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An Overview Of Nursing Facility Neglect

There are several kinds of nursing home neglect and variations between each. There are four major categories of nursing home neglect and they are listed below:

Neglect Of A Resident’s Basic Needs

When a facility is derelict in their duty to provide a resident with sufficient, quality food or water, or does not provide an environment that is safe or clean.

Neglect Of Medical Care

When a facility fails to care for and attend to medical needs or address important medical concerns of a resident, including but not limited to bedsores, infections, care for diabetes, fall prevention, cognitive disorders, issues regarding mobility, as well as lacerations.

Neglect Of Attendance To Personal Hygiene

When a facility does not attend to a resident’s need for assistance with basic hygiene issues such as brushing their teeth, washing, bathing or other, including laundry.

Emotional Or Social Neglect

When staff members ignore residents, leaving them alone or isolated, or when a staff member is aggressive when dealing with a resident, such as yelling at them, or other.

Warning Signs Of Nursing Facility Neglect

Warning signs are not always as obvious as you might think. The clues of neglect can be subtle and sometimes hard to find. There may not be any physical signs so it is important to be aware and look closely to make sure that neglect is not occurring, or if it is, to take immediate action to address it. Behavior changes in a resident may be hard to see and go unnoticed if a family member or loved one doesn’t have regular contact with a resident for whatever reason. A change in a resident’s behavior may be easier to detect if a loved one lives nearby the facility and can have steady contact with the resident. Additionally, the elderly may have a hard time expressing their feelings when neglect is occurring, for various reasons, if they don’t see their family or loved ones often. But neglect can be a serious problem and family members need to be cognizant of the fact that it can and does happen, and be proactive to make sure that it does not occur.

Some Possible Ways That Neglect Can Be Identified Through Observation

  • Malnutrition demonstrated by possible bedsores and/or successive infections
  • Dramatic or sudden weight loss, especially with residents who need assistance with eating or drinking
  • Pressure ulcers / bedsores resulting from failure to turn the resident on a regular basis as is required by standard protocol for any residents who need assistance
  • Falls, especially those that result in any injury
  • Dehydration from a failure to provide sufficient amounts of water for drinking
  • Withdrawn behavior and/or abnormal changes in a resident’s behavior
  • Lack of friendly interaction with fellow facility residents
  • Changes in appearance or changes in personal hygiene
  • Environmental hazards in facility, such as broken or slippery floors, poor or insufficient lighting, potentially hazardous or unkept wheelchairs or walkers, hazardous or dirty furniture in the resident’s room

Some Of The Most Common Nursing Facility Problems

Neglect is a serious problem. Any resident who resides in a facility that neglects their residents in any way, or multiple ways, is significantly more at risk for many illnesses, injuries, infections and possibly even death. And though stated above it bears repeating that not all cases of neglect are obvious, many can be deceptively subtle. Unfortunately, issues are not always reported to proper authorities when they absolutely should be. Infections, injuries and falls, even strangulation due to a bed that is not functioning properly, are just a few of the many types of neglect that could be occurring.

Every incidence of neglect should be reported immediately. A quick report of improper conduct or neglect can make an impact and may prevent further harm from occurring or prevent an injury or death.

As stated above some types of neglect are obvious, some are not. Bedsores, dehydration, and malnutrition are common concerns and these, as well as other potential issues, should be watched for by visiting family and friends.

Remember, it is always better to act right away if you notice a problem, as problems tend to get worse when not addressed.

How To Watch For And Prevent Neglect?

Unfortunately, some types of physical negligence can happen quickly and can be devastating or even cause death. A fall can be dangerous for a resident, especially if they are elderly. Many residents are at an increased risk for falls and the resident should identify those residents and take appropriate precautions. And a bed that is malfunctioning can cause injury, suffocation or strangulation. Most of these types of negligent facility events are avoidable. Residents that are known by staff to be at an increased risk for falls need to be monitored carefully and facility staff should check in on them regularly to assist with the resident’s mobility needs.

The environment of a nursing facility needs to be properly maintained at all times. Facility staff should address safety issues and sanitary issues immediately. Delays can cause injuries or illness. Staff should be aware of the proper care of mattresses and ensure that mattresses and bed rails are positioned in a safe manner as authorized by facility guidelines to ensure absolute safety for residents when lying in bed to relax or sleep. It is important to observe residents and watch for potential problems with mental clarity, changes in mobility, or other medical and/or emotional issues. A facility’s staff must work together to ensure the safety and well-being of all their residents.

Research has shown that residents who are visited regularly by loved ones and friends are the least likely to be victims of neglect or abuse. During visits, family and friends should watch for signs of nursing facility neglect, and note any changes in health and/or emotional stability or wellness of the resident. Some facilities may be understaffed and when this is the case it is critically important for family members to have regular communication with facility staff and care providers to ensure the safety and emotional well-being of their loved one who is a resident.

Is There A Statute Of Limitations For Nursing Home Abuse Or Neglect Cases?

