Elder abuse goes under-reported at an alarming rate. Fortunately, it may not be that way for long. One study found an increasing trend in the number of reported elder abuse cases, and as the population in the United States continues to age, learning how to recognize and prevent cases of abuse is going to become absolutely essential.
It’s important to remember, though, that abuse in nursing homes still can, and often does, happen. What do you need to know to protect your loved ones or yourself?
What Should You Do About Suspected Abuse in Nursing Homes?
If you believe your loved one may be a victim of abuse in nursing homes or neglect, the situation should be handled quickly. Signs of physical abuse include bruises, scars, or unexplained injuries. Failure to be given medications properly is also abuse, as are signs of restraint or broken hearing aids and eyeglasses.
Emotional abuse may be marked by unusual behavior by an older person like rocking behaviors or even sucking their thumb. Signs of neglect often include lack of bathing, soiled bed clothing, and bugs.
Sexual abuse also happens in nursing homes, and those signs can include bruising and unexplained bleeding. Sometimes the victims can’t talk about the abuse either because of the emotional damage or because they were nonverbal at the outset. That’s why noticing signs and addressing the matter immediately is a must.
Start by contacting the administration of the facility and say you’d like to make a formal complaint. Request an investigation. That will give the facility time to look into the abuse. Without this complaint, it’s hard to move forward in any meaningful manner.
If physical or sexual abuse is involved, contact law enforcement immediately. As with any other Florida resident, law enforcement must be notified in the event that an assault occurs to ensure safety for the injured party.
If, after you’ve confronted the facility, the resolution is unsatisfactory, talk with a nursing home attorney so you can decide on the right course of action for you and your loved one. An experienced attorney will help guide you in terms of which state agencies to notify and how to move forward. There are often multiple legal options to consider that will help to put an end to the abuse your loved one is suffering.
Keep in mind that residents in nursing homes do have rights guaranteed by law. If there are any unreasonable personal or civil restraints, the nursing home is responsible for making that right.
They can’t be forced to submit to the medical treatment they don’t want, including medications they don’t want to take. They should also be able to send and receive mail in an uncensored fashion, be able to have visitors in an unrestricted manner and be able to present their concerns without the fear of reprisal.
Anything that occurs outside of those boundaries is abuse.
What Are the Legal Penalties for Abuse in Nursing Homes?
In the state of Florida, there are both legal and civil ramifications in nursing home abuse cases. Victims may hire a private attorney to file a civil suit. Once that action is taken, adult protective services have the right to investigate and fine an employee or an entire institution for their abuse or neglect of a resident. Criminal prosecution can also occur in the event malicious or intentional conduct was involved.
Florida nursing homes are regulated both by the state and federal authorities. The Florida Department of Health and the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration are responsible within the state, but at the federal level, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services regulate these facilities as well.
In the event one of them violates regulations, a fine can be levied, new supervisors may be appointed, and ultimately, a nursing home’s license may be suspended.
What Is Required to Sue?
The presence of misconduct is the only thing required to sue a nursing home. Even if the resident does not have a contract with the care facility, they can sue for misconduct or negligence. In the event of wrongful death, their dependents can sue the facility.
There is, however, a statute of limitations on these cases. Florida law currently gives victims two years from the date of the original incident or two years from the time the incident is discovered to file a lawsuit. That, however, can change if the facility fraudulently concealed the abuse or the abuse was intentionally misrepresented.
How Long Does a Lawsuit Take?
A nursing home abuse lawsuit is much like any other case, as it depends entirely on the circumstances taking the case. Often it can take several months for a nursing home negligence lawsuit settlements to appear.
Because nursing home abuse cases usually involve medical records, financial statements, and obtaining proof the staff was negligent, they take time. The goal is usually to work with the home to come up with a settlement that is fair to the resident in as little time as possible. An experienced attorney, however, can help make the process a bit faster.
Finding the Right Attorney
Often nursing home abuse cases do require an attorney, and in cases like these, we can help. It’s essential that you choose a team that has specialized lawyers on staff who are experts in the laws surrounding Florida nursing homes. Moreover, the team you choose should know how to litigate complaints against nursing homes or individual staff members so you can get fast results for your loved one.
Nursing home abuse cases aren’t routine for many attorneys, so it’s absolutely critical you choose a team that has the experience needed to get fair nursing home negligence lawsuit settlements.
Residents in nursing homes are among the most vulnerable of populations; we are committed to protecting their rights, their safety, to the fullest extent of the law.