Fort Myers Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys
Our parents and grandparents deserve the very best. Unfortunately, the reality of aging in America sometimes requires that we entrust other people with our elders’ care, and for millions of families that means turning to a nursing home.
There is no way to overstate the responsibility that a nursing home assumes when they accept the care of the people who raised us. Florida’s seniors deserve respect, compassion, dignity, security, and effective treatment. No nursing home or health care professional is ever justified in denying them those basic rights.
Unfortunately, nursing home abuse and neglect run rampant in Florida, with many of the nursing homes in our state scoring extremely low in resident satisfaction, safety, and overall care. That is despite the fact that families often pay hundreds of thousands of dollars out-of-pocket every year just to house their loved ones there.
At Viles & Beckman, LLC we believe nursing home negligence to be absolutely inexcusable in every circumstance. We have made a commitment to fighting for the rights of Florida’s seniors and their families and we will hold irresponsible nursing homes accountable for the suffering and hardships they cause.
As Fort Myers nursing home abuse attorneys, we handle a wide range of cases. Some involve healthcare professionals who unintentionally make a mistake that has serious or even catastrophic consequences for their patients. Others involve shocking instances of neglect. Some cases even entail outright abuse.
State and federal law hold nursing homes to very high standards. If you or your loved one currently resides in a nursing home in Florida, it is important to understand your rights, which may include many different state and federal provisions.
If you suspect that your nursing home is not upholding its duties under the law or is treating your loved one unfairly, you are not alone. Even in the 21st century, this is an astoundingly common problem. Every day, families in Florida are shocked to discover the terrible carelessness and outrageous behavior that are sometimes commonplace in the modern Florida nursing home.
When you need legal advice, be sure it comes from attorneys who have a comprehensive command of the legal complexities surrounding nursing home negligence. The experienced Fort Myers nursing home abuse attorneys at Viles & Beckman, LLC can help.
What Are a Nursing Home Resident’s Rights in Florida?
Florida law gives nursing home residents a number of important legal rights.
If you live in or receive treatment from a nursing facility in Florida, you are generally entitled to all of the following:
- To be treated with dignity
- To maintain privacy
- To receive high-quality, safe, and responsible healthcare
- To manage your own money
- To maintain possession and control of your own property
- To refuse any medications
- To refuse any medical treatments
- To choose your own schedules
- To participate in the social interactions and the activities you enjoy
- To be completely free from physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect
- To be completely free from emotional abuse, harassment, exploitation, and intimidation
- To be completely free from corporal punishment or physical restraint
If you have had any of these rights violated, as so many other nursing home residents have, you may be entitled to substantial financial compensation. Additionally, the nursing home staff members, managers, or residents responsible for your damages may be subject to severe criminal penalties.
At Viles & Beckman, LLC our experienced Fort Myers nursing home abuse attorneys can help you better understand all of your rights under federal and Florida law.
Understanding Nursing Home Negligence
Nursing homes and the professionals they employ can be held liable for any personal injury that you incur as a result of their careless actions, inaction, or any violations of professional standards or of the law.
Common examples of nursing home negligence include:
- Errors in administering medication (underdose, overdose, providing the wrong medication, missed doses, etc.)
- Errors in writing or filling prescriptions
- Dangerous mistakes made during medical procedures
- Failure to carefully follow the orders of a doctor or pharmacist
- Using the wrong route of administration for medications
- Failure to monitor, diagnose, or treat symptoms or warning signs
- Allowing dangerous conditions to exist, such as those leading to a slip and fall or any other injury
- Maintaining inadequate security, leading to criminal activity in the nursing home
- Allowing a resident to aimlessly wander away from the home and become lost
- Permitting access to dangerous or restricted areas
- Failure to promptly seek emergency care
- Failure to address a resident’s reported concerns or any other known problems
- Failure to routinely inspect and patrol the nursing home to identify health and safety concerns
- Serving food that is dangerous, contaminated, expired, or may cause allergic reactions
There many other forms of nursing home negligence. These are but a few of the most common examples. If you suspect that negligence might have played a role in your nursing home experience, please contact Viles & Beckman, LLC right away.
Understanding Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect
The idea of nursing home abuse in the 21st century is so shocking that some people have a hard time believing it. Unfortunately, family members sometimes dismiss their loved ones’ complaints, believing them to be incredulous.
