Nursing homes are entrusted with very precious beings – our loved ones. They are depending on us to provide them with a safe place to live, where they are well taken care of while maintaining their dignity. When they are not receiving the care they should be getting, or they are being abused, and this results in an illness, injury or death, then you may be entitled to compensation for that neglect.
Nursing homes are regulated by the state, and there are certain standards that must be met for quality of care and cleanliness. If these standards are not being met, then that nursing home should be made to answer for that failure. The Florida Department of Elder Affairs has a hotline, as does every state, to report suspected abuse or neglect. Often, however, you need an attorney skilled in this area of law who will fight for your loved one’s rights, because the state can move slowly in their investigations.
Neglect in a nursing home means that the patient is not being taken care of properly. If you have noticed that a loved one has been left alone for long periods of time, or is losing weight, or is looking or smelling unclean, then the nursing home may not be properly caring for the patient, and something should be done about that. Often dehydration occurs, or bed sores are left unattended and become septic and life-threatening.
Sometimes nursing homes are short staffed, perhaps purposely to cut costs and maximize profits, and use that excuse as a reason for neglect such as failure to provide the proper medication, or failure to get the patient out of bed, or change them in a timely manner, or feed them properly. We have all heard the horror stories, but that does not mean your loved one has to live inside that horror story.
Abuse differs from neglect in a number of ways. Neglect is a failure to provide adequate care. Abuse is proactively hurting the patient physically, emotionally or financially. The patient is more frail and vulnerable, and an easier target for the abuser.
Physical abuse is the most obvious type and the easiest to prove in a nursing home setting. Sometimes family members notice bruises, or there are unexplained injuries such as broken bones or burns. Hitting, shoving or inappropriately restraining the patient are forms of physical abuse. So is overmedicating the patient so they become compliant. Sexual abuse has sometimes occurred in the nursing home setting. While not every injury is the result of physical abuse – accidents do happen- you should be on guard about the possibility. These types of harm must not be tolerated, and if it has occurred, the nursing home should be held liable.
Emotional abuse is more difficult to prove, and can be just as devastating to an elderly person. This occurs when they are not treated with respect, or yelled at, or humiliated or threatened. If they are ignored, or isolated from family or friends, or menaced in any way, this is also abusive treatment.
Financial abuse occurs when someone either tricks an elderly person into revealing their financial information, or outright steals their identity and credit to benefit the abuser. As nursing homes may often have power of attorney or access to financial information, or both, there is the potential for financial abuse to occur.
Watch for the signs of neglect of abuse if a loved one is in a nursing home. The patient may be unhappy or depressed or even afraid to stay in the nursing home. If there are obvious physical injuries, this may be a sign the patient is being abused or neglected. In patients with dementia, they may not be able to communicate what is happening, which makes them all the more vulnerable.
If you think a loved one has been abused or neglected while under the care of a nursing home, you should contact a law firm with experience dealing in these types of cases. Brill & Rinaldi, The Law Firm has that experience and knows how to best pursue justice for your loved ones. We offer a free initial consultation to help you determine how best to proceed, and would be happy to review your case.