Families of aging and vulnerable adults in the U.S. place a great amount of trust in the hands of the staff members at long-term care facilities, also known as nursing homes.
These facilities provide around-the-clock care for residents who can't accomplish day-to-day living tasks independently. These include tending to personal hygiene, taking medication, preparing and eating meals, and engaging in age- and ability-appropriate activities.
Residents have the right to protect their physical and emotional health under federal law. However, negligence in an elder care facility can result in injuries or even death. In addition, neglect and abuse are more common than anyone would like to believe. This can have significant effects on the resident's quality of life and physical condition. Our Jacksonville nursing home lawyers are ready to fight for justice, though.
- What Is Nursing Home Negligence?
- What Are Nursing Home Residents' Rights in Jacksonville?
- A Word of Caution About Nursing Home Ratings
- Seeking Compensation for Nursing Home Negligence
- What You Should Know About the Unfortunate Legacy of Elder Abuse
- Jacksonville Elders Rely on Assisted Living Facilities
- Contact Our Team To Learn More About Your Legal Options
What Is Nursing Home Negligence?
Negligence is the failure of a person or company to exercise appropriate care in a given scenario. Examples of nursing home negligence include staff or facility neglect, abuse, and exploitation of residents. We provide a look at each of these examples below.
Nursing Home Neglect
Nursing home neglect happens when staff fails to meet residents' basic needs. These needs include:
- Nutritious foods and beverages: Staff must pay attention to the resident's specific dietary needs, as noted in the resident's care plan that staff develops upon arrival at the facility. Staff must update this plan to reflect the resident's changing needs. For example, if the resident has difficulty chewing and swallowing, the care plan for that resident might recommend a diet of soft foods only.
- Providing a clean and safe place to sleep: Like providing food, providing shelter is a lot more complex than simply offering a bed. The resident's care plan should indicate whether the resident needs assistance getting in or out of bed, bathing, etc. It should also note resident preferences that staff should adhere to when possible. For example, these could include whether a resident likes staying up late and sleeping late in the mornings. Some residents may also require special bedding. For instance, someone who struggles to move independently could have a mattress that prevents pressure sores.
- Adequate supervision: The residents of long-term care facilities are there because they can't accomplish personal daily living tasks independently. Many residents have cognitive or physical limitations that require staff to supervise them during activities and assist them with eating, taking medications, toileting, and moving around indoors and outdoors at the facility.
- Attention to residents' medical care: Many long-term nursing care residents take medications administered by licensed or certified staff. Medical neglect is a facility's failure to provide medical treatment for known conditions or obtain appropriate medical exams to diagnose and treat suspected conditions.
- Failing to answer assistance calls or otherwise respond to resident's needs promptly
Signs of nursing home neglect include residents who appear dirty, wear soiled clothing, appear under- or over-medicated, or appear inadequately fed or hydrated.
Nursing Home Abuse
According to the National Center for Elder Abuse, almost 16% of studied nursing home residents experienced abuse within the year of being studied. This includes abuse perpetrated by staff members or other residents when staff members know or have reason to know it is occurring.
The most common type of abuse reported is psychological abuse, accounting for more than 33% percent of all nursing home abuse reports. Psychological abuse involves words and non-physical actions to manipulate, harm, weaken, or intimidate the victim. Other nursing home abuse includes:
- Physical abuse: Hitting, slapping, punching, or grabbing a resident
- Sexual abuse: Any sexual activity to which the resident has not consented
- Physical or chemical restraints: Staff could use these to keep a resident in one place or sedated. Often, the staff uses these restraints under the guise of enhancing the safety of residents who are known to wander away or exhibit out-of-control behavior. However, federal nursing home laws grant residents the right to be free from restraint.
Signs of abuse in nursing home settings include:
- Unexplained injuries
- Hospitalizations of the resident that staff failed to tell family members about
- Residents who developed a fear of certain staff members or activities that they previously had no trouble participating in
Nursing Home Exploitation
The U.S. Department of Justice defines elder financial exploitation as using a vulnerable adult's resources to their disadvantage or for the profit of someone other than that person.
