Do you suspect your elderly loved one is being abused by an assisted living facility or caregiver? Get help from our Florida personal injury and medical malpractice lawyers specializing in cases involving nursing home negligence and abusive conduct.
Choosing to put your elderly loved one in a long-term assisted living facility or nursing home when they can’t take care of themselves is a difficult decision for any family. You want to make sure your senior family member is treated well and receives all the care they need. So when cases of nursing home neglect and abuse appear in the news, it is understandable why Tampa residents are nervous to put their loved ones in assisted living facilities.
At Lorenzo & Lorenzo, we have seen first-hand the devastation inflicted on a family when elder abuse or neglect occurs. Our experienced personal injury and medical malpractice attorneys have decades of experience serving residents of Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and throughout the state of Florida in all kinds of legal matters, including nursing home abuse. Each case is different, which is why it is important you get in touch with us as soon as possible to learn about your legal options.
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Types of Elder Abuse
Elder abuse comes in many shapes and sizes – and can occur everywhere: at a private home, in a store, online, in a nursing home or another long-term assisted living facility. The most common categories of nursing home abuse include:
- Physical. Physical abuse is any intentional, unnecessary use of force against another person. In nursing homes, physical abuse commonly takes the form of using unwarranted physical restraints on a patient or giving an elderly person antipsychotic drugs or other medication for no medical reason.
- Negligence. Failing to provide an elderly patient with a reasonable standard of care is also considered abuse. Negligence can come in many forms – from physical neglect to emotional/psychological abuse to slips/falls.
- Financial. Financial exploitation is one of the most common types of nursing home abuse in Florida and nationwide. Because they are so dependent on their caregivers, elderly residents are extremely vulnerable to illegal exploitation such as credit card/bank account theft, healthcare fraud, scams and identity theft.
- Emotional. Emotional abuse occurs when a caregiver purposefully causes anxiety or distress to a patient such as verbal abuse or psychological harm. Emotional abuse can include shouting at a patient, using threatening language, humiliating/ridiculing a resident, repeatedly blaming the resident for things that aren’t their fault and ignoring/isolating a resident.
- Sexual. Sexual abuse is one of the most heinous types of mistreatment an elderly resident can suffer at a nursing home or assisted living facility. Abuse of this nature can be physical (sexual assault or rape) or non-physical (forcible viewing of pornographic images or asking a resident to undress for no reason).
Common Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Physical abuse is typically the easiest type of mistreatment to spot. Signs of physical nursing home abuse include unexplained bruises, cuts, welts, scratches, broken/fractured bones, malnutrition or other bodily injuries.
Identifying when emotional abuse is occurring is more difficult than other types of abuse, but it can be just as damaging to your loved one’s quality of life and even lead to physical illness. Signs of emotional abuse can vary greatly, but include rapid weight loss, reluctance to speak when staff members are present, unexplainable changes in behavior or if your loved one seems emotionally withdrawn or non-communicative.
As for financial abuse, this can occur without any warning signs whatsoever, which is why family members with elderly loved ones in a nursing home should stay vigilant for suspicious financial activity such as abrupt and unusual checks, additional names on the resident’s bank account/card, unexplained withdrawals and loss of personal items.
When it comes to sexual wrongdoing in a nursing home, signs of abuse can be both physical and behavioral. Such indicators can include new emergence of STDs, difficulty walking or sitting, bruises or bleeding around genital area, social withdrawal, agitation, inappropriate or unusual behavior, panic attacks or attempted suicide.
Other indicators of nursing home negligence can include regular dehydration, infection, bed sores, poor hygiene, unsanitary living conditions, lack of mobility and unexplained injuries.
Elder Care Abuse Statistics: More Common Than You Might Think
With Florida’s large senior population and the Baby Boomer generation aging into retirement, elderly neglect and nursing home abuse is on the rise and becoming a particularly serious problem in the Sunshine State. Consider the following statistics:
- An estimated 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 60 have experienced some form of elder abuse. (Some estimates put the number as high as 5 million seniors who are abused each year.)
- From 1999-2001, nearly one-third of all nursing home facilities were cited for violating federal standards that could or did cause harm to elderly residents of those facilities. Of those facilities, 10 percent had violations that posed serious risk of injury or death to patients.
- Data gathered in 2010 found that up to half of all nursing home attendants have admitted abusing or neglecting elderly patients. In addition, more than half of all Certified Nursing Assistants (CAN’s) in elder care facilities have admitted to verbally abusing elderly residents, including yelling at them and using foul language.
- Nursing home residents who have been abused have a 300 percent higher risk of death compared to those who have not been mistreated.
- Elder financial abuse and fraud costs older Americans an estimated $36.5 billion per year (likely underreported).
It’s clear that nursing home abuse is a rampant problem in Florida and nationwide. Don’t become just another statistic. If you or a loved one have been abused, you can do your part to stop this from happening to someone else and seek compensation for your injuries (physical, emotional and financial). Contact a Tampa nursing home abuse attorney immediately.
When Nursing Home Abuse Leads to Wrongful Death
The abuse or neglect of an elderly loved one is bad enough, but the injury is that much worse when it results in their early passing. In Florida, when nursing home abuse results in a fatality, a wrongful death claim may be filed by the victim’s surviving loved ones.
A wrongful death lawsuit can help family members seek financial compensation for the loss of their elderly loved one, including funeral expenses, pain and suffering, cost of medical care and other damages.
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The Rights of Every Florida Elderly Nursing Home Resident
The Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA) was first created in 1987 after a study published by the Institute of Medicine discovered that nursing home residents were routinely being abused, neglected and given inadequate care. Through this bill, Congress established the following rights for every elderly patient in a nursing home or adult care facilities:
- The right to freedom from abuse, mistreatment and neglect;
- The right to freedom from physical restraints;
- The right to privacy;
- The right to accommodation of medical, physical, psychological and social needs;
- The right to participate in resident and family groups;
- The right to be treated with dignity;
- The right to exercise self-determination (choose a doctor, access medical information ,etc.);
- The right to communicate freely;
- The right to participate in the review of one’s care plan, and to be fully informed in advance about any changes in care, treatment or change of status in the facility; and
- The right to voice grievances without discrimination or reprisal.
In addition, Florida law (Florida Statute 415 Adult Protective Services) requires that any person who knows, or has reasonable cause to suspect, that an elderly adult has been or is being abused, neglected or exploited must immediately report it to the proper authorities.
If you believe one or several of these rights have been violated, you should contact an attorney immediately to explore your legal options. Filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit in Florida is a long and arduous process, so be sure to contact an experienced personal injury or medical malpractice lawyer who can skillfully navigate this legal storm.
How to Report Nursing Home Abuse in Florida
Do you suspect nursing home abuse? If an elderly person is an immediate danger that is life-threatening, the first thing you should do is call 911. If you are concerned for your own loved one’s well-being, consider removing them from that facility and taking them home or to another adult care facility.
If you or an older adult who you know is being abused, neglected or exploited, contact the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96- ABUSE (22873). For the Telephone Device for the Deaf, dial 1-800-453-5145. For online reporting go to https://reportabuse.dcf.state.fl.us/
Can You Sue for Nursing Home Abuse?
Accidents can happen in nursing homes, so how do you know when there is grounds for a civil lawsuit? An elderly care facility can only be held liable for a resident’s injury if it can be proven that an act of negligence or abuse caused the harm. What constitutes “negligence” is determined by Florida’s standards of care.
Not sure you need to make a report, or want to learn more about filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit? Contact Tampa personal injury and medical malpractice attorneys at Lorenzo & Lorenzo for your free case evaluation.