Nobody really goes through life planning on someday placing their parents in a nursing home. However, as time goes by, several factors may influence your decision to look for around-the-clock assistance. While most of these facilities do provide quality care, that is not always the case. If you start believing that your family member may be suffering from negligence or abuse, trust your instincts and start looking for the signs.
Some indications of abuse in nursing homes often go overlooked, as they are attributed to aging bodies and minds. However, some signs, especially those that occur frequently or in conjunction with others, should be thoroughly investigated.
Florida Law Regarding Nursing Homes
Florida Statutes Section 429.28 specifically addresses the rights of residents in assisted care communities. These include:
- Living in a safe environment
- Living free from abuse and neglect
- Be treated with consideration and respect
- Assistance with appropriate health care
- Retain the use of their own personal items
- Unrestricted private communications
- Access to a telephone
- Access to visitors between 9:00 AM and 9:00 PM
Cases of nursing home abuse often fall under the umbrella of negligence. This means that you have to show the existence of four elements in order to prevail in your case:
1. Duty of care
2. Breach of duty of care
It’s also important to remember that the statute of limitations to file a claim for nursing home abuse is two years from when the negligence occurred, or two years from the time it was discovered or should have been discovered.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Some of the most common signs of nursing home abuse include the following:
1. Marked changes in your loved one’s personality. While dementia can cause a person to change their demeanor, these changes tend to happen gradually. If your family member suddenly becomes withdrawn, appears fearful, or has lost interest in activities they once enjoyed, it may be a sign of emotional abuse.
2. Unexplained Signs of Injury. Bruises, welts, and scars, especially those that appear symmetrically on either side of the body, could be a sign of physical abuse. More serious injuries, such as broken bones, need also be considered. While it is not uncommon for seniors to fall or accidentally injure themselves more frequently as they grow frailer, repetitive signs of injury should be investigated.
3. Receiving the wrong medication. This could be either the wrong type of drugs your loved one needs, or the wrong dosage. This is more likely to occur in facilities that are understaffed or that have a high turnover rate. While some places may inform you of such an incidence, it behooves you to be aware of signs that this may be occurring. These include: unusual physical symptoms, disorientation, sleeping a lot more than usual, or feeling lethargic.
4. Your loved one doesn’t want to be treated by a specific staff member. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a sign of fear. No matter your loved one’s age, take their concerns seriously. They should never feel distressed about any staff member tasked with caring for them.
5. Your loved one seems to be malnourished. Sometimes it’s hard to tell that your loved one is malnourished simply because they are losing weight — especially if they have an overactive thyroid or an illness such as cancer. But if none of these circumstances apply to your family member, look for additional symptoms of malnourishment or dehydration, such as dizziness, dry mouth, sunken eyes, and low blood pressure.
6. You notice the nursing home doesn’t run efficiently. If every time you visit, you notice new faces among staff, phones that ring constantly, or you have a hard time getting a hold of anyone to assist you, don’t just complain about it to your friends and family. These are red flags that shouldn’t be ignored.
Is Nursing Home Abuse a Crime?
Negligence cases are civil cases, which means that the wrongdoer will only be held accountable financially for the damages caused to you and your loved one. However, in instances when nursing home staff acts intentionally, the perpetrator could face criminal charges, such as:
- Sexual Assault
All of these instances are felonies, which are serious criminal offenses. Punishment varies depending on the circumstances and whether the wrongdoer has a previous record of criminal activity, and could include both fines and imprisonment.
If the crime was conducted by a visitor or trespasser to the nursing home, the facility may still be held liable for negligence if they failed to provide reasonably safe conditions for your family member.
Call Us to Discuss Your Case
If you believe something may be amiss at your family member’s nursing home, listen to your intuition. The longer you wait, the more damage could be caused to your loved one and the harder it may become to gather evidence.
At Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins, P.A., we have experienced attorneys who can best design a strategy to help you.
Contact us, and let’s discuss your case.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended to be for informational purposes only and does not establish an attorney/client relationship.