Florida Watch Listed Nursing Home Risks
It is never pleasant to bring a loved one to a long-term care facility. People worry about how safe the patients are and how comfortable they will be. Sadly, sometimes they are right to worry.
Consider, for instance, the case of a Sarasota nursing home resident who passed away in 2017. As the Bradenton Herald reported last month, the elderly female resident checked into the Beneva Lakes nursing home in Sarasota for care to treat chronic ulcers on her legs. She passed away a short time later after nursing home staff failed to alert the woman or her adult daughter of its inability to provide adequate treatment for what the facility’s medical staff recognized was a worsening, potentially terminal, condition.
A Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (FAHCA) investigation into the woman’s tragic death faulted Beneva Lakes for its failures to communicate important information to the patient and her family about her condition, and for failing to have “adequate programs to ensure quality of care and quality of life in nursing homes,” according to the Herald. The FAHCA and Beneva Lakes agreed to a $26,000 fine, and to the nursing home being placed on Florida’s Nursing Home Watch List until 2020.
The Beneva Lakes case represents the nightmare scenario for anyone with an aging loved one who needs around-the-clock healthcare or living assistance. In this post, we describe the online resources for choosing a nursing home that can help you avoid that outcome and some steps to take if you suspect a loved one has been mistreated by a nursing home or assisted living facility.
Online Resources for Researching Florida Nursing Homes
When scouting long-term elder care facilities in Florida, make the FAHCA’s HealthFinder web page your first stop. There, you will find a wealth of information about Florida nursing homes, the good, the bad, and the ugly. HealthFinder offers tools for choosing and comparing every licensed care facility in the State, including those that have earned FAHCA’s “Gold Seal” of approval.
The site provides detailed information about individual homes, including their track records for treating certain health conditions, their costs, and the types of insurance they accept. The FAHCA website also features the Nursing Home Watch List mentioned above, which links to the entire disciplinary record of any nursing home that is either operating under bankruptcy protection or under a “conditional” license from the FAHCA as a result of an enforcement action.
Nursing Home Research Tools
The non-profit investigative journalism organization ProPublica also maintains an up-to-date, searchable, user-friendly website called Nursing Home Inspect that collects and organizes information about, and offers tools for comparing, nursing homes nationwide, including Florida. Not only is this a fantastic stand-alone tool for researching nursing homes in Florida you can also use it to double check the information presented at the FAHCA website. We find it particularly helpful that ProPublica independently rates the nursing homes it lists, links to Nursing Home Inspection Reports from Medicare.gov’s Nursing Home Compare website, and ranks homes by serious deficiencies reported, total fines paid, and enforcement actions taken.
Once you have narrowed your search to one or a few nursing homes, you should also consult the online court records for the county where the facility is located. Unlike many states that have lagged behind in moving into the digital age, Florida puts a significant number of court documents online and makes them available for free. This makes it relatively simple to find out if a nursing home you research has a track record of being sued and/or settling claims by former residents.
For example, searching the Sarasota County Clerk’s ClerkNet 3.0 website for “Beneva Lakes” reveals that two lawsuits alleging “nursing home negligence” were filed against Beneva Lakes Healthcare and Rehab Center since 2010. Of course, you should not necessarily infer that a facility is unsafe from the fact that it has been sued in the past. But, the court records you find may give you additional, useful information to help you choose, or rule out, a home for your loved one.
If You Suspect Mistreatment at a Nursing Home
The resources above can help reassure you that a nursing home will give your loved one good care. But, they’re not foolproof. Even the most complete information about a facility’s past track record is not a guarantee against future misconduct. Negligence that harms a resident can happen at even the best-run facilities.
If you suspect that your loved one has been injured or suffered mistreatment at a Florida nursing home or assisted living facility, here are some steps you can take to protect them and their rights.
Make safety your top priority
Assess the severity of the situation and react appropriately. If you think abuse is ongoing and your loved one is in danger, move them out of the home as soon as possible and consider alerting law enforcement. If, on the other hand, there doesn’t appear to be an immediate danger, gather as much information as possible about your loved one’s injury or apparent mistreatment on your own to help decide whether your loved one should be moved.
Move your loved one if necessary
If you didn’t move your loved one immediately, but still feel, after gathering the facts, that your loved one would be better off at a different facility, then make the move. Do not hesitate to move your loved ones. Their safety above all else is important. The details can be sorted out later easier than contending with the possibility of further injury.
Nursing Home Red Flags
- Difficulty reaching and communicating with facility administrators
- Lack of staff
- Restrictive visitation policies
- General poor facility condition (lax sanitation, overgrown landscaping, old poorly maintained equipment)
- Lack of choices for activities, nutrition, and events
- High levels of noise and lack of placid atmosphere
- Negative internet reviews and testimonies
Consult an experienced attorney as soon as you’ve dealt with safety issues.
The sooner you contact an attorney with experience representing the victims of elder abuse and neglect, the better. The window for filing a claim for damages or other relief against a nursing home in Florida is short—just two years from the injury or date of its discovery—so having a lawyer on your team from the start can make a significant difference in protecting your loved one’s rights and ensuring that you’re able to hold a negligent or dangerous facility responsible for its practices. An attorney can also help advise you whether and when to report a nursing home to agencies like FAHCA.
At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we represent Florida nursing home residents and their families, particularly in cases of abuse and neglect. Florida nursing homes have a special responsibility to the often vulnerable elderly men and women in their care. Our lawyers work hard to ensure facilities live up to that responsibility and, when they don’t, that they’re held accountable with a nursing home abuse claim.
For a free consultation, contact us on our website or by phone at (941) 210-7586.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
8039 Cooper Creek Blvd
University Park, FL 34201-3007