Protecting Our Seniors Against Nursing Home Abuse

Panama City nursing home residents deserve the highest quality of care. These individuals have served our society for many years, and they should be treated with the utmost level of respect. Often, seniors who are in care facilities are unable to fully advocate for themselves. It is therefore vital that family members play an active role in care and that state agencies oversee facilities. All of us have a duty to ensure that nursing home abuse and nursing home neglect are not tolerated.

WJGH reported this week on an ongoing legal battle involving one senior care advocate. Brian Lee is the former Ombudsman for the Florida Department of Elder Affairs. In this role, Lee was charged with overseeing conditions and investigating problems in assisted living facilities and nursing homes in the state. Last year, Lee was fired from this role. He has filed a whistleblower lawsuit in which he alleges his firing was illegal and came in the wake of his attempt to look into some of the state's worst nursing homes.

This investigation included Lee's attempt to identify ownership of these horrible facilities. Lee claims that he had been an outspoken advocate for nursing home residents and that his concern for these individuals led to a contentious relationship with the nursing home industry, spurring his eventual termination from the Department. The state asked the judge in Tallahassee to dismiss the wrongful termination suit, but the judge refused, and Lee's whistleblower case will move forward. Lee is currently working in an outside role as an advocate for Florida seniors.

Both federal and state laws protect the rights of nursing home residents. At the federal level, the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 provides that all care center residents are entitled to quality care in an environment that allows them to reach or maintain their "highest practicable" well-being. Nursing homes are required to provide all residents with a comprehensive care plan that is periodically reassessed and includes nursing, social, rehabilitation, dietary and pharmaceutical services. Residents or their representatives have a right to be involved in and fully informed about all care-related decisions. Patients also have a general right to be treated with dignity and respect.

Elder neglect and elder abuse are criminal acts. Neglect is the failure to care for an individual in a manner that helps avoid harm or pain. Examples of neglect include, but are not limited to: the failure to provide appropriate toilet assistance or diapering; improper positioning, such as that leading to bedsores; and failure to provide needed assistance with bathing and personal hygiene. Elder abuse is the intentional infliction of harm or pain. Abuse can be physical, but it can also be mental/emotional and includes berating, shaming, or ridiculing the individual.

If you believe that a loved one is the victim of abuse, you should not hesitate to get involved. Please contact our experienced Panama City nursing home abuse attorney. Our team can help you protect your loved one's health and safety while advocating for their legal rights.

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