Choosing a Florida Nursing Home
When a loved one is no longer able to live safely on his or her own, trusting their daily care to strangers is incredibly difficult.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there are approximately 2 million people over the age of 65 currently residing in some 16,000 nursing homes nationally. These figures are only expected to grow, which means the decisions can be overwhelming.
At The Ansara Law Firm, our Fort Lauderdale nursing home abuse lawyers know choosing a Florida nursing home is an emotional process, but one that needs to be approached with caution and care.
Of course, there is no guarantee – even at the most expensive nursing home with the best reputation – that your loved one will be 100 percent insulated from the possibility of abuse, neglect or negligence. However, when you are educated on the resident’s needs and rights, informed of the available resources and prepared to ask questions, you are in a better position to find the facility that is the best fit.
But it’s not simply finding the right place and then forgetting about it. Family members must remain vigilant to ensure their loved one is not being mistreated and are receiving the kind of care they deserve.
Being an advocate for your loved one is an important and necessary role, and our experienced attorneys want to share some insight based on our years litigating these cases. In a lot of situations, there were red flags early on – even during the admission process – that might have alerted family members to serious, systemic issues at the facility.What Are My Loved One’s Rights and Protections in a Nursing Home?
Federal law protects nursing home residents, who are understood to be a vulnerable population, but instilling a number of inherent rights, regardless of their situation. When you understand these rights, you can more clearly and critically view the operations of each nursing home facility you tour.
As per Medicare.gov, those rights include:
- To be treated with dignity and respect. This includes the right to choose your own schedule (i.e., when to get up, go to bed, eat, etc.) and participation in activities.
- To be free from discrimination.
- To be free from abuse and neglect. This includes verbal, physical, sexual, mental and emotional abuse, as well as financial abuse or abuse of one’s property.
- To be free from restraints. This includes actual physical restraints, as well as chemical restraints.
- To make complaints about staffers or care without being punished.
- To receive proper medical care. This includes the right to be fully informed of one’s condition and drugs, the choice of a doctor, to participate in decisions that affect care, to take part in the care plan (which each resident is owed by law), to refuse treatment that is experimental, to see a doctor if an injury is suffered, to get information on services and fees and more.
- To have privacy.
- To have visitors.
- To receive social services.
Some nursing home placements occur in a crisis situation, while others happen only after a great deal of deliberate planning. When you do have time to plan (or after the crisis has passed), take time to consider:
- What are your needs? The medical needs of nursing home residents can vary greatly between individuals. Similarly, nursing services can vary substantially from facility to facility. Understanding what you need will be important. For example, someone with Alzheimer’s disease will have very different needs than someone who has significant mobility impairments, but is cognitively fine.
- Locate nursing homes and compare. The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration has a valuable tool called the Facility/ Provider Locator that helps prospective patients and loved ones to weigh their options. Additionally, Medicare has a tool called Nursing Home Compare that allows individuals to review the latest reports on each facility and compare them to others you may be considering.
- Tour the facility. Make appointments to meet with the director of nursing, the administrator, the dietitian, the activity director and any other specialists your loved one may need to see. Take notes on whether the residents seem happy and comfortable. Look to see whether the facility is clean and well-staffed. Does it smell bad? Watch to see whether residents are being attended to in a timely manner. Are the rooms decorated with personal items? Do residents have privacy?
- Ask questions. You want to know about the fee structures, of course. But you should also ask about how a resident can make medical appointments. What kind of activities are offered? How does the center handle the need for emergency care? How do they handle outside medical appointments? Are there other services, like dental/ eye care/ grooming? What’s the patient-to-staff ratio? What special services do they have for Alzheimer’s patients? How do they protect residents from each other, if necessary? The FAHCA provides a checklist of possible questions.
If all this goes well, plan to make a second – unannounced – visit. Visit on the weekend or evening or some different time of the day than the first. You want to see how the facility is run during these off-hours.
Once you have your choices narrowed down, ask the top contending facilities if they can provide you with references. You want to hear from other families about whether they have been satisfied with their care.What If There is a Problem?
If after admission, you suspect there is a problem, these matters can sometimes be resolved by speaking with the administrator. However, if you find that individual is unresponsive or you are not happy with the outcome, you may want to seek advice from the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Council. This group is responsible for investigating and resolving complaints and problems.
If the problem is that you suspect your loved one has been abused or neglected, you may also want to reach out to an experienced nursing home abuse attorney. He or she will be able to inform you of your rights and possible legal options during a free initial consultation.
Call the injury attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm at (877) 277-3780 or locally in Broward at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties.