What is Nursing Home Abuse?
Nursing home abuse is a serious problem across the United States, but particularly in the state of Florida, which, as a popular retirement destination, has a substantial in-state elderly population. Recent estimates peg the senior (over 65) population in Florida at 3,993,806, or 19.5 percent of the total population in the state.
As the elderly and the infirm are dependent on others for a significant portion of their daily care, they form a population that is uniquely vulnerable to various forms of abuse, from emotional to physical to financial. Florida takes such abuse seriously, and it gives victims an opportunity to sue and recover damages as compensation for their losses.
If you or a loved one has been abused or neglected in the nursing home context, then we encourage you to contact The Florida Law Group for assistance. Since 1984, we have obtained millions in favorable verdicts and settlements on behalf of our clients, including those who have been harmed by nursing home abuse.
Representing Clients in a Range of Nursing Home Abuse Scenarios
In Florida, licensed nursing home facilities must provide their patients with a reasonable level of care and must take steps to ensure that their patients are not exposed to an unreasonable risk of harm. Failure to adhere to this obligation — for example, by failing to provide a clean bedroom environment, or by failing to provide adequate nutrition to patients — could lead to significant civil liability for nursing home abuse.
Here at The Florida Law Group, our attorneys handle a wide variety of nursing home abuse claims on behalf of victims, including but not limited to those arising from the following instances of abuse:
Bed sores are caused by patient immobility, and they may indicate neglect in the nursing home context. Also known as pressure sores or pressure ulcers, they can develop when a bed-ridden or wheelchair-bound nursing home resident does not shift position — whether on their own or with the assistance of a member of nursing home staff. Sustained pressure is placed on certain areas of the body, potentially leading to the development of a bed sore.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of every ten nursing home residents in the U.S. suffers from bedsores. That said, it is safe to say that a significant number of care taking facilities have failed to provide their patients with the level of care that they deserve.
If you or your loved one has been placed in such a situation, you should not hesitate to call attention to the issue by retaining the help of our Tampa nursing home abuse attorneys at The Florida Law Group. In doing so, you can rest easier knowing that you will have a skilled legal team on your side that is led by a Board Certified Civil Trial Specialist by The National Board of Trial Advocacy.
Understanding How Pressure Sores Develop
When laying in a sedentary position, it is important for an elderly person to exercise frequent mobility. If they are incapable of doing so themselves, it is the responsibility of their caretakers to assist them in relieving this pressure-which can be done by changing positions every 2 hours, if in a bed, or every 15 minutes if in a wheelchair. Another preventative measure that can be taken is to maintain a healthy diet, as malnutrition can also increase one’s risk of developing bed sores.
Sores can develop when pressure builds up in the skin near areas that are close to the bone, such as:
Nursing Home Neglect
When you make the difficult decision to place a loved one in the care of nursing home, you trust that the facility and staff will provide the services and attention that your loved one needs and deserves.
Nursing homes are supposed to be safe and caring places where administrators and staff work to ensure that our loved ones receive the comfort and services they need in order to live with dignity and respect. While many facilities offer a supportive environment where patients are properly cared for and attended to, elderly and disabled individuals in Florida and across the country are particularly vulnerable to nursing home neglect and physical abuse — even though long-term care and skilled nursing facilities are subject to strict licensing programs and regulations at the state and federal levels.
Nursing home neglect is unfortunately common. The sad reality is that far too often nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are mismanaged and cut-corners to save money resulting in harm to their patients. Staff may fail to properly monitor patients in the nursing home facility, or despite being aware of a patient’s food, cleanliness, and other needs, staff may fail to ensure that the patient is given adequate care.
Nursing home neglect is a serious, underreported problem that can cause residents to suffer extreme physical and emotional harm. When the services and attention provided to an elderly or disabled resident fall short, the resident can suffer life-threatening injuries and even wrongful death.
The Florida Law Group works to hold nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities and other long-term care providers accountable for substandard care that causes devastating injuries. Our Florida nursing home neglect lawyers are compassionate professionals who work to protect the rights of patients and pursue fair compensation for victims who have suffered harm at the hands of their caretakers. We appreciate that placing a parent or other family member in a nursing home is never an easy decision, and trusting that your loved one will get the care and attention they need is often the most difficult part of the process. When nursing facilities violate this trust by neglecting their residents, they need to be held fully responsible for their actions.
