Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

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They’re questions that many of us wonder. What if our loved ones need medical assistance and no one’s there? What if they slip and fall? What if they slip into a fog of dementia? They’re common questions asked about our elderly loved ones. In many cases, thousands of miles separate us from our loved ones. As residents are ready to retire, a number of them make their way to Florida to enjoy some much-deserved time off and retirement. With the lack of supervision, many younger relatives worry about injury in West Palm Beach and elsewhere as a result of old age and deteriorating abilities.

According to FOX News, the number of seniors is quickly growing and many are struggling to care for an ailing loved one from thousands of miles away. For this reason, it’s important to stay well-informed about your elderly loved ones health status. When it’s time to place them into a nursing home or an assisted living center, it’s important to pick one that can adequately care for your family member when you’re not there to do so yourself.

Our West Palm Beach nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys understand that nearly 10 million Americans are long-distance caregivers. Over the next forty years, the number of people over the age of 64 is expected to increase rapidly while the number of people under the age of 21 is expected to remain steady. What this means is that there will be a smaller number of people between the ages of 20- and 64-years-old who will be responsible for looking after the growing elderly population.

“You just want to be in two places at once,” said Kay Branch from Anchorage, Alaska who looks after her parents who live in Lakeland, nearly 4,000 miles away.

Nowadays, a lot of long-distance caregivers are relying on video chats to check in on their loved ones, but you can’t video chat all day every day. When you feel that your loved one is at risk for injuring themselves or for wandering off, it’s important to find them a nursing home that they can feel comfortable at and that they can call home.

Florida Nursing Home Facts:

-Florida is the home of many nursing home residents because of the favorable tax laws for senior citizens.

-In 2006, Florida was ranked as the top state to retire by Money Magazine.

-Florida has the largest senior population in the country.

-Florida has low sales tax, no income tax, tax exemptions for residents and numerous popular communities, making the state quite appealing for seniors.

Families are urged to visit the OurParents website to look at nursing home facilities throughout the state when considering a home for your loved one. You want to make sure that these facilities provide adequate care, have passed health inspections and have a minimal amount of complaints filed. It’s important to choose a home with a positive reputation that both you and your elderly family member approves of.
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The news of more cuts being made in Florida nursing homes has our nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers in Pompano Beach and elsewhere in South Florida concerned about the impact this will have on elder care in long-term facilities. It is important that elders get the quality care and one-on-one contact they deserve, but the state is making it difficult to ensure they get treatment and rehabilitation. Moving forward, it looks like it will be up to ordinary citizens to police the system and identify problems with abuse and neglect in Coral Springs nursing homes or long-term care facilities throughout the state.

We posted previously on our South Florida Injury Lawyers Blog about state cuts that would ultimately affect the care given to our elders. Recent cuts involved slashing Medicaid dollars and short-staffing facilities by 18 minutes per resident per day.

Our concerns for abuse and neglect continue to grow as Gather News reported that October cuts to Medicaid payments will leave many Florida nursing homes unable to maintain current payroll expenses. Facilities are already short staffed but the Medicare payment to long-term care or rehabilitation facilities will be cut by 11.4 percent and Medicaid will be cut by 6.5 percent. Cuts as substantial as this will force facilities to lay off staff and take away services like housekeeping offered to the residents. Most people who live in these homes can’t take care of themselves, let alone clean their room or wash their sheets.

Amenities and extra comforts given to patients will be few and far between. Things like group therapy or cognitive therapy will be done away with because the staffing is not there. Bed space will be limited at hospitals because they will be forced to keep patients longer since there is no room for them at a long-term care facility, which leaves new patients who are extremely ill with no place to go.

With more demands being made on the few staff that still exists at nursing homes, it is probable that quality care will diminish. It is important to be vigilant about making sure your loved one is not abused or neglected while staying at a nursing home or long-term care facility.

Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Resource Center offers these signs and symptoms to look for:

-Staff fails to prevent malnutrition or dehydration.

-Resident lives in unclean and unsanitary conditions.

-Staff fails to administer proper doses of medications or assist in personal hygiene.

-Resident develops infections or bed sores.

