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 round-the-clock care for residents who can’t accomplish day-to-day living tasks independently, such as tending to personal hygiene, taking medication, preparing and eating meals, and engaging in age- and ability-appropriate activities. According to U.S. News & World Report’s Best Nursing Homes ratings, 56 nursing homes operate in the Jacksonville area. 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 COVID-19, pneumonia, and other infectious diseases, to prevent injuries from falls, and other standardized criteria. Residents—according to federal law—have the right to protect their physical and emotional health, but negligence in a nursing facility can result in injuries or even death.
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 at a long-term care facility. We provide a look at each of these examples below.
Nursing Home Neglect
Nursing home neglect happens when staff fails to meet the basic needs of residents. These needs include:
- Nutritious foods and beverages, with attention paid to the specific dietary needs of the resident as noted in the resident’s care plan that staff develops upon the resident’s arrival at the facility and updates 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.
- The provision of 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 spell out whether the resident needs assistance getting in or out of bed and also note resident preferences that staff should adhere to when possible, for example, if a resident likes to stay up late and sleep late in the mornings.
- 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 Association of Nursing Home Attorneys, approximately 10 percent of all nursing home residents have experienced abuse. 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, which accounts for more than 11 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, such as hitting, slapping, punching, or grabbing a resident.
- Sexual abuse, which includes any sexual activity to which the resident has not consented.
- Physical or chemical restraints 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, and 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 members of the nursing home staff to place themselves in a position of trust with a nursing home resident and then knowingly deceive or intimidate the resident into giving them 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, and new signatories appearing on financial accounts.
What Are Nursing Home Residents’ Rights in Jacksonville?
A study conducted several years ago 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, the busy lifestyles of most Americans result in far more nursing home placements throughout the region than residents might hope for. 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. 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 services that the facility provides 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 quality of care the resident is receiving 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. A skilled nursing facility cannot force a resident to leave unless their presence endangers their safety or that of others, or the resident has not paid for services.
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 discern by making a personal visit to the facility. Red flags that could suggest that a nursing home provides negligent care for your loved one include:
- A chaotic environment in which phones and nurse calls are going 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. While staff members understandably communicate with one another to coordinate services, beware 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, particularly 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 at least to communicate with you by phone. A lack of willingness to meet with residents’ families may indicate that the facility’s administrators will fail to provide you with the level of communication about your loved one’s well-being that you need to make decisions about their care.
- A lack of diverse and engaging activities. Residents have a right to make choices for themselves 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 them vulnerable to a loss of quality of life when they become facility residents.
- Visiting hours. Residents may choose when to have visitors, and visits should take place 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, as this could suggest that the staff is only on its best behavior during visitation hours.
Seeking Compensation for Nursing Home Negligence
If you or your loved one suffered an injury because of nursing home negligence in Jacksonville, an experienced attorney from Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA can help you seek compensation for the expenses and psychological impacts of the injury. With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, at (904) 441-6903, or you can write to us using our online contact page.
Jacksonville Office 12574 Flagler Center Blvd.; Suite 101 Jacksonville, FL 32258 Phone: (904) 441-6903
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