The elderly and our children are the most vulnerable citizens deserving of our protection. When a nursing home, assisted living facility, day care center or other organization responsible for keeping our seniors and children safe violates that trust, they must be held accountable.
The neglect and abuse of senior citizens and our children at the hands of others must not go unpunished. Through our investigations we usually find that corporate misconduct is the root cause of neglect and abuse. Under-staffing, poor training and the wrongful hiring and retention of bad employees is typically the root cause of neglect and abuse.
Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Bed Sores / Pressure Sores / Decubitus Ulcers
Pressure sores, or bed sores as they are commonly known, are usually preventable with proper care. They tend to develop on the sacrum, coccyx, heels, and hips when a resident is neglected and permitted to remain in a single position for an extended period of time. Pressure sores, also known as “decubitus” ulcers from the Latin word for lying down, frequently become infected and lead to sepsis and death.
Pressure sores are one of the most common signs of abuse and neglect in a nursing home or assisted living facility. Why? In addition to inadequate pressure relief, the failure of staff to provide prompt incontinence care, adequate nutrition and sufficient hydration also directly lead to the development and worsening of pressure sores.
I have personally prosecuted many cases of abuse and neglect against local nursing homes and assisted living facilities based on their failure to provide proper care to residents, resulting in the development of significant pressures sores that often become infected and prove fatal.
Malnutrition / Dehydration / Severe Weight Loss
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Florida frequently fail to provide adequate nutrition and hydration to their residents. These failures may encourage pressure sore development, delay healing and recovery from surgery, and lead to a whole host of other problems and an overall decline in the patient’s health.
Severe weight loss, dry skin, chapped lips, and poor skin turgor may all be indicative of poor nutrition and hydration.
Over the course of my 20 year career, I have fought hard to ensure that nursing homes are held accountable for putting profit of people and failing to provide adequate nutrition and hydration to meet their needs.
Medication Errors / Medication Misuse / Overdose / Drug Toxicity
Medications should not be misused by an understaffed facility to alter a resident’s supervision needs. Facilities also have a duty to ensure that their residents are receiving all medications as ordered by their physicians.
Medication misuse and errors frequently result in falls, bowel impactions, weight loss, and even death.
I frequently see problems pertaining to the use and administration of the following drugs:
- Blood Thinners: Coumadin, Warfarin, etc.
- Pain Killers: Hydrocodone, Percocet, Morphine, etc.
- Antipsychotic: Donepezil, Clozapine, Risperdal, etc.
- Psychoactive: Xanax, Valium, Ativan, etc.
Additionally, it is an unfortunately common occurrence that nursing home and assisted living facility staff check out pain medications for residents but never administer them, deciding to pocket them instead.
If you have a loved one who continues to complain of pain despite staff’s insistence that pain medication has been administered, there is a high likelihood that one or more members of the nursing staff is stealing the pain pills.
Scabies / Rats / Ants / Pests
Scabies are tiny, hairy mites with long tentacles that burrow beneath the skin, lay eggs, defecate and die. Their offspring hatch, and the life-cycle repeats itself until treatments finally kill off these disgusting pests.
Their presence is usually confirmed by a pervasive itch and bright red rash. Scabies frequently arise and spread in long term care facilities where the institution has an inadequate infection control program.
I have personally handled cases against local nursing homes and assisted living facilities involving scabies infestations, rats, ants and other pests.
Physical Assault / Sexual Abuse
Physical and sexual abuse may be committed by either facility staff or other residents. The failure to properly screen, hire, and train employees as well as the failure to oversee and respond to residents who display inappropriate behaviors toward others are the leading causes of this form of harm.
The most common type of physical abuse that occurs in nursing homes and assisted living facilities is resident on resident abuse. This is particularly true if the resident is housed in an Alzheimer’s unit. The facility may receive complaints about a particularly abusive resident but fail to take action to have that person removed from the facility because they are more focused on filling every bed and keeping every bed filled.
I have successfully held nursing homes and ALFs accountable for the physical abuse of the elderly.
Choking / Asphyxiation / Aspiration Pneumonia
An all too common problem in nursing homes involves residents who have difficulty swallowing. This condition is known by the medical term as “dysphagia.” Those residents suffering from dysphagia are at a heightened risk of choking, asphyxiating or developing aspiration pneumonia. These residents typically require a mechanically altered diet where solid foods are pureed and liquids are thickened.
