Nursing Home Negligence
There are tens of thousands of nursing home residents across the state of Florida, and that figure is fast-growing as the population ages – with the over-65 cohort set to balloon to 84 million by 2050, almost double what it was in 2012, according to the U.S. Census.
Although some elders live independently well into their golden years, there often comes a time when greater assistance is needed. At that point, many turn to assisted living centers, long-term care facilities and nursing homes.
At The Ansara Law Firm, our Fort Lauderale nursing home negligence lawyers know that despite federal, state and industry standards for care, too many facilities fall short. Either they are under-staffed or the staffers aren’t properly trained or supervised or adequate policies aren’t in place.
The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 mandated that nursing homes provide services and activities that assure the highest practicable physical, mental and psychosocial well-being of every resident, per their specific care plan. According to these regulations, nursing homes have to:
- Have enough staff to provide the appropriate level of care for the patient.
- Develop a comprehensive care plan for each individual patient. Prevent the deterioration of a patient’s ability to bathe, groom, eat, dress and move.
- Make sure each patient receives the proper nutrition based on their care plan.
- Make sure each patient has the proper vision and hearing treatment to ensure they maintain their senses.
- Prevent patients from developing bed sores by following appropriate treatment guidelines.
- Provide services and treatment for incontinence.
- Make sure medication errors don’t occur.
- Make sure patients are property supervised and that they have enough assistance so as to prevent accidents, abuse and injuries.
- Maintain each resident’s dignity.
- Make sure medical care is overseen by a doctor and that physician services are accessible 24-7 for emergency services.
Many nursing homes in Florida do provide adequate care to residents. However, one Government Accountability Office (GAO) study revealed that 25 percent of the nearly 17,000 elder care facilities in the U.S. had deficiencies that caused actual harm to residents or put residents at serious risk of injury or death. The actual number is probably quite a bit higher, as those are only the instances about which researchers were able to learn. This is a highly vulnerable population and the daily risks they face are often vastly underreported.Identifying Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
One of the biggest reasons Florida nursing home neglect, negligence and abuse goes on for so long is because residents can’t speak up or are afraid to do so, and loved ones simply don’t see the signs.
Suspicious, sudden or unexplained changes in conditions could be an indicator of neglect or abuse. Some things that should send up warning flags include:
- Unexplained injuries
- Emotional agitation
- Poor staffing
- Unsanitary conditions
- Sudden weight loss or gain
- Resident in an over-medicated state (chemical restraints)
- Sudden behavior changes
- Frequent illness
- Unexplained venereal disease, genital infections, anal or vaginal bleeding, torn, bloody or stained underclothing
- Staff delaying or refusing visitors to a certain resident
- Unexpected death
If the circumstances require immediate medical attention, that should be your first step. Make sure the resident obtains appropriate care. If you suspect neglect or abuse, you may wish to contact local police or The Department of Children and Families (DCF). You should also consider contacting The Ansara Law Firm for information on whether you may have a claim to compensation via civil action.Challenges to Nursing Home Litigation
Nursing home neglect and abuse lawsuits can be challenging for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the resident is often not able to personally testify to the underlying facts.
But beyond that, there are two issues that crop up again and again:
- Arbitration agreements;
- Complex corporate structuring of for-profit nursing homes.
Arbitration agreements are typically thrust into the hands of patients or loved ones upon admission to the facility. These are binding agreements, though people often do not understand that they are signing away the right to pursue civil litigation through the courts in the event of a dispute (such as one that may arise over the quality of care). Instead, nursing homes push for resolution before a private arbitrator. The proceedings aren’t public, the results tend to favor nursing homes and the arbitrator doesn’t even have to follow the law. It’s usually a raw deal for plaintiffs. The good news is courts are increasingly finding these agreements contrary to public policy or invalid because the person who signed did not have the legal authority to do so.
With regard to complex corporate structuring, the purpose is to obscure which entities might be responsible for delivering care, which in turn hampers the ability of residents and their family to pursue legal action against all responsible.
Our attorneys can help you overcome the hurdles in your case and will fight not only for compensation, but accountability.
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.