Substandard Medical Care in Nursing Facilities Can Cause Serious Harm
Individuals in nursing homes have many different types of medical needs and conditions. Many elderly residents suffer memory impairment or dementia and others have serious mobility issues. Other residents have been diagnosed with serious illnesses requiring constant care and attention. Regardless of the reasons for entering a nursing home, residents should be able to expect that the facility will provide an appropriate level of care for their conditions. Unfortunately, this is not always the case—many nursing homes in Florida and across the nation fail to provide adequate care for their residents.
Cases of neglect and abuse involving substandard care by nursing home staff are unfortunately not unusual. When a resident’s medical condition is not properly monitored and treated, the resident can suffer serious and even life-threatening medical conditions. While substandard medical care can take many different forms, some of the most common incidents of inadequate care that can result in harm to the resident include:
- Failure to diagnose and treat infections in a timely manner
- Failure to treat bed sores in a timely manner
- Failure to provide adequate attention to cuts and abrasions
- Failure to properly monitor fluid intake to prevent dehydration and food intake to prevent malnutrition
- Failure to administer medications as prescribed
- Failure to properly monitor residents for adverse reactions to medication
Warning Signs of Nursing Facility Neglect
Because many patients in nursing homes are unable to communicate and express their concerns about possible neglect, it is important to be on the lookout for warning signs that can indicate that a resident is not being properly cared for. These signs may include:
- Withdrawn behavior or other emotional changes
- Poor personal hygiene
- Unsanitary living conditions
- Frequent infections
- Sudden and unexplained weight loss
- Falling incidents
As a resident of a nursing home facility, you should expect nothing less than a reasonable level of care. This may include day-to-day assistance from an attentive caretaker or medical staff, prompt medical treatment, access to properly functioning equipment (i.e. wheelchairs, walkers and bed railings) and an adequate level of supervision.
If you were mistreated by an abusive or negligent staff member, it is imperative that you do not keep this information to yourself-especially if they have directly injured or assaulted you in any way. With the help of our Tampa nursing home abuse lawyers at The Florida Law Group, you can seek compensation for the unjust treatment that you have endured.
This includes suffering a broken bone under any of the following circumstances:
- Aggressive handling by an abusive caretaker
- Falling off of the bed due to inadequate bed railings
- Falling as a result of a broken or old walker
- Walking hazards (wet floors, faulty lighting or debris)
- Over-medicating with drugs that affect motor function
- Diminished mobility through the use of restraints
Take immediate legal action:
Why Broken Bones Are Dangerous for the Elderly
When we are young and careless, minor bumps and bruises are an unavoidable part of life. Fortunately, even a broken bone is relatively easy to treat when our bodies have the capacity to heal quickly. As we get older, however, a broken bone can quickly turn into a life-threatening condition. While the injury itself may not have grave consequences, it is easy for an elderly person to experience a downturn in health when they have been rendered partially or fully immobile.
Broken bones may not only be the result of physical abuse, but they could also indicate an injury that staff ignored. If a broken bone is left untreated, it could make it more difficult for the patient to recover, and it could also lead to long-term functional impairments or a dangerous infection.
Not only could they be at risk of developing bed sores or pressure ulcers if they are forced to remain in a sedentary position, but they may also be susceptible to a greater risk of complications when it comes to repairing the damaged bone. For this reason, it is imperative that even a seemingly minor injury be treated with diligent care.
Deciding to place a loved one in a nursing home is often one of the most difficult decisions that a family has to make. Unfortunately, when a family member’s physical or mental health rapidly deteriorates or a loved one needs extended care after surgery, most people are forced to make a choice on nursing home placement in a very short period of time. While most long-term care facilities strive to provide a safe and nurturing environment, reports of nursing home abuse and neglect are alarmingly high, both in Florida and across the nation. These incidents involve all kinds of abuse and neglect, with some of the most disturbing reports revealing physical abuse of elderly and disabled residents.
The Florida Law Group appreciates just how hard these ordeals can be for both nursing home patients and their families. Our lawyers fully understand the strong feelings of anger and mistrust that our clients have towards the facility and its caregivers. When you work with us, you can trust that a caring Florida elder abuse attorney will help you and your family get the support and compensation you need to begin the healing process.
Physical Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home staff are often overworked and lack the training necessary to adequately respond to the stresses involved in taking care of seniors with significant impairments and other issues. This can lead to physical abuse of certain patients when staff seek a target for their frustrations.