The courts always prefer claims to be made in a timely manner. It should typically be your goal to make claims as early as possible because time delays could make it increasingly difficult for all parties to receive a fair outcome. With delays there are many problems that could arise—evidence could disappear, witnesses may relocate or be difficult to find, etc. and the recollection of witnesses and parties may fade. In the interest of being fair to all parties, and to avoid prejudice to either party, the Florida Legislature imposes time limits and Florida Statute 429.296 sets the specific time limits. The statute dictates, “Any action for damages brought under this part shall be commenced within 2 years from the time the incident giving rise to the action occurred or within 2 years from the time the incident is discovered, or should have been discovered with the exercise of due diligence; however, in no event shall the action be commenced later than 4 years from the date of the incident or occurrence out of which the cause of action accrued.”

Occasionally there may be extenuating circumstances in which a specific exception to the 2 year/4 year time limit may be taken, if there was a known fraudulent concealment or intentional misrepresentation that obstructed the neglect/abuse from being uncovered or recognized. This exception, also listed under Florida Statute 429.296 states, “In those actions covered by this subsection in which it can be shown that fraudulent concealment or intentional misrepresentation of fact prevented the discovery of the injury, the period of limitations is extended forward 2 years from the time that the injury is discovered with the exercise of due diligence, but in no event not more than 6 years from the date the incident giving rise to the injury occurred.” The statute further states the following: “This section shall apply to causes of action that have accrued prior to the effective date of this section; however, any such cause of action that would not have been barred under prior law may be brought within the time allowed by prior law or within 2 years after the effective date of this section, whichever is earlier, and will be barred thereafter. In actions where it can be shown that fraudulent concealment or intentional misrepresentation of fact prevented the discovery of the injury, the period of limitations is extended forward 2 years from the time that the injury is discovered with the exercise of due diligence, but in no event more than 4 years from the effective date of this section.”

Nursing home neglect and/or abuse is very serious and should be treated as such. If neglect or abuse is happening or has happened, to protect your family member, friend, or loved one, seek counsel from an experienced attorney who can assist you with the case. A skilled attorney can help protect the rights of someone who has suffered abuse or neglect.

Pursuing A Nursing Home Abuse Or Neglect Claim: Where Do I Start?

When pursuing an abuse or neglect case the starting point is simply having suspicion that someone has been the victim of abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, it is quite possible that someone could be suffering abuse or neglect but may not be able to tell anyone about it. Always trust your instincts for it is better to begin an inquiry with an attorney and find out that nothing is wrong than to wait and potentially have the victim suffer more abuse or neglect. An attorney with experience in this area will consult with various medical professionals, possibly review the actual nursing home in question, and review medical records, etc., to ascertain if abuse or neglect is occurring. If an attorney finds that there is sufficient reason to bring a case, then he or she will typically deliver a written notice of the case and claim to the entities or persons involved who are or were the individuals who perpetrated the abuse or allowed the neglect to occur.

I’m Worried That My Family Member Is Being Abused Or Neglected In Their Nursing Home… What Can I Do Now?

If abuse or neglect were happening, we would encourage you to deal with the situation immediately. Never ignore it or doubt your gut feeling if you are even remotely concerned that a loved one is being neglected or abused. You should seek counsel from a Florida law attorney who has experience in the area of facility neglect and abuse, to understand all your legal options. The state of Florida takes abuse and neglect cases very seriously for no one wants to imagine a loved one being abused or left alone and neglected. And remember, the steps you take to help your own loved one will invariably be helping many other residents of the facility who may also be suffering abuse or neglect.

What Are The Potential Legal Ramifications For Known Acts Of Abuse Or Neglect Within A Nursing Home Facility?

Abused or neglected residents are entitled to engage the services of an attorney who can help them file a specific civil lawsuit to seek damages for this gross violation of their rights. Many times a claim of this nature will instigate an official investigation that could result in fines for the facility, specific legal recourse for the victims, as well as possible criminal prosecution of those who engaged in intentional harm or malicious conduct of some sort.

What If There Is No Contract With A Facility? Can A Resident Sue If There Is Unsuitable Care, Regardless?

Yes, regardless of whether there is a contract in place, the victims of the abuse, or their dependents, can absolutely sue in a wrongful death claim. They can sue for unsuitable care, abuse, and negligence, etc.

What Is The Time Frame In Regard To Settling A Nursing Home Neglect Or Abuse Claim?

The time frame can vary with Florida nursing home injury claims, depending on the circumstances. Some claims may be settled in a few weeks to a month while others may take several months or more to complete the case and settle. These cases are complex and much information has to be reviewed in the process, from bills to medical records and more, not to mention that there must be evidence compiled that proves that the neglect or abuse did occur.

Nursing Home Residents’ Rights: What Are They?

The courts have taken careful measure to ensure that nursing home residents are protected. As such, nursing home residents have the clear right to be free of any and all types of abuse including but not limited to the following: verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, as well as mental abuse. Additionally, residents maintain the right to be free of physical or chemical restraints that might typically be utilized for disciplinary reasons or simply for convenience. Restraints are never to be used for any reason whatsoever unless there is a specific, documented medical condition that may call for restraints, or restraints are necessary in order to protect the safety of the resident and/or visitors, etc. In addition, residents have the right to quality care as well as the right to be evaluated and made aware of their medical condition. Residents retain the right to make complaints with no fear of retaliation whatsoever from staff. Residents may also refuse treatment and may choose their own physician.

For more information on Nursing Facility Problems In Florida, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling 800-835-5762 & 954-456-2488 today.

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