-Witness staff assaulting, pushing, grabbing or shaking a patient or restraining the resident unreasonably.

-Notice signs of sexual assault or battery.

-Awareness of a developed condition or bruising that the staff doesn’t acknowledge or seem concerned about.

-Resident is withdrawn, agitated or exhibiting strange behavior like rocking or biting.

-An inexplicable illness or injury occurs that requires immediate hospitalization.

-Resident is highly sedated with no explanation given to the family.

Family members need to ensure their loved one’s don’t become victims of neglect or violence in the place they should feel the safest.
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As a former hospital CEO, Governor Rick Scott doesn’t see through the looking glass from the perspective of a nursing home resident who relies on Medicaid and around-the-clock care to get through the day.

Fort Lauderdale nursing home neglect lawyers know that the recent cuts made by Governor Scott will have an adverse effect on nursing home residents and will undoubtedly change the quality of care they receive. The upshot is an increased risk of West Palm Beach nursing home abuse cases.

For-profit nursing homes have become a big business industry and we all know that big business only cares about making money. A former nursing home ombudsman was recently relieved of his duties for investigating ownership of almost 700 facilities.

The Miami Herald reports that the nursing home advocate has filed a whistleblower lawsuit claiming he was forced to resign after he sent letters out to nursing homes throughout the state trying to determine who owns what facilities. He hasn’t requested reinstatement of his position in the suit but he is asking for over $15,000 in damages related to embarrassment and emotional anguish and distress. An investigation has been launched by the federal Administration on Aging.

A recent U.S. Government Accountability Office nursing home study revealed that for-profit nursing homes are sub-par in performance when compared to non-profit facilities.

For-profit homes comprise over two-thirds of nursing homes nationwide and are often operated by private investment firms or publicly traded companies. Private investment firms are apt to spend more money on manicuring a facility to improve the attractiveness, which doesn’t mean that they give better care once they coerce you to signing on the dotted line.

Make no mistake about it: Our elderly loved ones are at risk in nursing home environments throughout the state. A recent article in Reuters offers a few suggestions to help you in your nursing home search.

-Start your search with a helpful website, Nursing Home Compare, which is offered by Medicare and rates nursing homes based on geographic location. It will rate a nursing home on things like fire safety inspections or health evaluations.

-After determining which homes make the cut, schedule an appointment with each facility which includes a sit down meal. Observe the nurse interaction with patients, facility cleanliness, rate the food, and ask questions that concern you. It doesn’t hurt to schedule two or three appointments at different hours of the day to get an overall view of the facility and how it is managed.

-Make a surprise visit to the nursing home before you commit to your elder to residing there. Unannounced visits are typically the most informative. Make note of how issues are resolved.

Some consumers pick a nursing home based on convenience or location. For-profit homes tend to cut corners by hiring less qualified staff or fewer nurses to care for our loved ones. Quality staffing is what keeps a nursing home running and should never be overlooked when choosing a nursing home facility. Managed care should not mean that nurses over-drug patients, or leave residents soiled so that more patients can be tended to in a work shift.

Make your loved one a priority even after you find a home by continually monitoring the care being given to them in order to reduce the risk of neglect or abuse.
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The recent decision of Florida’s Legislative Budget Committee to reject federal Money Follows the Person (MFP) dollars is an outrage to nursing home residents and their families.

“What are Florida policymakers doing to help protect nursing home residents,” writes Brian Lee in The Gainesville Sun. He is the Executive Director of Families for Better Care, a citizen support group dedicated to quality nursing home care.

Our West Palm Beach personal injury lawyers and Fort Lauderdale elder abuse attorneys are equally concerned about the decisions policymakers are making regarding our elderly population.

Governor Rick Scott and the Legislature recently approved a budget that cut Medicaid dollars for resident care and decreased direct care staffing hours by 18 minutes per resident per day. This is huge for residents who require complete support from their caregivers.

Recent studies on staffing at nursing homes reveal that quality and quantity of staff directly effects care given to residents. This comes as no surprise to families, residents and advocates who have known this fact for years. It seems obvious that decreasing nursing home staff will endanger residents.

