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Nursing home patients are among the most vulnerable individuals in our society. Like children in their dependence on others, they cannot fend for themselves and must rely on assistance and care from those around them. This dependency makes them susceptible to abuse and neglect perpetrated by the staff at nursing homes and care facilities.
If you suspect your loved one is being abused or neglected by their caretakers, please call our lawyers in Orlando immediately at (407) 712-7300 to schedule your FREE case evaluation. The law offices of Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter provide excellent legal services to clients in Orlando, Florida and nationwide.
There are many aspects of nursing home abuse and negligence claims and it’s important for you to understand these details of your potential case:
- What is Nursing Home Negligence?
- Signs of Abuse & Neglect
- Malnutrition in Nursing Homes
- Signs of Malnutrition
- Proving Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
- Choosing the Right Nursing Home for Your Loved One
- How Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter Can Help
What Is Nursing Home Negligence?
Nursing home negligence can include emotional abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, as well as the failure to provide proper care for nursing home residents. As a family member of a nursing home patient, you need to be aware of how your loved one is being treated.
While most nursing homes treat their patients with respect, many nursing homes are understaffed or hire inexperienced employees. In some cases, nursing homes actually hire staff who can be abusive to the patients. Regardless of the reasons, when a nursing home fails to provide the care and aid that is expected of them—whether the failure is one of neglect or abuse—the nursing home may be held liable for the consequences.
If your loved one has been harmed by nursing home neglect, you may have a claim against the nursing home itself, administrators and/or individual staff members.
Neglect is failure to provide reasonable care, and includes, but is not limited to, the failure to provide:
- Adequate nutrition
- Adequate fluids
- Medical care
- Assistance with bathing and bathroom needs
- Clothing and shelter
- Protection from safety hazards
In some cases, neglect is intentional. Some nursing home residents are difficult to work with, leading to staff members avoiding them, but this is no excuse for neglect!
In most cases, neglect is the unintentional result of a combination of circumstances including:
- Too few staff members
- Overworked staff
- Poorly trained or under qualified staff
- Residents who isolate themselves
- Residents isolated by staff members
- Residents who are incapable of or afraid to report neglect
The attention you see your loved one getting may be misleading. Nursing home staff will be on their best behavior when you visit, even if your loved one is being neglected when you are not present.
If you suspect nursing home neglect, consider it an emergency. Neglect can cause a resident’s health to decline quickly and irreversibly and may lead to the wrongful death of your loved one. Malnutrition, dehydration, infections and accidents can be deadly for anyone, and are even riskier for a person who is not being closely watched and attended to.
Our lawyers will investigate the nursing home and nursing home staff to determine if you have a viable claim for nursing home abuse or neglect. We will also help you find a new, safe nursing home for your loved one.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect
- Severe weight loss and malnutrition
- Inattentive staff who fail to answer call lights
- Poor hygiene
- Bedsores (medically known as decubitus pressure ulcers)
- Unsanitary facility
- Fractures resulting from falls
- Infections and sepsis
- Bruises and unexplained injuries
- Attacks by staff and other patients
- Theft of personal property
- Lack of communication
- Illegal restraints
- Strange behavioral changes
Malnutrition in Nursing Homes
Malnutrition poses a life-threatening health risk for people of any age, but it can quickly become deadly in the elderly. For residents of nursing homes, malnutrition is often a sign of abuse or neglect. If you notice that your aged family member isn't getting enough to eat or seems to be losing weight, it is imperative to get him or her to safety as soon as possible.
Malnutrition affects the entire body and the brain. The results go beyond weight loss to risk of death from falls and secondary conditions that the body no longer has the strength to fight.
Malnutrition can cause:
- Muscle weakness
- Lowered immunity
- Poor wound healing
Malnutrition can be a normal part of aging, but nursing homes have a responsibility to prevent malnutrition whenever possible, and to inform loved ones of the problem and the cause when it cannot be prevented. Many of the causes of malnutrition can be corrected if the caregivers detect them. Failure to detect and address malnutrition is neglect.
Causes of malnutrition include:
- Dental problems or poor fitting dentures
- Reactions to medications
- Swallowing disorders
- Lack of assistance with eating
- Failure to feed patient
- Mental or emotional abuse
- Inappropriate diet
- Loss of appetite
- Being rushed through meals
- Limited or no access to snacks
Signs of Malnutrition
A trained professional should be able to recognize malnutrition, but loved ones may mistake the signs of malnutrition for the normal effects of aging.