Physical abuse involves a purposeful or intentional act that causes a resident to suffer injuries and harm–such as hitting, shoving, slapping, pushing, pinching or punching. While most physical abuse is committed by nursing home caregivers, residents can also be abused by other residents, visiting family members and other individuals the resident has contact with.
The inappropriate use of restraints is also another form of physical abuse. Although strict regulations govern the use of restraints in a nursing home and other long-term care environments, misuse of restraints is still a common type of abuse. When nursing home staff use restraints just for convenience or to punish a resident, rather than for an appropriate medical reason, residents can suffer serious wrist, hand, leg, and other injuries by trying to free themselves from the constraints.
Patients who are restrained for a long period of time can also suffer muscle atrophy, poor coordination, a decrease in physical functioning, depression and other medical conditions. The Florida Law Group can help you and your family recover from any damages suffered by physical abuse inflicted on a resident in a nursing home.
Signs That a Loved One May Be Suffering Abuse in a Nursing Facility
While nursing home abuse and neglect is not always easy to detect, residents who have been physically abused often show certain physical signs, including:
- Cuts, scratches, and bruises
- Broken bones, sprains and dislocated joints
- Abrasion injuries from straps or ropes
- Cigarette burns, scalding burns, and other burns
- Internal injuries
- Bed Sores
- Hair loss
- Tooth loss
- Sudden and/or unexplained changes in weight
- Poor personal hygiene
Residents who have been subjected to physical elder abuse may also exhibit certain behavioral signs of abuse, such as emotional withdrawal, mood swings, depression, fear around a staff, or agitation.
Dehydration — particularly given Florida’s hot climate — is a serious threat to patients in nursing homes. Patients require close monitoring of their hydration levels to ensure that they are taking in enough liquid throughout the day.
When a loved one can no longer live independently and care for him or herself, family members must make difficult decisions as to how and where their loved one will be looked after. While many people in Florida and across the nation turn to nursing homes and assisted living or other long-term care facilities, it can be tough to find the right place for your loved one. There is a lot to consider when you are placing a parent, grandparent or another family member in the care of someone else. You want to be sure that the facility offers a clean and safe environment and that the staff will give your loved one the comfort, care and support needed to live the best life possible.
Unfortunately, it is a sad reality today that many nursing home residents do not receive proper care and attention and are even the victims of nursing home abuse.
Resident abuse and neglect can take many forms, with dehydration being one of the most common types of abuse associated with nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Like malnutrition, dehydration is a real problem among elderly and disabled residents that can lead to serious complications and even death, particularly the dehydration is frequent or chronic. If a loved one has been harmed by dehydration complications that you suspect were due to abuse or neglect, you need to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer at The Florida Law Group. The Florida nursing home abuse attorneys at our firm will carefully review the situation and assist you through every step of the case. Nursing home abuse and neglect is a serious problem, and we take aggressive action to protect residents and to hold long-term care facilities accountable for their improper conduct.
Symptoms of Dehydration
Dehydration occurs when your body does not receive as much fluid as it needs. When you don’t take in enough of water, your body cannot function properly and can cause a variety of noticeable physical changes. Symptoms of dehydration can range from mild to life-threatening and can include:
- Dry mouth
- Dry skin
- Muscle cramps
- Weakness or sleepiness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Change in urine color (dark yellow)
- Reduced urine output
- Rapid heartbeat/rapid breathing
When dehydration is severe, a nursing home resident can experience organ failure, coma and other very serious complications. If dehydration remains treated for too long, the resident will eventually suffer death.
Nursing homes have a legal duty to provide a safe and healthy environment for their residents, a duty which includes ensuring that their residents receive the proper amount of food and nutrition. Unfortunately, there are many nursing facilities in Florida and across the nation that fail to meet federal and state requirements, causing residents to be put at risk for malnutrition, dehydration, and other serious medical conditions.
Malnutrition, like dehydration, is commonplace in poorly run nursing homes, and it can lead to significant impairments (the cause of which may be quite difficult to identify). Nursing homes cannot neglect to provide nutritionally sufficient food service to patients.
Regardless of whether malnutrition is the result of negligence or outright abuse, nursing homes need to be held legally accountable for the harm suffered by their residents.
If your loved one has suffered from malnutrition in a nursing home, you may have the right to take legal action against the facility and its staff. The Florida Law Group offers free consultations where we will review your case and discuss the appropriate legal course of action. Elderly abuse is a serious problem, and our Florida malnutrition abuse lawyers are committed to stopping it from happening and pursuing justice for those who have suffered.