The federal government set aside over $2 billion for the Money Follows the Person initiative through the Affordable Care Act to allow nursing home residents who receive Medicaid to have the choice to actually pick where they want to live; either in an assisted living facility, in a nursing home or at home with assistance.

To date, 43 states and the District of Columbia have engaged in various MFP projects making the initiative prominent for increasing service options to consumers. The program permits long-term care to be changed from provider-driven to a “person-centered” model. This is the exact opposite of Florida’s proposed Medicaid managed care plan that would force residents into health management organizations with very few available options.

Most nursing home residents, when asked, would prefer to live at home. The only issue with them staying at home is a need for funding and an organized structure to support their health care requirements. How sad is it that the federal government wants to write Florida a huge check for almost $36 million but our elected officials have said “no thanks”.

These officials claim that the funding will only last through 2016 and the state might have to pick up the tab later. While that may be true, there is an option to ask for unused federal dollars that could be utilized until 2020. Don’t these law makers understand that hundreds, maybe even thousands of nursing home residents no longer have the option to seek health care outside of a nursing home because of their decision?

Florida not only turned its nose up to nearly $36 million it also gave up a sizable amount of unrealized Medicaid savings. In Florida, the average annual cost of nursing home care is $76,777, assisted living facility care is $31,950 and in home health care costs average about $40,000. This means two people could be cared for outside of a nursing home for the cost of one inside a nursing home facility.

Taxpayer savings coupled with a higher quality of life for residents, the Money Follows the Person plan appears to be a win-win for everyone! But whenever there is a winner there is a loser, and the losers in this deal could be the nursing home industry and the insurance companies.

Collection revenues for nursing homes could suffer with lower occupancy rates and the select insurance companies privy to be a part of the managed care plan group would encounter additional competition from alternative care options for residents. This would be a good thing for consumers as it drives down costs and boosts service delivery.

So Legislative Budget Committee, Florida Legislature and Governor Scott, reconsider your decision and accept the MFP funds, perhaps using these savings to restore staffing ratios in nursing homes and preserving quality care.
Brian Lee, Executive Director of Families for Better Care, a citizen advocacy organization dedicated to quality nursing home care.
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West Palm Beach nursing home neglect lawyers know the stress a family goes through when they discover their parent or loved one is being neglected or abused in a nursing home or assisted living facility. We expect elder care facilities to treat our elders as if they were their own relatives, but the reality is nursing home abuse and neglect in Miami and elsewhere occurs more frequently than we like to think. If you suspect abuse or neglect at a nursing home, the advice of a legal professional can help you sort out the appropriate steps to take in order to prevent further injury or abuse in the future.

It doesn’t appear we can any longer count on state lawmakers to protect our elders, according to a recent article in Orlando Sentinel. The state is cutting back on requirements for the nursing home industry, which include less staffing and doing away with watchdog programs. Watchdogs are the only voices that speak up on behalf of elders who are abused and neglected, so taking them away will be detrimental. The head of the watchdog program was recently let go by our elected governor after reporting several incidents of neglect and hygiene deficiencies in facilities throughout the state.

The watchdog program has proven highly effective and cost-efficient in the last couple of years. More than 400 volunteers would go out to nursing homes and assisted living facilities to investigate on behalf of the senior citizens who reside at them. The program conducted more than 9,000 investigations, a record high in one year, and received a 98-percent satisfaction rating.

As we posted previously on our South Florida Injury Lawyers Blog, nursing homes and
elder care facilities are one of the most profitable industries in the state due to the high number of older adults who end up moving there when they can no longer take care of themselves. Members in the industry are looking to cut corners at the expense of the elders who can’t defend themselves or who are too scared to speak up. The nursing home industry has become big business with the top five chains controlling more than 200,000 beds in thousands of facilities throughout the U.S.

Choosing the right elder care facility can be a difficult process for both you and your loved one. The following are some tips that could help you make the right decision:

-Visit as a resource for finding the right home, compare different facilities and print off a checklist to assure nursing homes you visit are of good quality.

-Make arrangements to visit several nursing homes in order to get a feel for their cleanliness, caretakers, personalities and living environment.