It is a criminal offense for nursing home staff members to place themselves in a position of trust with a nursing home resident and then knowingly deceive or intimidate the resident. This can take the form of giving the staff member money or other assets or taking those assets without the resident's consent.
Exploitation in a nursing home setting can occur if staff members or residents steal your loved one's belongings. Other signs that the resident could be a victim of exploitation include:
- Unexplained withdrawals from their financial accounts
- The resident receiving unexplained expensive or elaborate gifts
- New signatories appearing on financial accounts
In some cases, financial exploitation can even be institutional. The resident may be charged for services they never received or receive services they did not request, or the facility was not authorized to provide. Any unusual changes to a resident's bill should be discussed beforehand with the party responsible for their financial accounts.
What Are Nursing Home Residents' Rights in Jacksonville?
Federal laws grant rights to nursing home residents to protect their safety and quality of life. These rights dictate a standard of care, and Medicare and Medicaid inspect certified facilities each year to determine if they meet this standard. The rights granted to nursing home residents include:
- Freedom from discrimination based on the resident's color, race, national origin, disabilities, age, and religion
- The right of residents to dignity and respect, and the right to make certain decisions for themselves, including when and what to eat and what time to go to bed
- Freedom from all forms of abuse and neglect, including involuntary seclusion from others through the use of chemical or physical restraints
- The right to know decisions regarding care, such as placement, room assignment, physicians, and medical treatment (residents must also receive a listing of the facility's services—and those available to them for an additional fee)
- The right of the resident to manage their own money or to choose whom they would like to manage their money for them
- The right to privacy, and for the resident to keep and use their belongings while living at the facility
- The right to know about medical conditions, the procedures that the resident's physician recommends to treat known conditions, and to see the physician that the resident chooses and trusts
- The right to spend time with visitors as the resident wishes, as long as it is during a reasonable hour (residents also have a right to decline visitors if they choose.
- The right to social services, including access to counselors to help resolve issues with other residents)
- The right to file a complaint about the resident's quality of care at the facility without fear of retribution
- Freedom against unfair discharge (the facility cannot decide to end the resident's stay without first informing the resident; nursing facility cannot force a resident to leave unless their presence endangers their own safety—or that of others, or the resident has not paid for services)
You must understand that many administrators put the financial health of their facility above the residents' rights and health. While many nursing home workers only want the best for residents, they are stretched thin. Not all negligence is willful. Nurses and other staff may juggle an overcrowded facility while working with far fewer properly qualified and trained staff than necessary.
Pursuing a case against the nursing home is not an indictment of good staff. Instead, it is a case against those who failed to follow protocols that ensure all residents get the care they need and deserve. Our nursing home abuse lawyers can help you pursue justice for your Jacksonville family member in this fight.
A Word of Caution About Nursing Home Ratings
Several organizations, including Medicare and the U.S. News & World Report's Best Nursing Homes listing, provide a way for prospective residents and their families to learn more about what they can expect regarding the quality of care at the facility they choose. However, standard criteria such as vaccinations and post-placement hospitalizations determine these ratings.
Use them only in combination with what you discover by making a personal visit to the facility. Red flags that could suggest a nursing home provides negligent care for your loved one include:
- A chaotic environment in which phones and nurse calls go unanswered: This suggests a lack of adequate staff to meet the needs of all residents. Understaffing is one of the most common reasons for nursing home negligence in Jacksonville and throughout the country.
- A lack of warm interaction between staff members and residents: Staff members understandably communicate with one another to coordinate services. However, be aware of situations where the staff are off in a corner by themselves (leaving residents largely unsupervised), or who do not seem to know the names of residents.
