As an attorney who advises families who encounter problems with nursing homes primarily in Venice, Sarasota, Englewood, Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda and surrounding Florida communities, I am struck by the high percentage of these patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or some form of senile dementia. These mental illnesses can complicate a resident’s admission to and stay at a nursing facility and increase the risk that they will suffer some form of harm as a result. The responsible family member should ask certain questions of the facility administrator or admissions representative prior to the time of admission and remain vigilant once the facility has admitted the resident for care.
Question #1: Is the unit locked and supervised to prevent resident elopement? One of the most astounding yet common examples of nursing home neglect, as seen throughout the United States, occurs where an unsupervised nursing home resident simply wanders away and vanishes from a facility without anyone noticing. Obtain some reassurance that the facility has measures in place to prevent the wandering or elopement of the elderly patient away from the unit.
Question #2: What activities, therapy and treatment does the facility provide that are directed toward the functional improvement of memory and cognition? In other words, will staff attempt to engage the resident and provide memory care? Or, will the resident be largely ignored and left to fend for himself in between family visits? Studies have shown that both physical and mental activities are more effective than prescription pills or drug therapy when it comes to improving memory and cognitive ability in dementia patients.
Question #3: What is the staffing ratio in the unit? Are there sufficient numbers of qualified staff employed on all shifts to supervise and assist the residents when needed? Ask to visit the unit so that you may obtain a sense as to whether the nursing home maintains adequate staff. Do other residents’ needs appear to be met during your visit?
Question #4: Has the facility received complaints about any residents who have exhibited aggressive, combative or sexually inappropriate behavior toward other residents or staff? What is the nursing home’s policy for dealing with these issues? Once again, pay a visit to the facility. Do you see any residents who appear aggressive toward others? How quickly is staff able to intervene? Unfortunately, resident on resident physical and sexual abuse is a fairly common occurrence in Florida nursing homes.
Following admission, visit the nursing home and visit often. Arrive at different times of the morning, afternoon and night in order to show the facility that they have a resident who is loved and not forgotten. Your actions will also show the facility that you are on guard. In time, you will get to know and develop relationships with the staff on different shifts. This can prove important in obtaining information concerning issues at the facility that occur in your absence.
Last but not least, be sure to speak with your loved one’s primary care physician about two common causes of dementia: medications and depression. Certain medications are known to bring on dementia. Likewise, chronic depression may also serve as the root cause of dementia. While these are just two examples of the more than one hundred known causes of dementia, they bear closer examination since action may be taken to eliminate these causes and thereby potentially eliminate the manifestations of dementia.
If you have questions concerning the legal requirements of nursing homes or assisted living facilities in Florida or wish to inquire about pursuing a case of nursing home or assisted living facility abuse and neglect, please feel free to call me – James Keim, Attorney at Law – for a free, confidential consultation at (941) 485-7600. I am a nursing home neglect lawyer with nearly 25 years of experience fighting for the rights of the elderly against large nursing home corporations.