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Personal Injury · Wrongful Death · Medical Malpractice

How the Rights of Nursing Home Residents Can Help Identify Abuse

As the world becomes a smaller and smaller place due to advancements in technology, so too are people, and Americans in particular, willing to move to other towns, states and countries seeking better opportunities. One potential downside to large number of Americans moving far from their hometowns is the older population left behind often has no family around to look out for their wellbeing. If these individuals are later placed in nursing homes, they could face a higher likelihood of abuse since no one is nearby to check on them.  Nursing home abuse is a horrible situation that no one should have to face, but unfortunately, there are people that will take advantage of vulnerable elderly patients. In fact, a recent article reported on a new type of elder abuse that involves nursing home staff posting images of elderly patients in embarrassing or inappropriate situations on social media. Because Florida has such a large elderly population, there are more resources available that advocate for patients and monitor facilities in an effort to provide quality care for all nursing home residents. For example, the Florida Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program provides volunteers who will advocate for residents and investigate facilities based on family and resident complaints. In addition, Florida law includes a provision that establishes the rights of all residents living in nursing homes. Some of these rights relate to behavior that could indicate the presence of abuse.

Residents’ Rights

The Florida Legislature understood that many elderly residents of the state do not have family in the area to visit and keep an eye on physical and psychological health. Consequently, it passed a law setting out the rights of residents living in nursing homes that each facility must post in a public area and follow. Many of the rights refer to personal freedoms the residents retain like religious observance and managing their own affairs. The violation of some, however, should send up red flags because they are hallmarks of possible abuse. These rights include:

  • the right to private and uncensored communication, including access to a telephone, visiting at the resident’s discretion during visiting hours, and overnight visits with friends and family;
  • the right to refuse medication or treatment and be informed of the consequences of doing so;
  • the right to receive necessary health care and support services, such as rehabilitation, mental health counseling or social services; and
  • the right to privacy in treatment and caring for personal needs, including closing room doors and requiring staff to knock before entering, unless there is an emergency.

Relation to Abuse

Evidence of elder abuse typically includes certain signs and signals that can alert family and friends that a serious problem may be present. Violations of the particular rights listed above call into question the quality of a patient’s care because they directly relate to the following features of abuse:

  • sudden refusal by the resident to communicate with friends and family – if a resident abruptly reduces or cuts off communication that suggests emotional abuse or intimidation that is inhibiting the resident’s desire to talk;
  • reports of drug overdose, refusal to take medication, or inadequate amounts of medication – this information points to physical abuse or neglect and requires further inquiry to determine who made the medication decisions and why; and
  • finding the resident in soiled or inappropriate clothing – this situation could indicate neglect, physical or emotional abuse as the resident is either unable to provide the necessary care or fails to so hoping to ward off additional abuse.

Speak with a Lawyer

If you or a loved one have experienced any type of abuse or neglect while living in a nursing home, you may be entitled to compensation. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber Del Prado works to hold the responsible parties liable for their actions and is available to review the merits of your case. Contact us for a free consultation.

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