Everyone deserves dignity and respect, but far too frequently, the elderly receive neglect and abuse instead. When that happens in a south Florida nursing home, concerned family members should arrange to meet with a West Palm Beach nursing home abuse attorney.

Even if no one in your family resides in a nursing home right now, you’ll want to keep reading, because no one knows what tomorrow may bring, and we all need to be prepared.

State and federal laws govern nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Florida. Minimum standards for nursing homes are established by the Federal Medicare Health Insurance Program for the Aged.

Hundreds of licensed nursing homes and several thousand assisted living facilities currently operate in the State of Florida. Many of these facilities provide superlative care to the elderly. However, at some Florida nursing homes, the elderly are abused or neglected.

WHAT LEGAL RECOURSE DO NURSING HOME ABUSE VICTIMS HAVE?

That abuse may be emotional, financial, or physical. However, nursing home abuse victims are legally entitled to relief. Under Florida law, victims may file a lawsuit and seek damages from their abusers – as well as from the owners of nursing homes who hire abusers as employees.

What are the causes of nursing home abuse? If your loved one is a south Florida nursing home resident, what are the signs of neglect and abuse, how can you spot those signs, and what should you do if you find abuse or neglect?

WHY ARE SOME NURSING HOMES UNDERSTAFFED?

If your own elderly loved one is living in a south Florida nursing home, your first step is to make sure that the facility’s staffing is adequate. Some nursing homes simply have not hired the personnel that’s needed.

For several years, Florida nursing homes have been facing a shortage of qualified personnel that severely and negatively impacts the care that is provided to residents. Federal guidelines only require “sufficient” personnel and allow a nursing home’s owners to determine what is sufficient.

Still, Florida nursing homes have a legal responsibility – meaning they are liable – for each resident’s safety and well-being. Along with ensuring that a nursing home is properly staffed, families should also ensure that their loved one is in a nursing home that is properly licensed.

WHAT CONSTITUTES NURSING HOME ABUSE AND HOW CAN IT BE STOPPED?

Families must be vigilant when an elderly relative resides at a nursing home. Speak frequently with the facility’s staff, get to know the families of the other residents, show up without calling ahead, and remain observant for any indications of abuse or neglect.

What constitutes nursing home abuse? Nursing home neglect and abuse may include but are not necessarily limited to:

1. medical negligence and malpractice
2. physical, verbal, or emotional abuse
3. malnutrition and dehydration
4. failure by staff to monitor residents
5. financial exploitation and theft

HOW CAN YOU SPOT ABUSE IN A NURSING HOME?

If your loved one resides in a south Florida nursing home, be alert for these signs of abuse: bruises, bedsores, scratches, cuts, unexpected mood swings, and rapid weight loss. Abuse includes any assault, verbal humiliation, unwarranted restraint, or sexual abuse.

Bedsores are a clear indication that the resident of a nursing home is being neglected. Bedsores are skin lesions which emerge after unrelieved, long-term pressure on bony parts of the body. Such pressure reduces the normal blood flow to those areas, killing the surrounding tissue.

Bedsores may appear almost anywhere on the body, but they most commonly appear on elbows, heels, ankles, the sacrum, and the coccyx (the tailbone).

Bedsores are easily prevented by simply turning residents regularly to ease the pressure on particular spots on the body. Failing to perform this simple procedure is inexcusable and is a clear sign of serious neglect.

WHAT ELSE SHOULD FAMILIES KNOW ABOUT NURSING HOME ABUSE?

In some nursing homes, dental health is also a negligence issue. Residents may suffer cavities, gum disease, cracked teeth, and a range of related dental problems. For the elderly, poor dental care can quickly turn into a serious health issue.

In recent years, the financial exploitation of residents in nursing homes has been rising. This includes stealing jewelry or cash, cashing checks without authorization, forging signatures, and bullying or tricking a resident into signing a contract, will, or another suspicious document.

In the most disturbing abuse incidents, which are quite rare, residents in Florida nursing homes have been assaulted.

In September 2019, for instance, the police in Clearwater arrested a certified nursing assistant who later confessed to battering sexually four elderly women in his care at four different Pinellas County nursing homes over a period of three years.

IF YOU DISCOVER NURSING HOME ABUSE

If you discover any sign of financial exploitation, abuse, or neglect, or should you suspect that your elderly loved one is suffering because of nursing home abuse, it is imperative to act. Schedule a meeting immediately with a West Palm Beach nursing home abuse attorney.

Your attorney will review the details, advise you regarding the best way to move forward, and determine if the police need to become involved. Do not wait to act on a loved one’s behalf. Evidence can deteriorate or disappear, and the memories of any witnesses will fade over time.

Florida has established a two-year statute of limitations – from the discovery date of an abuse incident – for legal action arising from nursing home abuse. If the abuse is not discovered promptly, Florida law lets you file a claim within two years of the discovery.

However, no legal action may commence more than four years after the date of the abuse incident, unless “fraudulent concealment or intentional misrepresentation” prevented the discovery of the abuse, in which case the statute of limitations is six years.

WHAT WILL IT COST TO SEEK JUSTICE FOR YOUR LOVED ONE?

If you believe that a loved one may be at risk in a south Florida nursing home, it will cost you nothing to consult with an injury attorney. If you take legal action, you’ll pay no attorney’s fees until and unless your family is compensated with a jury verdict or an out-of-court settlement.

The right south Florida personal injury lawyer will explain your family’s options and alternatives and will fight for justice on your elderly loved one’s behalf. If nursing home abuse is happening, you will need personalized legal advice and an attorney who knows exactly what steps to take.