In Florida, the number of confirmed cases of elder abuse and neglect has climbed 74 percent since 2011, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families. As such, in 2015, the statewide total was 2,525 . Unfortunately, even in 2016, many of the big nursing home chains function by placing corporate profits at a higher priority and above the residents’ safety, health, protection and well-being. In our current society, one would hope and assume that nursing homes have the ability to properly care for and protect our elders and prevent instances of neglect that result from understaffing. Yet, it is this exact issue—understaffing–that is causing tremendous harm to our most vulnerable population.
According to ProPublica, assisted living was “conceived two decades ago to offer older Americans the chance to avoid nursing homes and to retain greater degrees of independence and dignity. [It] has become a multibillion-dollar industry, dominated by large chains such as Emeritus [now owned by Brookdale]. Today, some 750,000 people are housed in assisted living facilities in the U.S., with increasing numbers of them suffering from dementia and other serious medical issues.” An investigation in 2013, looked into Emeritus and “showed that the company’s top executives saw controlling labor costs as critical to sustaining the publicly traded company’s financial success and maintaining its appeal to investors on Wall Street. The investigation found evidence that the zeal of senior Emeritus officials to cut costs has led to understaffing at many facilities and considerable disgruntlement among remaining staff about their workload and wages.” 
This disgruntlement leads to low morale and an overall constant understaffed state, where even if the number of employees fit the need for the institution, the overall trained, happy and healthy employees who can work efficiently offset these numbers. In January of this year, Emeritus was accused of misrepresenting to residents that their facilities would be staffed according to the residents’ needs. Instead, staffing at the residential care homes was dictated by budgetary considerations. Ultimately, the company decided to settle out of court to remove all form of accountability.
- Kevin Eckert and Erin Roth, researchers from the Center for Aging Studies at the University of Maryland who have studied the assisted living industry for more than a decade noted that the quality of care delivered by large assisted living companies is intimately tied to how well the company pays its workers . And this low “quality of care” can be seen just as recently as last month.
Cape Coral Brookdale Senior Living Facility
On May, 12, 2016, News-Press reported that an infestation of bedbugs at the Brookdale Senior Living Solutions Facility in Cape Coral has been going on for several months–even before residents or their families knew of the problem. Bedbugs are insects that feed on blood. Their bites can cause irritation and other harmful effects, especially to children and older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control, bedbugs also have the ability to cause secondary skin infections due to the scratching of their bites.
While the investigation is still underway, Kristin Puckett, director of public relations for Brookdale Senior Living Inc., did not respond to questions about when the infestation began, when the company became aware of it, or how many rooms or people were affected. However, Darrell Stanley, a resident of Cape Coral, said he had a family member in the Brookdale facility and that the issue had been present for months . With 65 Brookdale Assisted Living Facilities in Florida alone, including Sun City Center, Saint Petersburg, Sarasota, Clearwater and Tarpon Springs, the systematic understaffing of their facilities and the neglecting of residents lead to issues such as bedbugs.
Nursing home abuse can be dangerous because many victims do not report that they are being abused. Some nursing home residents do not have the mental or physical capacity to report abuse, while others may be too afraid to do so. Nursing home abusers may threaten additional harm to the resident or their families or may otherwise intimidate abuse victims to keep them from reporting their injuries. Bedbugs is only one sign of abuse that is often triggered by poor management and staffing quality. It’s always important to inquire into any unexplained or unusual circumstances involves a nursing home resident to be sure they are healthy and safe.
Dolman Law Group
If an assisted living facility or nursing home has allowed for staff to be poorly trained or other issues associated with staffing quality, the corporation who owns the facility should be held responsible for any abuse, neglect and related injuries to its residents. There is no excuse for a nursing home to establish an unsafe environment that encourages, allows or perpetuates exploitation. If you have noticed signs of any type of nursing home abuse, you should immediately get to the proper authorities, such as contacting an experienced attorney, to discuss how to hold the facility liable for any losses your loved one suffered. If you or a loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse or assisted living facility abuse, please call Dolman Law Group at (727) 451-6900.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, Florida 33765