Defining and Identifying Nursing Home Abuse
When someone enters a nursing home, in the best of circumstances, the stay is temporary and only lasts as long as the person needs to recovers from surgery or a serious illness. In the more common and less positive situation, a person moves to a nursing home to receive the care needed to address end-of-life impairments. In either situation, residents are vulnerable to experiencing nursing home abuse due to physical or mental conditions that limit their ability to navigate the world on their own. Family members must trust the facility chosen to house their loved one has competent and compassionate physicians and staff members seeking to provide the best possible care. Certainly, the proper due diligence should always be completed before putting a family member in a facility to check for violations, lawsuits, and past complaints about treatment from residents. But even the most careful research cannot guarantee that something bad will not happen. The best way to quickly identify and stop abuse or neglect is to know what these terms mean and the signs to recognize when they are happening. Elders are not always willing to cooperate or reveal abuse or neglect out of fear or humiliation, so the family needs to themselves with information that will allow them to intervene before abuse or neglect spirals out of control.
Because nursing home residents, who are by and large elderly, are more susceptible to abuse and neglect due to their mental and physical impairments, the law seeks to balance out this danger. This balance is struck by providing nursing home residents specific rights, and extending additional legal protections to guard against the bad acts of caregivers. Consequently, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs oversees efforts to report instances of abuse or neglect, and also measures to curb this behavior. Florida statute defines abuse as any intentional or threatened act likely to cause harm to an elder’s mental, physical, or emotional health. Examples of behavior that qualify as abusive include:
- Burning; or
Neglect is the failure of a caregiver to provide the necessary care, supervision, and services a person requires to maintain physical and mental health. This includes the basics of food, shelter, medication, and clothing as well as efforts to protect a vulnerable individual from neglect by others. Examples of neglectful conduct are:
- ignoring a person or repeatedly leaving him/her alone for long periods;
- a lack of adequate food, water, and a safe environment; and
- the failure to give sufficient attention to medical concerns.
While the definitions and descriptions noted above supply some measure of guidance for spotting abuse and neglect, more specific examples help to create a better context and understanding of these issues. Signs to look for include:
- bed sores, cuts, and bruises;
- broken bones;
- weight loss;
- mood swings or emotional outbursts from the nursing home resident;
- a lack of cleanliness or change in appearance;
- caregivers that fight leaving the resident alone with family and friends;
- refusing to eat or take medication;
- malnutrition; and
- resident who withdraw from others.
Get Legal Advice
If you suspect a loved one is suffering from abuse or neglect from staff at a nursing home, contact an lawyer who specializes in nursing home abuse cases. Discovering a family member is being abused understandably leaves those who care about him/her feeling helpless and violated. Contact an lawyer about holding the responsible parties accountable and take back some of the control that was lost. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado has lawyers on staff ready to evaluate your case. Contact us for a free consultation.