As experienced Fort Myers nursing home abuse attorneys, we are to tell you that nursing home abuse is a very real problem. It happens. Often. Right here in Florida. And the only way to stop it is to take aggressive legal action, potentially involving both criminal and civil law. Our attorneys can help.
Nursing abuse occurs in many forms and may result in severe physical injuries, emotional distress, humiliation, or even death.
Common forms of abuse include:
- Physical assault — Physical abuse can include sexual assault, kicking, hitting, pushing, rough handling, or any other unwanted or offensive physical contact with the resident. Common signs include fractures, falls, bruises, cuts, head injuries, and abnormal wounds or injection sites.
- Neglect of basic care — Neglecting residents who cannot care for themselves is itself a form of abuse. Examples include failure to change bedpans, brush the residents’ teeth, change their diapers or clothes, clean up soiled bedding, wash their hair, or encourage movement to avoid the formation of skin lesions and muscle atrophy. Social isolation is also a form of neglect. Common signs of nursing home neglect include bedsores, poor hygiene, bad breath, loneliness, soiled clothing or linens, and recurrent infections.
- Emotional abuse — Emotional abuse is perhaps the most common kind of nursing home abuse. It may involve intimidating residents, harassing them, verbally taunting or insulting them, communicating threats, isolating residents from the community or from their family members, shouting, using expletives in a hurtful manner, denying residents the activities or hobbies of their choosing, and much more. Look for changes in a resident’s demeanor. Depression, dejectedness, paranoia, isolation, or any other personality shifts may indicate nursing home abuse.
- Financial abuse — Financial exploitation is another surprisingly common form of elder abuse. Dementia patients are especially vulnerable, though any senior can become the victim of financial abuse. Common culprits include nursing home staff members, other residents of the community, third-party visitors, and (sadly) the resident’s own friends, family members, or trusted advisors, including clergy.
Seniors are often reluctant or scared to confess that they have been the victims of abuse. Actively look for warning signs. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. And if you have suspicions, contact us for additional help.
We do not stand for abuse. Our experienced Fort Myers nursing home abuse lawyers can help you stop it. We can even help you find a better home (and more effective care) for your loved one.
Fort Myers Nursing Home Negligence FAQ
Approximately 20 percent of Floridians are aged 65 and older. The number of people over 65 in our state is projected to grow from 4.5 million in 2020 to 6.5 million in 2040. As people age, many of them move to nursing homes. Sadly, however, far too many of Florida’s nursing homes provide inadequate or neglectful care. Here, we provide answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about nursing home negligence in Fort Myers and the surrounding areas.
What is nursing home negligence?
In legal terms, the word “negligence” refers to failing to exercise the standard of care a reasonably prudent person or party would exercise. Negligent parties are liable for injuries or deaths caused by negligent behavior.
Everyone in a nursing home needs dignified and respectful treatment. Their medical needs must be met with a high level of quality. They need to receive adequate help with activities of daily living (ADL), such as walking, dressing, and bathing. The facilities must be clean, well-maintained, and safe. They need to have their personal space, privacy needs, and wishes respected.
Nursing home residents have a right to their own property and possessions. They have the right to choose what activities they find pleasurable and want to engage in.
Any care—or lack of care—that doesn’t conform to these needs and rights may constitute nursing home negligence. If, for example, a nursing home resident needs an assistive device to walk and isn’t routinely provided with one and helped to it if necessary, this could be an example of nursing home negligence. If the resident slips and falls in her room or the hallway, the nursing home may be liable for resulting injuries.
Does nursing home negligence focus on any particular staff behavior?
Many very different actions or lack of action can result in nursing home negligence, so no, it doesn’t center on any particular staff behavior. Any care that does not meet the standard of clean facilities, safe conditions, respectful treatment, and appropriate medical care could qualify.
Some examples follow, but this is by no means an exhaustive list:
- Inadequate inspection and maintenance of facilities, allowing dangerous conditions to exist uncorrected, such as those that could make residents slip and fall or incur any other injury.
- Failure to establish and follow proper procedures for keeping residents free from infectious diseases
- Inadequate cleanliness of facilities.
- Failure to provide comfort, such as assistance in maintaining good hygiene.
- Failure to provide residents with needed assistive devices, such as canes or walkers.