-Ask a lot of questions, especially if your elderly loved one has specific needs.

-Discuss the facilities with your loved one after you visit to get his or her opinion on which one they liked best. It is important that you and your loved one agree and both feel good about which facility they will live in.
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Giant nursing home corporations continue to remain wildly profitable and wildly popular with investors, even as health and welfare advocates voice concerns about the profit motive behind the nation’s elder care and the risks of neglect and abuse.

Our Fort Lauderdale nursing home neglect lawyers and West Palm Beach elder abuse attorneys are concerned about the quality of care afforded by mega corporations behind most of the nation’s nursing homes.

As the Los Angeles Times recently reported, the biggest private equity deal of 2010 went down in December when a Long Beach investment trust announced it would pay $6.1 billion to buy the real estate assets of HCR ManorCare Inc., one of the nation’s nursing home giants.

ManorCare is the nation’s fourth-largest chain. Based in Toledo, Ohio, it has 338 homes in 30 states, including Florida. The Times reports there have been 40 buyouts of nursing homes in the last 4 years, totaling more than $20 billion. The enthusiasm of Wall Street is expected to continue with the aging of the baby boomers.

Together, the top-five chains control more than 200,000 of the nation’s nursing home beds. Nationwide, more than half of the country’s 17,000 nursing facilities are part of a large chain and two-thirds are operated as for-profit companies.

As we enter a new year, many families will be facing the need to select a home for an aging loved one. In other cases, visiting family members should remain vigilant in making sure a family member is receiving proper care.

A list of nursing homes on the watch list of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration is available here.

Florida nursing home guide is available here.
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As we gather together for the holidays, many of us will make at least one trip to a local nursing home to visit a loved one. In other cases, a holiday gathering will make evident the looming need to select a nursing home to care for an aging parent or relative.

In either case, our nursing home neglect lawyers in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach urge you to speak up about concerns you may have regarding the conditions of an area nursing home. And to do your homework when selecting a home in which to place a loved one. It is incumbent upon each one of us to police the system. Area homes get more visits this time of year than during the rest of the year combined. You can be assured that if what you are seeing does not pass muster during the holidays, there is likely cause for legitimate concern.

Florida has more than 650 nursing homes where more than 82,000 residents reside, making it one of the nation’s top states for number of elderly residents in nursing home care. Most homes are run as part of large corporations and are for-profit companies billing the government, private insurance companies and relatives more than $40,000 a year for care.

Bedsores, unsanitary patients or conditions, and malnutrition and dehydration are among the most common signs of nursing home neglect.

Other signs of nursing home neglect, according to the Elder Abuse Foundation, include:

-Unexplained bruises, cuts or fractures.

-Frozen joints.

-Unexplained infections, bloody clothing or STDs.

-Behavioral changes.

-Staff reluctance to permit visits, delays in visits, or supervised visits.

-Overmedicated residents.

-Missing resident possessions.

-Abrupt changes in financial status.

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration provides a Florida Nursing Home Watch List of nursing homes with inspection issues.

Here you can find Florida’s Nursing Home Guide, which can assist you in choosing a nursing home by region.
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A 73-year-old Tampa woman reported missing by her family last Sunday was located with 24 hours more than two hours from home, ABC Action News reports. She apparently became lost en route to visit her brother at a nearby nursing home after dropping her daughter off at church.

She was found in her car just before dawn on Monday after witnesses reported a vehicle with a dead battery in the intersection of Micco Road and U.S. Hwy. 1. Police say she appeared disoriented, and her family confirms the woman has recently been demonstrating signs of possible dementia.

Our South Florida nursing home attorneys know that few times in life can be more challenging than when faced with watching a loved one begin to decline. Seeing a parent, sibling, loved one or friend transition from partner and peer to patient is not something you should do alone. Turning to professionals, or even trusted online resources, can help families find what they need to make quality assisted-living care decisions and even recognize signs of dementia or spot nursing home and elder care abuse.

The Florida Department of Elder Affairs reports that about two-thirds of elder abuse cases in Florida involved abuse, neglect or exploitation. Elder abuse can manifest in many ways including self-neglect. Abuse by caregivers, on the other hand, can be physical, emotional, financial and sexual.