Signs of Elderly Malnutrition
Malnutrition occurs when a nursing home resident either does not get enough food or is not getting the right foods with the proper amount of nutrients and vitamins. Unfortunately, malnutrition can be hard to detect, particularly when the resident already suffers from communication problems or memory impairment. The signs of malnutrition are not always clear; however, if you suspect neglect or abuse, there are certain symptoms you should be on the lookout for, such as:
- Rapid and unexplained weight loss
- Presence of canker sores in the mouth
- Mouth turning a shade of bright red
- Flaccid muscles and fatigue
- Red, glassy or swollen eyes
- Yellowish tinge to the skin
- Dental problems
Complications Associated With the Lack of Adequate Nutrition
Failure to provide a healthy and nutritious diet can put nursing home residents at risk for serious medical complications and worsening of pre-existing health conditions, including:
- Low blood pressure
- Bed Sores
- Immune system deficiency
- Bone fractures
- Depression and withdrawal
If malnutrition is not properly addressed by the staff and continues for too long, the nursing home resident can even die from malnutrition.
Slip-and-fall incidents can be catastrophic for the elderly, and falls are a common and reoccurring problem among nursing home residents. According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between one half and three-quarters of nursing home residents fall each year, with approximately 1,800 elderly patients dying from fall-related injuries annually.
A minor slip-and-fall can cause spinal injury, or it may even lead to a fracture that is difficult to recover from given the advanced age of the victim. Residents who survive falls frequently suffer head injuries and hip fractures that result in permanent disability. Moreover, patients in these facilities often fall multiple times, with reports finding that the average resident suffers 2.6 falls per year. Nursing homes must therefore be careful to ensure that floors are maintained properly to minimize the risk of harm.
While fall accidents and injuries may be a common occurrence in nursing homes and other types of long term care living environments, The Florida Law Group knows that oftentimes these incidents could have been prevented if the facility had taken appropriate measures to safeguard their patients. When a nursing home resident suffers serious injuries in a fall, we take aggressive action to protect the rights of the victim and his or her family.
Our Florida nursing home fall lawyers handle resident abuse and neglect cases involving serious injuries, fractures and death. We appreciate just how tragic these cases can be and we take aggressive action to hold facilities accountable when a preventable fall occurs.
What Are Some of the Most Common Causes of Resident Falls in Nursing Home Facilities?
Individuals living in nursing homes are susceptible to falls because they are generally older and frailer than elderly adults living in the general community. The CDC explains that these individuals tend to suffer from multiple problematic health conditions, along with memory and thought problems and other general difficulties performing necessary day-to-day activities. While these and many other factors can contribute to falls and injuries, the CDC research revealed that some of the most common causes of resident falls in nursing homes include:
- Problems with walking and muscle weakness
- Dizziness and other side effects associated with medications
- Poor foot care and poorly fitting shoes
- Improper or incorrect use of walking aids
- Wet or slippery floors
- Poor lighting
- Improper bed height
- Wheelchairs that are improperly fitted or maintained
- Other environmental hazards
While some falls are unavoidable, caregivers must take appropriate steps to prevent falling accidents and injuries among their residents. In situations where a resident has been assessed as a high risk for falls, the staff should take appropriate precautions and carefully monitor the patient at all times to prevent falls. If the nursing home facility and staff fail to provide the proper care and attention, resulting in an injured resident from a preventable fall, the nursing home and staff can be held legally accountable for their negligence.
Lack of Care
Nursing home abuse may arise in a situation where there is a generalized “lack of care” on the part of the facility and staff. For example, if a nursing home facility fails to repair its phone lines for months-on-end, this could isolate patients from their families and friends, leading to serious emotional and psychological harm.
Paralysis injuries can arise in a variety of contexts, from slip-and-fall accidents to negligence in moving the patient through the facility (i.e., violently moving the patient off their bed, causing a spinal injury).
At The Florida Law Group, our attorneys are focused on helping the victims of nursing home neglect. Reports of careless, reckless, and even abusive nursing home staff are far too common on the news. When a client comes to us suspecting that a loved one has been seriously harmed in the nursing home environment, we take aggressive action to hold the facility responsible. Our Florida injury attorneys handle all types of nursing home cases, including cases where the abuse and neglect has resulted in fractures, paralysis and other serious injuries.
