Unfortunately, the crimes of nursing home abuse and neglect are all too common. In many cases, the nursing home facility bears some responsibility for its staff’s actions, or failure to act. If you are the victim of neglect or abuse in the South Florida area, or the family member of someone who has been neglected or abused, contact Long, Jean & Wechsler, P.A. We can immediately stop the offending behavior and represent you or your family member in their pursuit of justice.
Elderly Neglect vs. Abuse
Victims of elderly abuse and neglect and their family members can pursue justice through criminal and civil legal systems.
Criminal neglect and abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult are defined in Florida Statute 825.102. While criminal abuse is an intentional act of harm directed at the person who is either over 65 years of age or physically or mentally disabled, neglect refers to failing to provide an elderly or disabled person with the proper care, services, and supervision necessary for their wellbeing. All elderly and abuse charges are felonies, punishable by prison, fines, and loss of licensure.
While the criminal justice system plays an essential role in the prevention of elderly abuse and neglect, it does little to compensate the victim for the pain, indignation, and other damages that they suffered as a result of abuse or neglect. While the Long, Jean & Wechsler legal team often works with the police to protect their clients from further harm, we also hold the individuals and organizations responsible for the abuse financially accountable.
In order to successfully prosecute an individual for elderly abuse or neglect, the prosecution must prove the criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt. For civil cases, the plaintiff’s attorney must only demonstrate that guilt was more likely than not. In other words, is it more than 50% likely that the defendant committed abuse or neglect? If so, the civil courts will rule in the plaintiff’s favor.
Types of Abuse and Neglect
There are currently 46 nursing homes in Broward County, FL. While some of these establishments do an excellent job of caring for their residents, abuse and neglect still occurs. Here are some of the most common forms of nursing home neglect and abuse:
- Physical Abuse – This includes assault, battery, or causing physical harm in some way.
- Sexual Abuse – Unwanted touch, inappropriate contact, and rape.
- Verbal or Emotional Abuse – Shouting, berating, or verbally humiliating the resident.
- Financial Abuse – Includes extortion, fraud, theft, etc.
- Abandonment – Failing to provide routine services in accordance with the care plan.
- Undernourishment – Cutting or skipping meals, or failing to provide alternative nutrition when the resident refuses to eat.
- Poor Hygiene – Not attending to the resident’s hygienic needs.
- Medical Neglect – Failure to provide medication, treatments, or examinations.
- Allowing Self Neglect – Not taking measures to ensure that the resident is performing self-care tasks that they’re supposed to be capable of.
The Rights Guaranteed to Nursing Home Residents
Florida Statute 429.28 legally defines the Resident Bill of Rights. Florida nursing home residents have the right to:
- Live in an environment that’s free from abuse and neglect
- Be treated with respect and personal dignity and as individuals
- Retain clothing and personal property within their living quarters as long as it’s not dangerous or infringes on the rights of others
- Have unrestricted private communications
- Have visitors between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.
- Participate in community services and otherwise interact with the community
- Manage their financial affairs
- Regular exercise
- Exercise civil and religious liberties
- Assistance to healthcare
- 45 days’ notice if they are to be relocated in the absence of an emergency
- Present grievances about the facility or staff
While not every violation of these rights rises to the level of a criminal charge, most violations of the Resident Bill of Rights can be used as grounds for civil litigation. Abuse cases usually include more than a single violation of the enumerated rights.
Signs a Nursing Home Resident’s Rights Have Been Violated
Because nursing home neglect, abuse, and other offenses can occur in various ways, it’s helpful to know the signs. Here are some of the common signs of abuse and neglect:
- Physical Injuries – Older people retain signs of injury for longer periods of time. Bruising, for instance, can be a sign of striking, pinching, or other batteries.
- Bed Sores – This is often a sign of neglect, particularly when the resident must rely on nursing home staff to help them into a wheelchair or to turn them periodically.
- Weight Loss – A responsible care plan should include provisions for when a resident demonstrates an undesirable reduction in weight.
- Erratic Behavior – Residents may show signs of erratic behavior if they are off of their medications. If the resident has been threatened by staff members, they may also behave strangely as they struggle with the challenge of informing a family member.
- Non-communication – A sudden drop in phone calls or communication may mean that the resident is unable to write or call, which is a violation of their rights.
- Access Denial – If you’re denied access from the residential community, this could be a sign of abuse. In this instance, you should call the police to perform a welfare check on the resident.
- Missing Money – If the resident is requesting additional money, it may be a sign that they are paying bribe money, protection money, or someone is conning them out of the money they have.
It’s important that you take complaints from your loved ones seriously. While some complaints are exaggerated or the result of dementia, nursing home abuse and neglect are common enough to cause concern.
How to Report Violations of Nursing Home Resident Rights
If you have evidence that a nursing home’s staff is abusing or neglecting a loved one, the first priority is to stop the offending actions. Call the police, and if possible, remove your loved one from the offending facility. If you suspect abuse or neglect but don’t feel that there is an immediate danger, follow these steps:
1. Call the Elder Helpline – 1800-96-ELDER (1-800-963-5337). This is a resource and reporting line run by the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.
2. Contact the Florida Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program – This organization can pursue and investigate complaints against the facility and staff.
3. File a Report with the AHCA – The Agency for Healthcare Administration licenses nursing homes in the state of Florida.
4. Call an Attorney – In South Florida, the attorney at Long, Jean & Wechsler, P.A. holds facilities and respective staff accountable for elderly neglect. We offer free consultations for the victims and their family members. If we accept your case, we will represent you on a contingency basis, so you will not have to pay out of pocket. Call today to stop elder rights violations.
Frequently Asked Questions About Nursing Home Resident Rights
If you believe that you have a loved one who is in danger of abuse or neglect, stop reading, contact the police, and then call our Pompano Beach, FL office for comprehensive representation. Otherwise, here are some of the most common legal questions we receive regarding resident rights:
What if My Elderly Relative is an Unreliable Witness?
Naturally, there are times when dementia, mental illness, or age-related decline make potential victims unreliable witnesses. However, abuse in neglect is usually accompanied by corroborating physical evidence. The safest course of action is to report the alleged abuse or neglect and allow the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation.
What Types of Damages Can I Collect in a Civil Nursing Home Rights Case?
The state of Florida recognizes three types of damages in civil suits:
- Economic damages would include any monetary damages incurred as a result of the tort. This can include medical expenses for additional treatment, fees that were provided to the residence in good faith, property damage, etc.
- Non-economic damages or pain and suffering can be extensive in nursing home cases. Most of these cases involve a high level of discomfort or indignation for the resident.
- Punitive damages are awarded in the most egregious cases. Under Florida law, punitive damages are capped at three times the combined amount of economic and non-economic damages, or $500,000 – whichever is greater.
When Should I Call the Police if I Suspect My Loved One is an Abuse or Neglect Victim?
The sooner you can involve the police, the better. If you detect injuries, the resident is complaining of abuse, or you are denied access to the resident, contact the police immediately. Ask the officers to make a report and retain the case number.
Pompano Beach, FL Attorneys for Nursing Home Resident Rights
Caring for elderly and disabled people is a sacred trust. Most professionals in this industry do everything in their power to protect the health and dignity of nursing home residents. However, when a staff member or facility fails in their duty of care, you need to take action. Contact the Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers at Long, Jean & Wechsler, P.A. for a free consultation.