- Failure to supervise patients properly, so they wander off and injure or otherwise harm themselves.
- Failure to address reported concerns or any other known problems.
- Errors in administering medication.
- Errors in writing or filling prescriptions.
- Failure to follow medical requirements, or mixing up medical records.
- Mistakes made during medical procedures.
- Incorrect administration of medication.
- Failure to monitor, diagnose, or treat symptoms.
- Failure to provide adequate security, so that criminal activity occurs in the nursing home.
- Failure to block off access to dangerous or restricted areas.
- Failure to ensure that patients receive adequate food and water.
Who is responsible for nursing home negligence?
Many different parties can bear responsibility for nursing home negligence. Potentially responsible parties include:
- Individual staff members, for failing to discharge their duties properly.
- Nursing home administrators and supervisors, for failing to adequately supervise staff, oversee resident care and life, or implement appropriate training and hiring procedures.
- Medical personnel, for failing to discharge their duties properly.
- Custodial staff, for failing to adequately maintain and repair the facility.
- People who enter from the outside, such as those who intend to engage in criminal activity.
How can I tell if a nursing home is negligent?
Frankly, identifying negligent behavior is difficult, for several reasons, and that’s why you want to call our nursing home lawyers to investigate your case.
- First, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish negligent actions from proper actions, because residents are sometimes ill and encounter challenges in ADL and other activities. Is your loved one not getting better because the medical care is inadequate or negligent, for example, or simply because they have a difficult-to-treat condition? Did you loved one slip and fall in the shower because of negligence, or because older people are prone to slipping in the shower?
- Second, some signs of negligence are very similar to signs of other conditions. If a resident isn’t getting proper care, or isn’t being treated well by a particular staff member, for instance, they may act withdrawn and shut down socially. But these responses can also mean the resident is anxious or depressed for another reason.
That said, there are some elements to look for when attempting to determine whether negligence is at play.
- First, notice whether the nursing home in general, and your loved one’s surroundings in particular, are clean and safe. Floors, hallways, and resident’s rooms should look clean and well maintained. Hallways, rooms, and floors should not contain mops, brooms, buckets, or any other implements that could cause slip and fall or other accidents.
- Second, check your loved one’s hygiene. Are they bathing regularly? Do they look well cared for, with hair washed and brushed? Are their clothes and bed linens clean? Do they have access to water to drink that is in a safe place for them?
- Third, tactfully examine your loved one for signs of harm or neglect, such as bruises, cuts, scars, or bed sores. If your loved one has fallen, they may have bruises (or pain if you touch them in a particular place). If you notice these symptoms, ask what happened.
- Fourth, check your loved one’s medical reports, if available. What conditions does your loved one have, and how are they being treated? Talk to the physicians, the nurses, and the staff. Make sure the prescribed treatment is occurring. Make sure medications are correct, and that your loved one is receiving them as prescribed.
- Fifth, eat with your loved one. Is the food well-prepared, adequate, healthful, and nutritious? If residents have food allergies, do the staff know about and accommodate them? Talk to your loved ones about the food as well. Are they happy with it? Do they have any complaints?
- Sixth, observe interactions between the staff and your loved one. Look for any signs of negligence, such as failing to help your loved one appropriately or inattention to certain needs. Then, observe the personal interactions between your loved one and their caregivers. People who aren’t treated well, or who don’t trust the people around them, often show it by acting differently about the person they do not trust. They may display a difference in tone or other body language. If your loved one appears to experience fear or anxiety around caregivers, this may be cause for alarm. Discuss this with your loved one if you notice it.
- Seventh, if your loved one is injured, suddenly becomes ill, or suffers other harm, check into the cause. Unfortunately, negligent nursing homes may try to protect themselves by providing an untrue explanation. In other words, you might hear that your loved one slipped and fell because she didn’t want to use her cane, when the fall actually occurred because an understaffed facility let her wander off alone.
Many negligent actions can result in harm to elderly residents. Dehydration, for example, can cause older people to become disoriented and agitated. Disrespect of their personal space and wishes, or other threatening behavior can cause them to retreat and become uncommunicative. Failures or errors in medical treatment can cause a sudden worsening of their physical condition.
What should I do if I suspect negligence?
If you suspect negligence is occurring, take steps to address it.
