There are few things more heartbreaking than hearing stories of abuse against society’s most vulnerable. Our children and elderly are far more likely to suffer abuse than their parents or grandchildren. Worse, nursing home abuse and elder neglect is more common than many realize. The abuse can be recurrent neglect or a single event that causes physical injury. Florida has specific compliance laws that dictate what nursing homes must do to protect their patients and we use those laws to protect Palm Harbor nursing home abuse victims and their families from injuries and illness resulting from negligence, abuse or nursing home neglect. They must have a proper plan of care for each patient and they must also maintain proper staffing to provide the necessary care for those patients. When those rights and laws are broken, families often consider turning to a personal injury attorney, filing nursing home malpractice suits in order to secure compensation to help meet their loved ones’ needs now and in the future, but these types of suits also often lead to industry changes that better protects future patients.
What are the Signs of Elder Abuse?
Common types of injury often associated with nursing home malpractice include: falls and fractures; malnutrition or dehydration; bedsores; severe weight gain or loss; septic shock; gangrene; pneumonia; and death. Physical abuse is not the only way elderly citizens suffer; it’s just the easiest type of abuse to spot. Recovery is challenging, even after their physical wounds heal. Often, the fragile state of many elderly people prevents them from returning to their former trusting and even happier and healthier selves.
Along with physical abuse, according to the Administration on Aging, elder abuse can also occur in the following forms.
Sexual Abuse – The Administration on Aging defines sexual abuse as “non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.”
Neglect is another form of elder abuse and can happen in a nursing home or in the home. It is defined as the failure of family members or other responsible parties to provide safe food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elderly person.
Exploitation is the illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit.
Emotional Abuse—inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts, e.g. humiliating, intimidating, or threatening.
Abandonment is defined as the desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
Finally, self-neglect is characterized as the failure of a person to perform essential, self-care tasks such as tending to hygiene and eating. Ultimately, this results in an adverse impact on that senior’s quality of living. A victim of self-neglect can also experience a threat his/her own health and safety. Seniors suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or profound physical limitations are most commonly found to suffer from self-neglect.
An experienced nursing abuse attorney can help determine if an individual has been the victim of an abusive, neglectful or negligent nursing facility, caretaker or home nurse. Abuse lawyers also offer guidance in helping you recover a settlement and compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering and other losses that arise from this mistreatment.
Can Elder Abuse Be Prevented?
There are many things family members can do to protect a loved one from being abused. There is no way to ensure with 100 percent certainty that a loved one will never be the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect. But families who have taken measures to put legal protections in place are less likely to become victims.
The incidence of financial abuse are rising fast. As nursing home abuse lawyers, we commonly recommend appointing a financial power of attorney for a loved one who is in an assisted living facility or nursing home. It can be a family member or close family friend. They will notified before any changes can be made to a loved one’s bank accounts, which can prevent a criminal from attempting to use ATM machines or withdraw money from other sources. This can also serve as a deterrent to a criminal looking to steal your loved one’s identity. Typically, patients in Palm Harbor nursing homes receive Medicare and or Medicaid, so their financial assets are limited anyway, but a power of attorney can provide additional protection and work as an early warning solution.
Family members should also come together to be sure there are no vulnerabilities in a loved one’s routines. Sadly, many nursing home residents have family members that never visit. That means the patients may be more vulnerable to abuse. Strong family ties can discourage a predator. Also, work to build a relationship with the nursing home staff and encourage open communication. Keep in mind, though, there are very specific HIPAA laws in place, so don’t be alarmed if the nursing staff refuses to discuss the medical dynamics with you. They are limited by federal law in what they can and cannot reveal. Contact a Palm Harbor slip and fall lawyer to learn more about securing a power of attorney that will allow the medical staff to discuss your loved one’s health.
Why Are the Elderly Abused?
One of the reasons elder abuse occurs is because of the fragile state many victims are already in, which makes proving whether such injuries are the result of neglect or abuse is extremely difficult. Many seniors are nonverbal and have challenges communicating, making it difficult for them to report abuse. Others suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or powerful medication side effects, which may result in disorientation, confusion and decreased credibility when they do actually report a situation involving neglect or abuse. Sadly, some elders are largely forgotten by their family members, so there is nobody to notice the signs of abuse or neglect or the victim may feel that they do not have anyone whom they can tell about the abuse.
Still, our medical malpractice legal advocates work tirelessly to scrupulously review all medical records, interview all available family members, friends and witnesses, and make inquiries regarding complaints or third-party investigations by governmental authorities. This, together with our in-depth knowledge of medicine and the law, means that if there are grounds for a lawsuit, we will build a case, pursuing a settlement or even going to trial if that’s what it takes to get the compensation you and your loved one deserve.
How Common is Elder Abuse?
The truth is, the vast majority of Florida nursing homes do a remarkable job of caring for those in their charge. They employ compassionate medical professionals and they have impressive safety mechanisms in place; however, like all industries, there are the ones that disturb the trust of the community and make it harder for the rest to continue with their good works.
For victims, the results can be tragic and can result in pain and suffering and even death. Due to a resident’s age and health, they may not be capable of alerting others of what they are going through. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can also prevent victims from being able to tell of their abuse. Even with the specific nursing home abuse laws in Florida, these cases can be challenging. The emotional burden is excruciating for families who feel helpless when it comes to helping a loved one who endured the abuse, whether it was financial, emotional or physical abuse. Even the most cautious elderly facilities with tough hiring guidelines can be fooled.
Residents of nursing homes have patient rights and certain protections under the law. When that trust is betrayed, families do have legal recourse. We can’t undo the abuse but we can work to ensure it never happens again. To learn more about your elderly loved one’s rights in Florida, contact Palm Harbor slip and fall attorney Jeffrey W. Hensley today. Together, we can work together to better protect our state’s precious elderly population while seeking justice for your loved one.
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