are responsible for nursing home regulation; at the federal level, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid are responsible.
How can a personal injury lawyer help with a nursing home abuse case?
Experienced personal injury attorneys are well-versed in a wide variety of cases in which their clients have suffered harm or injuries, including nursing home abuse and neglect. As with any type of case, the nursing home abuse lawyers at Dennis Hernandez & Associates, P.A., will aggressively work to ensure you and your loved one’s legal rights are protected. We will carefully prepare your case, and, as necessary, collect records, conduct witness interviews, negotiate with opposing counsel and insurance companies on your behalf, and much more.
Checklist: Choosing a Nursing Home
With hundreds of licensed nursing homes in Florida, how do you know which one is right for your loved one’s needs? The following is some of the guidance provided FloridaHealthFinder.gov and Medicare.gov:
- Define your needs: Every person has individual needs, so begin by evaluating those needs and compare them to what a nursing home provides. Some factors to consider are whether specialized care is needed to manage existing health conditions, the proximity of the facility to family and friends, room sizes, and amenities.
- Evaluate ratings: The Nursing Home Comparison Tool offers a five-star rating system that allows you to compare nursing homes by a number of important criteria, including quality of life, quality of care, nutrition and hydration, and more. You can search by region, county, city, name, special services, and ZIP code. Your research should also include whether a facility failed to meet minimum standards during inspections or are operating under bankruptcy protection.
- Go see each nursing home: FloridaHealthFinder.gov recommends making two visits: one that you’ve scheduled in advance and a second one that you should make unannounced. In-person visits are the only way to evaluate the condition of the facility and observe the residents and staff.
- Talk to the staff: Make an appointment to meet the administrator, director of nursing, the activites director or all three. Also, speak with the dietitian if your loved one has special dietary requirements.
- Talk with your family and your loved one’s physician: Once you’ve narrowed down to your choices, talk with friends, family and your loved one’s health care provider about your selections. They can help make sure you haven’t overlooked anything in your search.
Schedule your free case evaluation today.
The Tampa and Sarasota nursing home abuse lawyers at Dennis Hernandez & Associates, P.A., can help you navigate the complex process of pursuing an elderly abuse or neglect claim. While no amount of money can erase the emotional damage such abuse can cause, you may be entitled to compensation that will help cover expenses related to your case. Contact us anytime of day or night by calling (813) 250-0000 in Tampa or (941) 210-0000 in Sarasota.