First, if the negligence results in a clear threat to a resident’s life or well-being, remove them from the facility immediately. If it’s an emergency, call 911. Take them to a hospital for treatment, if necessary.
If it’s not an immediate threat, the second step is to take detailed notes about what you see. Write down the evidence of negligence, why you believe it is negligence, and the date and time. If your loved one has physical symptoms, take pictures. Take pictures of any injury or harm, as well. If the issue seems to stem from a specific person or people, document who they are, including their names and positions.
Third, make an appointment with the nursing home administrators to discuss your concerns. Some negligence results from inadequate training, supervision, or staffing. See if the administrators are open to your concerns and dedicated to making the condition right. Discuss specific solutions with them.
Fourth, follow up on the discussion. If the administrator promised your loved one would have a new staff attendant, for example, see whether that person was assigned. Did things improve? If food was a problem, does your loved one feel it improved?
Fifth, if the situation does not improve, be prepared to move your loved one to a different facility.
Finally, if the negligence concerns criminal behavior, do not try to deal with the situation yourself. If outside people, or even staff members, are stealing your loved one’s money, checkbooks, credit cards, or property, for example, that’s a crime. You can document it the same way you would document other negligence, by noting missing items and writing it down. But then, deal with it as you would a crime outside a nursing home: call the police.
Required reporting. Nursing homes are required by the federal government, specifically section 483.12 CFR, to report and investigate all allegations of neglect, abuse, exploitation, or mistreatment. This includes injuries for which the source is not known and misappropriation of a resident’s personal property.
Medical professionals are also required to report abuse caused by negligence. Some nursing journals have argued that nurses are well-positioned to report neglect, as they see patients most frequently.
At times, nursing home negligence can be elder abuse. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes five types of elder abuse:
- Physical abuse – Assaults or active harm, like hitting, scratching, pinching.
- Emotional abuse – Belittling, criticizing, or frightening residents.
- Sexual abuse – Including rape, unwanted touching, or forced watching of sexual activities.
- Neglect – Failure to provide for a resident’s basic needs.
- Financial abuse – Appropriation or misuse of a resident’s assets or property.
Nursing homes are mandated to report instances of abuse to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
Unfortunately, though, nursing home abuse is notoriously underreported. Such reports can impact a nursing home’s reputation, as they are often made public. As a result, nursing homes have an incentive to suppress reports of abuse and to not make CMS reports.
Medical staff may not report abuse because they fear losing their position. Other staff may be reluctant to report out of a similar fear, or fear of reprisal.
Failure to report can also result from poor organization. First, supervisors and medical personnel may not witness negligence or abuse by staff members. Second, staff may not know about the reporting mandate, or be unclear about how to file a report.
If negligence is occurring because of poor organization, staff turnover, or inadequately trained and supervised staff, administrators may choose to focus on fixing these issues rather than reporting.
For all of these reasons, people whose loved ones are in a nursing home should be vigilant about watching for signs of negligence.
What recourse do I have if nursing home negligence harms my loved one?
Anyone who is negligent and harms another person is legally liable for that harm. Nursing home negligence is no exception.
If you suspect that your loved one has been subject to nursing home negligence, it’s prudent to discuss the matter with an attorney. One avenue for recourse is through filing a personal injury lawsuit in civil court.
If you file a suit, your loved one can receive damages for:
- Medical expenses and other economic losses
- Pain and suffering and other noneconomic losses
Keep all of the notes and pictures you compiled when you suspect negligence. If you called law enforcement or spoke to nursing home administrators, keep records of those discussions as well. All of these things constitute evidence for a possible lawsuit.
If you need more information, contact our Fort Myers Nursing Home lawyers today.
Contact the Fort Myers Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys at Viles & Beckman, LLC
If you suspect that you or your loved one has been the victim of nursing home negligence, abuse, or neglect, please do not delay in seeking enforcement of your rights and the financial compensation you are owed. Aggressive legal representation can make all the difference.
Contact us online or call (239) 334-3933 to schedule a free case review with our Fort Myers nursing home abuse lawyers today.
About the Author of this Page: The above information was written or reviewed by one of the attorneys at Viles & Beckman LLC who have a combined experience of nearly 60 years: Marcus Viles, Michael Beckman or Maria Alaimo. The information provided in this article comes from years of experience trying legal cases outside and inside courtrooms throughout Florida along with extensive research.