Recognizing & Preventing Nursing Home Abuse

We rely on nursing homes and assisted living facilities to provide our elderly loved ones with dedicated medical attention, personalized care services, and vital social opportunities. Sadly, there are over 2 million cases of nursing home abuse reported in the United States each year. This heartbreaking statistic is even more alarming when you consider that most abuse incidents are never reported because residents live in fear of their caretakers.

Government Oversight Harms Florida’s Most Vulnerable Citizens

There are approximately 73,000 Floridians currently living in nursing home facilities, a number that gradually increases each year as the baby boomer generation reaches the end of their golden years. Legally, nursing home residents are protected by Florida Statutes Public Heath 400.022 and Florida Statutes Social Welfare 429.28; however, many nursing home facilities continue to operate despite repeatedly violating state and federal safety standards.

In 2013, inspectors cited 54 Florida nursing homes for 7,200 violations, including:

  • Failure to investigate or report abuse allegations.
  • Failure to guarantee a patient’s right to adequate and appropriate care.
  • Failure to protect patients from resident-to-resident abuse.
  • Failure to follow a doctor’s orders.
  • Failure to provide patients with prescribed medications.

In 2017, the federal government cited over 1,000 facilities across the country for failing to prevent acts of physical, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse. More recently, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published a list of 400 American nursing homes that are frequently cited for safety violations and quality of care deficiencies. This list includes 17 Florida facilities that are eligible for participation in the Special Focus Facility Initiative, a CMS program that promotes quality of care improvements through civil monetary penalties and increased site inspections.

Due to federal budget constraints, only 88 of the 400 facilities will be included in the Special Focus Facility Initiative. It’s currently unknown if any of the Florida candidates were chosen for this aggressive program. For this reason, it’s critical that families thoroughly investigate prospective facilities before starting the admittance process.

Recognizing Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing home residents are often vulnerable to acts of abuse due to their advanced ages and respective medical conditions. As previously stated, most abuse cases are never reported because residents are threatened or manipulated by guilty and complicit staffers. The only way to protect your loved one is to recognize the signs of elder abuse and, if necessary, take immediate legal action.

“Nursing home abuse” is often divided into 4 categories: general neglect, physical abuse, emotional and/or psychological abuse, and financial exploitation.  

Examples of general neglect include, but is not limited to:

  • Ignoring signs of potential health complications
  • Allowing the resident to live in unhygienic conditions
  • Failing to prevent dangerous falls
  • Failing to provide necessary medications and treatments

Examples of physical abuse include, but is not limited to:

  • Hitting, pushing, or maliciously tripping a resident
  • Threatening to physically punish or assault a resident
  • Sexually assaulting a resident
  • Improperly restraining a resident

Examples of emotional/psychological abuse include, but is not limited to:

  • Humiliating, ridiculing, or insulting a resident
  • Isolating a resident as a means of punishment
  • Manipulating or gaslighting a resident
  • Threatening or intimidating a resident

Examples of financial abuse include, but is not limited to:

  • Identity theft
  • Tricking a resident into modifying their estate planning documents
  • Manipulating a resident into transferring or signing over assets
  • Stealing and using a resident’s credit cards and/or checkbook

Common signs of nursing home neglect and abuse include:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Poor hygiene
  • Bed sores
  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Suspicious bruises
  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Broken bones
  • Torn clothing
  • Excessive use of restraints
  • Unclean facility
  • Fear of staffers
  • Unusual changes in financial circumstances

Acts of abuse, mistreatment, and neglect can exacerbate a patient’s pre-existing medical conditions. The only way a family can protect their loved one is to visit regularly and at inconsistent times to check for signs of abuse and neglect.

Preventing Abuse with Regular (But Inconsistent) Visits

You pay a nursing home costly fees to guarantee that your aging loved one is in safe and capable hands. The last thing you want to imagine is that your beloved family member is living at the mercy of abusive and neglectful caretakers. Even if a facility comes highly recommended, it’s important to visit frequently to ensure that your loved one is safe.

These visits need to be at unpredictable times so the staffers can’t prepare for your arrival. If you notice that a staff member is hovering during your visit, it could be a sign that something isn’t right. Even if your loved one wants to share their fears and experiences, they may not feel safe because of the caretaker’s presence. It’s up to you to investigate!

During your visit, make sure you do the following:

  • Keep an ongoing record that lists your concerns and any noticeable problems
  • Take pictures of any unusual wounds
  • Talk to other patients to see if they have any concerns
  • Visit with other families to check if they’ve noticed any questionable occurrences
  • Meet the staffers who are caring for your loved one 
  • Compare various facilities to make quality determinations

Require Legal Representation? Schedule a Consultation

You need to trust your instincts when it comes to protecting your family members. If your loved one has suffered abuse while in the care of a nursing home facility, it’s critical that you contact the nursing home abuse attorneys at The Pittman Firm, P.A. today. Our award-winning legal team can thoroughly investigate your case, research the facility’s history, and develop a case strategy that holds the negligent and abusive staffers accountable for their actions.

We do not tolerate nursing home abuse. Contact The Pittman Firm, P.A. (850) 784-6997 to schedule a consultation today.

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