Physical signs of abuse can include cuts, bruising, welts, bed sores, burns, soiled clothing, unsanitary environment, sunken eyes or cheeks, starvation, dehydration, poor hygiene. Behavioral signs of abuse can include listlessness, unresponsiveness, fear, anxiety, anger, withdrawal, confusion, reluctance to talk openly, depression.

It is also critical for caregivers to network with others who have found themselves thrust in the position of health-care and quality-of-life manager for a loved one. Not just for the social support, according to the Area Agency on Aging, but to help caregivers develop the tools and resources they need to make informed decisions and plan best-care options for those who can no longer look after themselves.
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A 76-year-old resident of the Gainesville Health Care Center was found to have maggots in his eye socket during an examination at a Veterans Administration facility. The Gainesville nursing home where the eye-cancer survivor resides is part of a chain controlled by Maxcine Darville, who was the subject of a Palm Beach Post investigation last year.

The chain includes the Glades Health Care Center in Pahokee and the investigation found that Darville and others related to her “enjoyed salaries above industry norms and spent money on luxury cars and hot tubs” while nursing homes under her care were consistently ranked regionally in the bottom 20 percent by state regulators.

West Palm Beach nursing home attorneys know that with 17.2 percent of Florida’s 18.5 million residents over the age of 65, issues of elder care and abuse are a major concern for many.

According to Florida Department of Elder Affairs, there are more than 1.3 million Floridians over age 65 with at least one documented disability. Statewide, there are more than 650 skilled nursing facilities, 2,800 assisted-living facilities and close to 200 adult day cares that service hundreds of thousands of short-term, long-term and permanent residents each year.

Despite a host of governmental agencies specifically established to address elder care issues within the skilled nursing community, quality of care issues at many of these facilities remains under-reported. With that said, statewide there were more than 32,500 allegations of elder abuse and neglect reported to the Department of Children and Families in 2004.

Regarding the Gainesville facility alone, from 2007 to 2009, the home was cited 39 times by the Agency for Health Care Administration for a host of violations that ranged from unsanitary food storage conditions to improper maintenance of ventilation systems. Again, in mid-August, an unannounced AHCA inspection found the nursing home out of compliance for reporting issues with changing one resident’s eye bandages.

We believe it is incumbent upon each of us to police the system. If you are visiting a South Florida nursing home and have concerns about conditions or the treatment of patients, please speak up. Call our office for a free and confidential appointment. If not you, who? If not now, when?
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Our Fort Lauderdale nursing home neglect lawyers are frequently asked about the presence of bedsores found on an elderly family member.

We recently reported on our South Florida Injury Lawyers Blog the case of a $114 million jury verdict resulting from the death of a nursing home resident in a fall. The 76-year-old woman was also suffering from bedsores when finally removed from the nursing home.

By some estimates, nearly one-quarter of all nursing home residents suffer from bed sores. Bedridden or minimally mobile residents are at high risk of developing bed sores if they are neglected by staff. Such residents should be repositioned every 2 hours to minimize rubbing and friction. Lubricants and padding may also help.

Bedsores, also called pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers, are prone to infection and can even be fatal if not properly treated.

The medical establishment in the United States recognizes four stages of ulcers:

Stage 1: Identified by superficial redness that does not subside when pressure is relieved.

Stage 2: Appearance of a blister or abrasion, ulcer extends into the dermis.

Stage 3: Characterized by large wounds that extend into the subcutaneous tissue. May require surgery.

Stave 4: Ulcers extending into the muscle, tendon and even the bone. Fewer than half of these ulcers heal within a year and only 62 percent ever heal.

Proper nutrition can play an important part in the prevention or healing of bed sores, as can infection control and proper patient care. Many nursing home residents are at high risk of mild bed sores. But failure to treat the sores, or failure to take corrective action, can lead to more serious sores and infections and are a sure sign of neglect.

The presence of bedsores is a warning sing of possible neglect or mistreatment and should be discussed with a Fort Lauderdale elder abuse attorney.
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