- Loud noise: While loud noises, such as persistent overhead paging, do not necessarily indicate a lack of care on their own, a persistently noisy environment can be a source of agitation for residents. This can be particularly damaging for those who suffer from Alzheimer's disease or dementia.
- Unavailable administrators: You must talk to and ask questions of the staff when evaluating a facility. However, the facility's administrators should also be available to meet with you or communicate with you by phone. A lack of willingness to meet with residents' families may indicate that the facility's administrators will fail to communicate with you. You need to know about your loved one's well-being to make decisions about their care.
- A lack of diverse and engaging activities: Residents have a right to make choices about the activities they participate in. However, this only matters if they have choices. Beware of a facility that only provides one or two activities throughout the week for residents and leaves elders vulnerable to a loss of quality of life when they become residents.
- Visiting hours: Residents may choose when to have visitors, and visits should occur at times that work the best for the resident and their loved ones. Beware of a facility that dictates when people are allowed to enter the facility, suggesting that the staff is only on its best behavior during visitation hours.
In the end, no long-term care facility is negligence-proof. However, you can reduce your loved one's risk by:
- Being hands-on during the process of choosing a nursing home
- Staying an active participant in their care
- Visiting regularly, at different times of day, and different days of the week
- Meeting as many of your loved one's caregivers as possible
- Meet others whose loved ones live in the facility
Seeking Compensation for Nursing Home Negligence
If you or a loved one suffered physical, emotional, or financial harm resulting from nursing home negligence in Jacksonville, we could help. Our nursing home abuse attorneys can develop a case and hold the owner or administrator legally liable. We could recover compensation for:
- Necessary medical care
- Future treatment or support for injuries
- Psychological therapy as needed
- Expenses related to moving to a different facility
- Pain and suffering due to injuries
- Emotional distress
We have the knowledge and experience with similar cases necessary to investigate and prove what happened. Our team will develop a strong claim based on the evidence we uncover. We can link the injuries your loved one suffered to the abuse or neglect and identify who is responsible. This may be:
- A staff member and the facility administrator or owner
- The facility administrators
- The facility owner
These facilities do not like to admit wrongdoing, but we could negotiate an out-of-court agreement to settle the case and avoid trial. However, we can sue and represent your family to get justice for you if necessary.
What You Should Know About the Unfortunate Legacy of Elder Abuse
According to U.S. News & World Report's Best Nursing Homes ratings, 56 nursing homes operate in Jacksonville. A small, 72-bed facility known as Moosehaven in Orange Park is the highest-rated nursing home in the region.
Nursing homes are ranked based on the quality of care provided, according to:
- The facility's ability to prevent influenza, pneumonia, and other infectious diseases
- The facility's ability to prevent injuries from falls
- The facility's ability to meet other standardized criteria
Jacksonville Elders Rely on Assisted Living Facilities
Several years ago, a study involving 1,200 registered voters in Jacksonville noted that more than three-quarters of the respondents wanted to receive care for themselves or care for a loved one at home rather than in a nursing home. More than half of all residents over the age of 45 living in Jacksonville had provided care for an elderly relative at the time of the survey.
Unfortunately, far more elders are placed in nursing homes throughout the region than residents might hope for. This can be because of:
- The busy lifestyles of most Americans
- The expense of in-home care
- The advanced care needs of many seniors
The need for long-term care facilities will grow in the coming years as more of the Baby Boomer generation reaches an age where they can't live independently. Families of this cohort should be on the lookout for Florida nursing home abuse.
Contact Our Team To Learn More About Your Legal Options
If you or your loved one suffered an injury because of nursing home negligence in Jacksonville, we could stand by you. Our Jacksonville personal injury attorneys from Dolman Law Group can help you seek compensation for the expenses and psychological impacts of the injury.
With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Dolman Law Group at (904) 441-6903. You can browse our client testimonials to see for yourself how we support our clients.
12574 Flagler Center Blvd.;
Jacksonville, FL 32258
Phone: (904) 441-6903