According to the Florida Health Care Association, one in five Florida residents is aged 65 or older. By 2030, the FHCA estimates this number to be one out of every four. Currently, about 71,000 residents live in long term care facilities. Over the next several years, this number will continue to grow.
Placing a loved one in a long term care facility is a difficult decision; one that many families agonize over. When a family finally decides to place a loved one in a long term care facility or nursing home, they do so with the hope that their family member will receive the highest level of care. Sadly, that is not always the case. Recent reports show that there were nearly 200,000 cases of reported neglect, abuse, or exploitation across the United States in one year alone. If you suspect your loved one is the victim of abuse or neglect, you have rights that a nursing home abuse lawyer at the Dolman Law Group can help you address.
The personal injury lawyers at Dolman Law Group can help you find a safe place for your loved one and hold the abusers accountable. Seek legal counsel right away. Contact Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman at 833-552-7274 for a free consultation.
Abuse and Neglect in Florida’s Nursing Homes
Elderly adults are one of the most vulnerable populations in Clearwater. According to the National Council on Aging, approximately one in ten adults age 60 and over have been the victim of abuse. This is an alarming statistic. If your loved one has suffered from someone’s abuse or negligence it can be difficult to understand. Knowing what qualifies as abuse may help you recognize when something is wrong. Common forms of elderly abuse include:
When most people hear the word abuse, they associate the term with physical abuse. This is likely because the signs of this type of abuse are easily visible. Physical abuse can lead to bruising, lacerations, and unusual marks. In more serious cases, physical abuse can cause broken bones, hemorrhaging, or even death.
But while signs may be visible, perpetrators often know how to hide the signs of abuse. Often, it’s not until someone notices unusual trips to the hospital or a change in behavior that the abuse comes to light. Physical abuse may include:
Emotional abuse is not as easy to detect as physical abuse. In fact, the abusers, and often the victims, can be very good at hiding the signs of emotional abuse. Understanding what qualifies as emotional abuse is the key to understanding the abuse and recognizing it. While emotional abuse comes in many forms, it usually involves emotional manipulation of the victim. This can be achieved by berating, humiliation, or name-calling. Other examples include:
- Withholding affection
- Unnecessary or inappropriate punishment
- Intentional humiliation
Sexual abuse is the least common type of abuse for older adults. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, sexual abuse is more likely to occur in an institutional setting like a nursing home than in any other place. Sexual abuse happens any time there is intentional, unwanted contact from another person. Abuse can happen both when a person outwardly denies advances or when they are unable to do so. In a long term care setting, a member of the staff should never engage in sexual activity with a resident.
When we think about abuse, we don’t often consider financial abuse. However, financial abuse accounts for approximately 12 percent of all abuse and neglect cases. Financial abuse happens when a person with access to an elderly adult’s finances improperly controls those finances. This may include:
- Theft of money or valuables
- Bribery or exploitation
Nursing homes are responsible for providing a minimum level of care. When they fail to meet these standards, they may be guilty of neglect. Signs of neglect are not always obvious. This is because neglect involves the withholding of care or services, rather than intentional infliction of abuse. The neglect may happen because of a lack of staffing, poor training, punishment or abuse. The effects of neglect are just as serious as abuse and any suspected abuse should be reported right away. Neglect may include:
- Missed or improper medication
- Missed meals
- Poor security
- Improper safety procedures
- Poor sanitation
Common Signs of Abuse or Neglect
We don’t expect our loved one to be the victim of abuse or neglect, so we may not think to look for signs of abuse or neglect. However, understanding how prevalent elder abuse is can help you be vigilant in noticing anything unusual. Some of the things to look out for include:
Unusual marks or bruises. If your loved one has unexplained bruises or marks on their body, it may be a sign of abuse. Marks can be a sign of physical abuse and should not be ignored.
Excessive or unexplained doctor visits. If you have noticed an unusual spike in the number of times your loved one goes to the doctor or are unable to get a good reason for their doctor visits, this may be cause for concern. Watch for reports of falls, broken bones, or head injuries. Unexplained weight loss could signal neglect.
An increase in infections. Infections can be a sign that there is something wrong. They could signal an untreated bedsore, poor medical management, or even sexual assault.
Withdrawal or change in mood. Abuse affects people in different ways. For many people, they are embarrassed or ashamed to report the abuse. When abuse happens, they may withdraw, become depressed, or show signs of anger. If you notice a sudden change in your loved one with no reasonable explanation, you should look into the matter further.