Patients Can Suffer Fractures and Spinal Cord Injuries While Under the Care of Nursing Home Staff
Falling incidents are among the most common types of accidents occurring in nursing home environments. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1.5 million people aged 65 and older live in nursing homes, and between one-half to three-quarters of these residents suffer falls each year. In about 10 to 20 percent of these falls, residents suffer serious injuries like fractures. While fractures from falls can involve many different types of bones, a fracture of the spinal column can sever the spinal cord causing paralysis. Because elderly patients are often frail and have multiple chronic conditions, nursing home staff must take special care to protect their patients from falls and other accidents.
How Do Paralysis Injuries and Other Fall-Related Accidents Happen in Nursing Homes?
While spinal cord injuries are not a common occurrence in nursing homes environments, paralysis can happen. When healthcare providers are careless or reckless with their care, patients are put at risk for all types of harm. Some examples of neglect and abuse situations that can lead to spinal fractures and paralysis of nursing home patients include:
- Failure to properly assess a patient for falls
- Failure to provide appropriate safeguards to prevent falls
- Failure to respond to patient needs
- Failure to properly monitor and supervise patients
- Mishandling of patients
- Physical abuse of patients
- Slippery floors and other environmental hazards that can lead to slips, trips and falls
- Failure to review medications to identify an increased risk for falls and injuries
- Defective or poorly maintained equipment
- Failure to provide grab bars, raised toilet seats, handrails and other safety equipment
While an elderly nursing home resident does not typically come to mind when you hear about someone taking their own life, depression and suicide are serious problems that can happen at any stage of life. Patients may, in some cases, be driven to suicide by the deeply unsettling nature of their surroundings in a poorly run nursing home. If nursing home staff engaged in a pattern of behavior that contributed significantly to the decision of the patient to commit suicide, then the family members may bring a wrongful death claim for damages.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), suicide ranks as the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, with nearly 45,000 Americans ending their own lives each year. Although in 2016 the highest U.S. suicide rate was among adults between 45 and 54 years of age, AFSP reports that the second highest rate occurred in people who were 85 years of age or older.
Suicide is a health concern that is often overlooked in nursing home environments. While nursing homes are required to evaluate patients for depression and suicidal thoughts, these facilities are often understaffed, and risk assessments many not be conducted properly, if at all. A failure to perform an assessment and/or to take the time to develop an appropriate treatment plan can result in a suicide. The sad reality is that in many instances the suicide could have been prevented if the provider had taken the appropriate steps to identify and address the risks.
If your loved one took their own life or attempted suicide in a nursing home, you need to speak with a Florida elder neglect lawyer. You and your family are living with a nightmare that may have been preventable if the nursing home had taken appropriate measures to protect your loved one. At The Florida Law Group we understand just how tragic these situations can be. Our law firm offers free consultations where you can discuss your case with an attorney experienced in handling nursing home neglect and abuse cases.
Why Do Elderly Patients Living in Nursing Homes Commit Suicide?
Like individuals in the general population, it is often impossible to figure out the reason behind the suicide of a nursing home patient. Oftentimes, there are multiple factors combined that may have led the individual to end his or her own life. Many of the factors that put a person at risk for suicide are the same for elderly nursing home patients. These factors may include:
- Depression and mental illnesses
- Social isolation and feelings of loneliness
- Chronic pain
- Terminal illness
- Functional impairment
- Traumatic experience
- Substance abuse
- History of suicidal behavior
- Suffering a loss or fear of a loss of a loved one
- Feelings of worthlessness or being a burden on others
- Social stressors
- Taking medications associated with increased suicidal thoughts and behaviors
What Can Nursing Homes do to Help Prevent Patient Suicides?
While it can be difficult to determine whether a nursing home patient is contemplating ending his or her own life, there are many steps that a facility can take to help identify and address suicidal thoughts and behaviors among residents. These include:
- Conducting suicide screenings and risk assessments
- Developing appropriate care plans for at risk patients
- Providing suicide training and educational programs for staff members
- Ensuring that the facility has appropriate staffing levels
- Developing communication protocols and procedures among staff, physicians, mental health practitioners and other health care providers
- Monitoring patients who may be at risk for suicide
- Establishing protocols for responding to patient suicide attempts
- Providing group activities and other programs to help address social isolation among residents
Assault and Battery
Even though no one ever likes to think about a parent, grandparent or other loved one being harmed in a nursing home, elder abuse is a serious and underreported problem in our nation’s long-term care facilities. While elder abuse can take different forms, physical assault and battery is one of the most troubling and alarming types of abuse that can take place in a nursing home environment. Nursing home staff are most often the perpetrators of assault and battery, but residents can also be harmed by fellow patients, family members, and other individuals that come into the facility.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of physical abuse in a long-term care environment, you need to discuss your case with an attorney experienced in handling abuse and neglect cases. Patients may have a legitimate civil assault and battery claim against those who physically abuse them, and even against those who attempt or threaten to do so.
