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Personal Injury · Wrongful Death · Medical Malpractice

Are Alzheimer’s Patients Living in Nursing Homes Owed an Extra Duty of Care?

Making the decision to place a loved one in a nursing home is rarely easy because it represents the fact that the person is very ill and unable to care for themselves. The pain of such decisions is often even more acute if the person entering the nursing home is suffering from Alzheimer’s. Because this disease destroys a person’s cognitive functions, any Alzheimer’s patient becomes increasingly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. In the setting of a nursing home, the possibility of abuse and/or exploitation is more likely because the people interacting with and caring for these individuals have no familial or emotional ties to regulate good behavior. An unfortunate example of the potential risk of abuse for Alzheimer’s patients have in nursing homes occurred in Winter Haven when two nursing assistants were recorded “taunting, hitting, and kicking” a resident on three occasions. The women were prosecuted and convicted for these acts, but the nursing home that employed these individuals is still civilly responsible for the abuse that occurred. Florida law recognizes the challenges caring for Alzheimer’s patients’ present to the staff and the corresponding possibility that staff will abuse patients out of frustration or insufficient education on the proper standard of care.

Disclosure

Any nursing home claiming to offer specialized care for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or related conditions, like dementia, is required to disclose how the services the home provides is specifically applicable to and beneficial for these residents in any advertisement or other document that describes the facility’s programs. Anyone requesting information on these services is entitled to receive a copy of this document, and these disclosures are subject to inspection when the state renews the nursing home’s license to operate.

What this means for the family members looking for information on Alzheimer’s care in a nursing home is that the home cannot claim to offer care specific to this disease unless it has documentation outlining exactly what the caregivers can provide. Consequently, if a nursing home facility fails to provide this information, it is a red flag that should make you question whether this facility can offer adequate care.

Training

In addition, any nursing home that has residents with Alzheimer’s or dementia-related disorders must provide, to every employee, information about interacting with individuals suffering from degenerative cognitive conditions, regardless of whether the employee will provide direct care. If the employee will be a direct care provider, he/she must complete one hour of specialized training within the first three months of employment, which includes an overview of the types of dementia and how to communicate with persons suffering from these conditions. Further, an additional three hours of training must be completed within nine months of employment by direct care providers and cover managing problem behaviors, methods to facilitate the resident’s ability to perform daily activities independently, and how to work with families and caregivers.

Someone considering putting a family member in nursing home who has dementia or Alzheimer’s should observe how staff deals with other Alzheimer’s residents to assess whether their methods seem supportive and not harmful. While this is not a guarantee abuse will not happen, it will still provide some indication about whether a particular nursing home is worth more consideration.

Talk to a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

It is natural to want to provide the best care for your loved one as you as choose which nursing home to care for them. These decisions become more complicated when cognitive conditions interfere with communicating and caring for the loved one, but they still deserve a safe and respectful approach by the nursing home staff. If you believe your loved one suffered abuse while a resident in a nursing home, it is important to speak with an lawyer to make sure the facility is held accountable. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber Del Prado will fight to hold a nursing home answerable for your loved one’s abuse. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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