Warning signs of malnutrition include:
- Clothing fitting loosely
- Sunken eyes
- Thinning hair
- Slow wound healing
- Frequent infections
- Skin breaking down
- Frequent falls
- Poor fitting dentures
- Pale skin
- Pale lips and mouth
- Weight loss
How to Prove Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect
There a number of ways to prove your loved one is being abused or neglected in their care facility. A neglect or abuse case typically requires a law enforcement investigation and may also involve the State of Florida Department of Children and Families. Additionally, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration will have to do an investigation of the incidents.
Our lawyers can help you gather the necessary evidence and testimony including:
- Patient records: Investigation into patient records often discovers missing notations, falsified charts and late entries.
- Witness testimony: This can include statements from former employees and family members.
- Photographs: Pictures of any injuries your loved has sustained and the state of the facility during their stay can offer significant proof of abuse and neglect.
For a more in-depth explanation on how to legally prove your loved one has been subject to negligence see: proving nursing home abuse and neglect.
Choosing the Right Nursing Home for Your Loved One
As always, consider the individual needs, preferences and desires of your loved one and evaluate the facility’s ability to meet those requirements. Base your decision on your personal visits and observations, word-of-mouth referrals from friends or other relatives, written materials from the facility owner,and state and federal agency websites such as the Florida Nursing Home Guide and Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website.
The following aspects and questions may guide you in choosing a nursing home for your loved one:
- Location: Visitors are important! Is the facility conveniently located for frequent visits from family and friends?
- Ambience: Is the atmosphere welcoming and attractive?
- Staff: Observe staff interactions with the residents. Do caregivers show respect and a positive attitude toward residents and others?
- Activities: Look over the activity calendar for the week or month and ask about the programs available. Are residents encouraged to participate?
- Religion: Are religious services held on the premises? What individualized arrangements can be made for residents to worship?
- Rooms: Request to visit a typical room and ask these questions:
- Does the living space suit the needs of the resident?
- How are roommates selected?
- How are private items stored or secured?
- What is the policy for residents having a private telephone?
- What is the policy for decorating rooms with personal items?
- Dining: Observe mealtime at the facility:
- How is the menu managed weekly and monthly?
- What arrangements will be made if residents are unable to eat in the dining room?
- What is the practice for special dining or menu requests?
- Are snacks provided?
- Are private dining areas available when family and friends are visiting?
- Care planning:
- How are residents and families encouraged to participate in developing their care plan?
- Does the facility provide services for terminally ill residents and their families?
- What special programs (Alzheimer’s, AIDS, subacute care) does the facility offer?
- Are other medical professionals (dentists, podiatrists, optometrists) available?
- Does the facility have an arrangement with a nearby hospital?
- Will a bed be available after hospitalization?
- How are prescription drugs ordered?
- Are therapy programs provided (physical, occupational, speech, pathologist)?
- Costs: Are all the services the resident requires covered in the basic charge? Request a list of specific services not covered in the basic rate. (Some facilities have schedules covering therapies, beautician services, barbers, specialty foods, personal laundry, etc.)
- Patient Rights/Autonomy:
- What are the patient’s rights and responsibilities?
- When are restraining devices recommended and why?
- Does the facility have a Resident Council?
- Does the facility have a Family Council in which you can participate?
- Licensure and Certification:
- If needed by the resident, is the facility certified to provide Medicare and/or Medicaid coverage?
- Is the latest state survey report available for review?
- Does the facility have a formal quality assurance program?
- Your Role: If you are helping to select a long term care facility for a loved one, are you:
- Involving this person in the process?
- Prepared to ease the resident’s transition to the nursing facility by being with them on admission day and staying several hours to get them settled?
- Ready to visit the resident frequently and encourage friends to make similar visits?
Finally, nursing facilities should try to be like a community where residents can feel comfortable, find familiar faces and build relationships just like they enjoyed in their own homes. By planning ahead, you can ensure that your loved one will be provided with the highest quality of care and quality of life.
How Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter Can Help
Our lawyers at Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter have documented expertise in nursing home abuse and negligence cases. We have been able to achieve verdicts and settlements ranging from several hundred thousand dollars to well over $1 million. We understand how vulnerable nursing home patients are, and we are committed to ensuring that anybody who harms one of our clients pays the price.
We are well known for our dedication to our clients and will aggressively pursue your case to ensure you get justice and due compensation for the pain and suffering your loved one has endured.
If you think your loved one is being subjected to abuse or neglect in their healthcare facility or nursing home, please don’t hesitate to call our lawyers in Orlando at (407) 712-7300 for your FREE consultation. Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter serve clients throughout Florida including Orlando and surrounding areas.