The Florida elder abuse lawyers at our firm understand just how disturbing these cases can be and we will do everything we can to ensure that the responsible parties are held accountable for their actions.
What Is Assault and Battery in Nursing Homes?
In the state of Florida, assault generally refers to the intentional, unlawful threat of violence against someone that creates a well-founded fear in such person that the violence is imminent. A battery is the actual and intentional unwanted touching of another that typically causes bodily injury. In a nursing home environment, assault and battery against a resident can take many different forms, including:
- Improper use of restraints or confinement
- Rape and sexual assault
Warning Signs of Physical Abuse
Unfortunately, physical assault and battery of nursing home residents is often hard to detect and can be easily hidden by staff. Oftentimes, caregivers will try to explain away signs of abuse as being due to the resident’s medical condition, frailty or mental deterioration. While assault and battery are not always easy to recognize, if you are concerned about potential abuse, there are some warning signs that you should be on the lookout for:
- Unexplained bruises, cuts and scars
- Broken bones
- Dislocations and sprains
- Rope marks and other signs of being restrained
- Reluctance to talk when staff is in the room
- Sudden or unusual changes in behavior
- Wanting to be isolated from other residents
- Staff refusing to allow the resident to see family members and other visitors
- Unexplained death
Sepsis and Infections
When you place a parent, grandparent, or other loved one in a nursing home, you want to make sure that the facility is providing the best possible care. Unfortunately, residents in nursing homes do not always get the care and attention they need. When facilities fail to properly monitor and treat the residents under their care, residents can suffer severe infections like sepsis. Sepsis is a very dangerous health condition that can result in catastrophic injuries and even death.
At The Florida Law Group, we understand just how difficult it can be to entrust the care of your loved one to a nursing home or other long-term care provider. We know that that you are counting on these facilities to provide your loved one with a safe and supportive environment. When nursing homes fail in this duty and neglect or abuse their residents, they need to be held fully accountable for their actions. If you or a loved one were diagnosed with and suffered from sepsis while under the care of a nursing home facility, you need to speak with an elder abuse attorney immediately. The Florida sepsis lawyers at our firm will carefully review your case and explain all courses of action that may be available to you.
What Is Sepsis?
Sepsis, sometimes called septicemia or blood poisoning, is an extreme immune response to a bacterial or other infection that has entered your blood. When an infection is present in your blood, your body will release chemicals into the bloodstream to fight the infection. These chemicals can trigger widespread inflammation, which may slow your blood flow and damage multiple organ systems. A person who develops sepsis needs to receive immediate medical attention because, if sepsis progresses to its later stages (severe sepsis or septic shock), the condition can lead to death. While anyone can develop sepsis, the condition occurs more often in the elderly and individuals with weakened immune systems.
How Is Sepsis Diagnosed?
Sepsis is generally viewed as a three-stage syndrome: sepsis, severe sepsis, and septic shock. Signs and symptoms that should put nursing home staff on alert include:
- Fever above 101°F
- Very low body temperature (below 96.8°F)
- Rapid heart rate
- Rapid respiratory rate
- Decreased urine output
- Decreased platelet count
- Nausea and vomiting
Because sepsis is so dangerous in elderly nursing home patients, nursing home staff must carefully monitor their patients and properly attend to any infection that could enter the bloodstream such as skin infections and bedsores, and infections caused by IVs, catheters and feeding tubes. Infections are common in poorly run facilities, where the floors, beds, and equipment are not adequately cleaned on a regular basis and expose the patient to contaminated surfaces. When a nursing home provider fails to take proper steps to control infection, or sepsis goes undiagnosed or untreated for too long and a resident suffers severe complications, the facility can be held liable for negligence.
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are supposed to provide clean and safe environments where residents can get the care and professional assistance they need. Sadly, unsanitary conditions can be avoided quite easily, but too many nursing home facilities are cheap and engage the bare minimum level of cleaning service personnel to maintain the facility—putting residents at risk for infections and other harms.
Unsanitary conditions can lead to a number of health issues. When a nursing home fails to do its job and a resident sustains injuries, the facility can be held legally liable for the harm suffered.