Residents at Risk
Sadly, those who are most at risk are those who are unable to report the abuse or do anything to stop it. This may include elderly adults with dementia or physical limitations that prevent them from being able to stop the abuse. Additionally, abusers may prey on residents who are isolated or lack a support system. If you can, try to visit your loved one regularly and connect with the care providers at the facility. Monitor any changes in their physical appearance, mood, or financial situation.
What to Do if You Suspect Abuse
Never ignore signs of abuse. If you suspect something is wrong, there’s a good chance you’re right. Even if it turns out to be nothing, it’s always a good idea to follow your instinct. The steps you should take include:
- Move your loved one: If you suspect abuse or neglect, the first thing you want to do is remove them from the situation. Your loved one’s safety is the number one priority. This may mean that you need to take your family member home or move them to another care facility.
- Report the abuse: It’s not enough to just move your loved one. If you suspect abuse, contact Adult Protective Services. You do not need proof to file a report. The state will investigate your claim and take necessary action. By reporting the abuse you hold the care facility accountable and may help keep other residents safe.
- Contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney: Florida has laws in place to protect its residents. The Nursing Home Residents’ Bill of Rights outlines the rights each facility must afford to every resident. When a nursing home violates these rights they may face state, criminal, and civil consequences. An experienced personal injury attorney at the Dolman Law Group can help you file a claim to help you recover damages related to your loved one’s abuse.
Abuse Has Serious Consequences
Florida takes allegations of abuse seriously. The state recently made changes to help alert potential residents of serious care violations. If your family has experienced abuse or neglect, you may be eligible for financial compensation. These funds can help you find an appropriate care facility and help cover the cost of any treatment necessary as a result of the abuse.
The amount of compensation will vary case by case, but may include:
Medical bills: Abuse and neglect can lead to serious medical issues. In any case of abuse, your loved one may benefit from psychological counseling. The costs associated with the treatment of your loved one’s injuries are generally included in a nursing home abuse case. These costs may include medical transportation, doctor visits, surgeries, medication, and assistive devices.
Actual economic damages: In the case of financial abuse, there may be an actual financial loss that can be accounted for. A personal injury case can help you recover this loss.
Pain and suffering: Abuse can leave both physical and emotional scars. After abuse, your loved one may suffer from chronic physical pain or have trouble coping with the abuse. Pain and suffering covers both physical and emotional distress including anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
Loss of enjoyment: When abuse changes your ability to participate in activities you enjoy it can affect you in a variety of ways. Personal enjoyment activities have a great impact on a person’s physical and emotional health. When abuse or neglect limit’s your loved one’s ability to do things they enjoy, they may be eligible for compensation.
Wrongful death: Older adults are not able to respond to treatment as well as younger adults. When the abuse is so severe that it results in the death of your family member, you and your family can file a wrongful death claim.
Punitive damages: The court does not always award punitive damages, but in the case of egregious abuse or neglect, they may find it appropriate. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for their behavior to prevent them from doing it again. While it is not meant as an “award” to the plaintiff, it does go to the pleading party.
Understanding Florida’s Statute of Limitations
In each state, the law outlines how much time victims have to file a claim to recover damages in a personal injury case. The statute of limitations outlines this time period. In Florida, victims and their family members have a strict time limit from the time the abuse is discovered (or should have reasonably been discovered) to file a personal injury claim. Beyond this point, you cannot pursue any damages.
There are a few exceptions to this rule. This includes when your loved one is unable to report the abuse, when the care facility intentionally hides the abuse, or when the injury did not appear until long after the abuse. Building a case against a nursing home and its staff can be a complicated process. That’s why it’s important to talk to a qualified attorney right away.
Contact Dolman Law Group’s Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys Now
Finding out that your loved one is the victim of abuse or neglect at the hands of someone you should trust can devastate you. After the abuse, it can be difficult to understand the proper steps to take to protect your loved one.
At the Dolman Law Group, we understand this is a difficult time for you and your family. Your loved one’s safety and your peace of mind is our number one priority. Our experienced legal team will help guide you through the process and can help you find alternative care for your family member. We treat each client with care and compassion and will fight aggressively to make sure your voice is heard.
Abuse is never okay. When you suspect abuse or are worried about your loved one’s quality of care, take action.
To learn more about your rights and schedule a free consultation, contact Dolman Law and Sibley Law Group. With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Dolman Law Group 833-552-7274. Call us today to schedule a free case evaluation.