Working with the victims of nursing home abuse in Panama City is heart-wrenching. It also provides us with unique insight into the nature of abuse and a frequent reminder that elder abuse can take many forms. We are also reminded that not all bruises are physical. Emotional abuse, including verbal harassment, is a very real form of abuse. Our team takes this form of mistreatment very seriously, representing victims of emotional abuse in nursing homes and other care settings.
In an article published this week, Northwest Florida Daily News looked at claims of abuse in a local senior care facility. According to the Agency for Health Care Administration and a proposed settlement agreement, the Silvercrest Manor Nursing home failed to provide a setting that was "free of verbal or physical abuse" for 3 of its 60 clients. The facility is a rehabilitation center and skilled nursing home located at 910 Brookmeade Drive in Crestview. Reportedly, multiple staff members were alerted to cases of rudeness, rough treatment, and refusal of care, but they failed to take appropriate action pursuant to state law.
Silvercrest now faces a fine of $13,500 and probation for failing to report these abuse allegations and implement appropriate preventative measures. The facility has 30 days to appeal the Agency's findings and has thus far denied all wrongdoing. If the sanctions are approved, Silvercrest will be placed on the state's nursing home watch list, a category that includes 1 in 5 Florida nursing homes. Brian Lee, the executive director for Families for Better Care, commented that the findings are striking for the facility's failure to take action after being made aware of abusive treatment.
It may be easier to turn a blind eye to abuse when it doesn't manifest in a black eye or broken bone. Residents of our nation's senior care facilities have a right to be treated with dignity and respect. Emotional abuse may not leave physical scars, but it is still abuse. Emotional abuse can take a variety of forms, including: isolation (ex. denying contact with family members); degradation (ex. mocking a resident for their limited abilities); manipulation (ex. intimidating the resident in order to make the staff member's job easier); and threats (ex. intimidating a resident and suggesting care will be withheld if the resident has a bathroom accident).
Emotional abuse often feeds off itself, with the abuser suggesting that further mistreatment will follow if the resident reports the abuse. Facilities may contribute to an abusive setting by overworking staff members or by failing to take emotional mistreatment seriously as a form of abuse.
Since emotional abuse does not leave visible scars, it can be harder to recognize. Victims may be hesitant to report abuse, fearing retribution, or may be unable to report abuse given their mental or physical limitations. Warning signs that should alert loved ones to the possibility of emotional abuse include: withdrawal/seclusion; anxiety/agitation; new tics or other unusual behaviors; mood swings; and acting emotionally abusive towards others.
If you or a loved one is experiencing emotional abuse in a Florida nursing home, you deserve help. The Florida Department of Elder Affairs operates a 24/7 abuse hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE, as noted in their pamphlet titled “The Power to Prevent Elder Abuse Is in Your Hands.” Our firm is also committed to protecting the rights of our senior citizens.
We understand that emotional abuse is very real and that it is a very sensitive matter. Attorney Wes Pittman is a dedicated advocate for Panama City's aging population and an experienced Panama City elder law attorney. Please call and schedule a free consultation to learn more about your legal rights and the rights of your loved one.