At The Florida Law Group, we know that while many nursing homes and assisted living facilities offer safe and nurturing environments for their residents, there are facilities in Florida and across the nation that are not providing proper care. Our Florida nursing home neglect attorneys recognize that this type of elder abuse and neglect is a serious problem that must be identified and addressed.
Facilities Have a Legal Duty to Provide a Safe and Sanitary Environment
Like most states, Florida has specific laws in place to protect nursing home residents. Florida Statutes Social Welfare § 429.28 is titled the “Residents Bill of Rights.” This statute enumerates certain rights of residents in assisted living facilities, which includes the right to “live in a safe and decent living environment, free from abuse and neglect.” When a facility violates a resident’s rights by failing to provide a clean and safe environment and the resident is harmed as a result, a civil cause of action may be brought against the facility.
To succeed in a negligence or violation of a resident’s rights claim, the plaintiff will need to prove the following four elements:
- The facility or individual owed a duty to the resident
- The facility or individual breached the duty owed to the resident
- The breach is the legal cause of the damages suffered
- The resident sustained damages
If your loved one contracted an infection or suffered another type of harm while living in facility where the conditions were unsanitary, you may be able to file a civil suit against the facility. Some conditions that you may have observed include:
- Unclean floors
- Dirty bathrooms
- Strong odor of urine or feces
- Dirty bed linens
- Unclean clothes
- Presence of mice and insect infestations
- Failure of nursing home staff to wash their hands
- Failure to regularly bathe residents
- Unsanitary conditions in the food preparation and serving areas
Because illnesses are more likely to spread among elderly residents who may have compromised immune systems and other medical problems, nursing homes must be vigilant in providing a clean and sanitary environment. If you encounter dirty or dangerous conditions in a facility, you should speak to the nursing home administrator immediately.
If the facility fails to correct the problem after being given notice and/or you believe that a loved one has contracted an illness or suffered any other type of harm due to poor hygiene or an unsanitary environment, you need to talk with a nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer who can help you identify the right course of legal action in Florida.
While cases of physical abuse in nursing homes are unfortunately common in the news, emotional abuse is another form of elderly abuse that often goes undetected and unreported. Just like physical abuse, patients who are emotionally abused in nursing homes and assisted living centers can suffer real, long-lasting effects to both their physical and mental health.
Staff may emotionally abuse patients for no reason at all, or even to punish a patient who they believe is “difficult” or is otherwise making their work more tedious in some way (i.e., a staff member might emotionally abuse a patient who must be monitored every hour).
If you suspect that a loved one is being emotionally abused in a nursing home environment, The Florida Law Group can help. Our Florida elder abuse lawyers will meet with you free of charge to discuss the situation and help you determine the best way to protect your loved one’s emotional well-being.
Signs That Nursing Home Resident Is Being Emotionally Abused
Unlike physical abuse where patients often exhibit outward signs, such as broken bones, cuts, scratches and bruising, emotional or psychological abuse can be hard to detect. Emotional abuse can take many different forms, including isolation, intimidation, humiliation, and ridicule. It can also involve rejecting or ignoring a resident, blaming the resident for things that are not his or her fault and even terrorizing the resident.
If you are concerned about psychological abuse in a nursing home environment, there are signs and indicators that you should be on the lookout for. Victims of this type of abuse often exhibit changes in behavior, including:
- Withdrawal from the nursing home environment
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Sudden changes in mood
- Lack of confidence or low self-esteem
- Physical outbursts and aggression
- Out of the ordinary or excessive crying
- Sudden changes in eating or sleeping habits
Emotional abuse is a very serious and real problem that can impact your quality of life and how long you will live. No one, especially vulnerable, elderly patients, should ever be abused or neglected by the very people who are supposed to care for and support them. If you suspect that a nursing home facility or staff member is mistreating a parent, spouse, grandparent, or other family members, you need to speak up. An attorney at our firm will evaluate your situation and help you take appropriate action to stop the abuse and make sure your loved one is protected.
While nursing home neglect and abuse can take many forms, nothing is more disturbing and horrific than the sexual assault of nursing home patients. Sexual abuse is, horrifyingly, a systemic issue in nursing home facilities throughout the state. Nursing home facilities that fail to create a safe environment and that hire staff who engage in sexual abuse may be held liable for the damages, depending on the circumstances.
Elderly and disabled nursing home residents are among the most vulnerable members of our society. Often, they are frail and dependent on others to take care of their daily needs. Many suffer from dementia and other medical conditions that prevent them from effectively communicating and reporting abuse.
While no one wants to think about sexual abuse in nursing homes, the sad reality is that sexual assaults and molestation of patients are not uncommon occurrences. In many cases, this type of abuse remains hidden and is never reported. At The Florida Law Group we believe that sexual assaults in nursing homes should never happen. When you entrust your loved one’s health and wellbeing to a nursing home or assisted living facility, you should be able to expect that the facility and staff will protect your loved one from harm. When facilities fail to live up to their responsibilities and obligations, our Florida nursing home sexual abuse lawyers will do everything they can to make sure your loved one gets the protection and justice he or she deserves.
Warning Signs of Nursing Home Sexual Abuse
Although nursing home patients cannot always speak for themselves, there are certain warning signs that may indicate a patient is being sexually abused. These signs may include:
- Unexplained blood stains on bed sheets and clothing
- Unexplained bruising around genital areas, inner thighs, breasts and buttocks
- Torn, stained or bloody underwear
- Unexplained STDs or other genital infections
- Unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding or irritation
- Fear of being alone with caretakers
- Fear of other residents
- Problems with walking or sitting
- Inappropriate or unusual behaviors, including sexual activities
- Withdrawal from the nursing home community
If you have a loved one who is showing signs of sexual abuse, you should seek help from an attorney experienced in handling nursing home neglect and abuse causes. A knowledgeable attorney can advise you of your options and help you take the rights steps to protect your loved one and hold the responsible parties accountable.
Especially in the isolating context of nursing homes, the elderly are particularly vulnerable to financial fraud—that is why financial abuse of nursing home residents is a serious problem in Florida and across the country.
Elderly patients living in nursing homes and assisted care factifies are often easy targets for financial exploitation. In some cases, staff members may become close to patients in an effort to have the patient include them in their wills or to obtain funds directly as gifts for their service. Oftentimes these residents suffer from dementia and other conditions and may not be aware that abuse is happening. Even patients who do suspect that they are victims of financial fraud may be afraid to report the problem or think they won’t be believed.
If you believe that you or a loved one has been the victim of nursing home financial fraud, it is important to speak up and take action. Financial fraud can involve complex scams that are hard to detect, so it is best to work with an experienced Florida financial elder abuse attorney who can investigate the situation and help you take the right legal steps. Our lawyers are skilled professionals who know how to uncover and combat financial abuse in nursing homes. We offer free consultations where you can discuss your concerns with an attorney experienced in helping people who have been victimized by financial fraud and deception.
Red Flags of Financial Abuse in Nursing Homes
Financial scams and abuse in the nursing home environment can take many different forms, from stealing a resident’s money and possessions to forging signatures on legal documents and cashing checks without permission. While it can be difficult to recognize when a loved one is being victimized, there are some warning signs that you can be on the lookout for:
- Cash and other items missing from the resident’s room
- Abrupt bank withdrawals and/or transfers of money
- Adding additional authorized users to a bank account or credit card
- Sudden changes in wills, trusts, powers of attorneys, deeds and other legal documents
- Unexplained withdrawals from a bank account when a resident is unable to leave the facility to get to an ATM
In addition to these types of financial abuse, health care fraud is another alarming problem in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Healthcare fraud can involve many different unethical and illegal activities on the part of providers, from falsifying patient information to overcharging and billing for services that were never rendered. If you suspect that a facility or provider is manipulating the system to get additional or inflated payments from the government or insurance carriers, we can help. Our lawyers will carefully assess the evidence and help you determine the appropriate course of action.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Experienced Tampa Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys
Every case is different, and this may lead to significantly different damage totals depending on the losses actually suffered by the plaintiff and the nature of the violation committed by the defendant. If you have been physically abused or intentionally malnourished by your caretaker in a nursing home setting, for example, then the court may choose to award bonus punitive damages that could multiply your compensatory damages total and lead to an even greater financial recovery.
At The Florida Law Group, our attorneys have extensive experience representing the interests of those who have been injured, emotionally manipulated, or financially harmed while being cared for in a nursing home, or those who have otherwise had their rights violated by the facility and/or staff.
We are a fundamentally client-oriented firm. Unlike many of our competitors, we are committed to the provision of personalized legal service in which we work collaboratively with our clients at every stage of the litigation process. This approach enables us to tailor our advocacy to the particularities of a given case.