The most common problem arises when nursing home staff fails to follow dietary orders and gives a resident who suffers from dysphagia the wrong food or fluids.
Objects and equipment in a resident’s room may also pose dangerous hazards. Bed rails, lifts, and other assistive devices could potentially pose a risk of entrapment and asphyxiation. Statistically, it happens throughout the country in long term care facilities more often than you might imagine.
I have personally prosecuted many cases of abuse and neglect against local nursing homes based on their failure to follow dietary orders, resulting in choking, asphyxiation and aspiration pneumonia.
Chronic Infections / C-DIFF / MRSA Infections
Nursing homes make money by filling their beds and keeping them filled. We frequently see a great reluctance in sending a resident to the hospital for emergent medical care. The signs and symptoms of infection are often overlooked or ignored, particularly with residents already taking antibiotics.
Prolonged antibiotic use can open the intestinal tract up for infection by C-Diff – or clostridium difficile – a bacteria that leads to infectious diarrhea and volume depletion, that if not treated promptly, may result in a significant health decline and death.
I have significant experience representing families in cases brought against nursing homes and assisted living facilities for their failure to prevent the spread, diagnose, treat and alert the doctor to infection, including C-Diff., MRSA, pneumonia, and other pathogens.
Falls & Fractures
The failure to assist residents with their activities of daily living increases the likelihood that the resident will fall and suffer injury. While every fall is not preventable, the failure of a facility to properly assess the risk, care plan, and implement nursing interventions designed to reduce the risk of falls constitutes a violation of a resident’s rights. More often than not, there simply isn’t enough staff around to provide assistance with the basics.
Even more troubling is the fact that nursing homes and assisted living facilities will frequently attempt to hide the fact that a fall ever happened. I have seen many sad cases where an elderly person was put back into bed after falling and fracturing a hip or leg, only to lie there and suffer for days to weeks because they lacked the mental capacity to report the incident themselves or alert loved ones to their pain.
Unexplained fractures and traumatic injury to the brain are some of the most common problems that result from nursing home and assisted living facility neglect, and I have fought hard to hold facilities accountable for their negligence and neglect in many cases.
Many residents are dependent upon staff to receive proper nutrition and medication to reduce their risk of developing a bowel obstruction. A failure in this regard can have terrible consequences. Bowel impactions are often not assessed by nursing staff until it is too late.
I have prosecuted actions against the nursing home industry where serious bowel impactions have led to septicemia, septic shock and death.
Elopement / Wandering Away From Facility
Alzheimer’s patients and residents with advanced dementia typically require greater supervision and a secure unit. When staff fall asleep at the wheel, these residents have the potential to wander away from the facility and encounter harm.
Assisted living facilities, in particular, frequently allow patients suffering from Alzheimer’s dementia to walk out of a facility undetected. This often results in terrible outcomes: residents sometimes drown in lakes, canals or ponds. Occasionally, they wander into traffic and are struck.
Assisted living facilities are supposed to provide safe and secure locked units and 24 hour supervision. When a dementia patient walks away undetected, it is usually the result of negligence and neglect.
Wrongful Retention in a Nursing Home
“Fill every bed and keep every bed filled” is the profit-focused mantra of the nursing home industry. Most nursing homes have an unwritten policy to keep residents in their rooms even if they are potentially experiencing an acute medical condition that requires hospitalization.
I have personally handled and evaluated many cases where residents have come down with serious infections, diabetic complications, pneumonia, large wounds requiring surgery, bowel obstructions, fractured bones and head trauma but were not timely sent out to a hospital – either due to neglect or a conscious profit motive to keep the nursing home bed filled as long as possible.
Assisted Living Abuse and Neglect
Elderly residents of Florida assisted living facilities are subject to the same harm, neglect and abuse that can occur in nursing homes. Signs of assisted living abuse include: bed sores, falls and fractures, infections, choking incidents, pneumonia, mysterious or unexplained injury or death and many other types of harm.
Wrongful Retention in an Assisted Living Facility
At the time of admission, a resident may be healthy enough to reside in an assisted living environment, but over time, their health may deteriorate, necessitating transfer out of the facility to a place that provides a higher level of care.
When an Assisted Living Facility (ALF) fails to recognize such a decline and wrongfully retains a resident, this may give rise to harm and a violation of resident rights. Other times, an ALF may wrongfully retain a resident who is suffering from a Stage III or IV pressure sore even though Florida law requires that such residents be discharged in order to receive a higher level of care.
Over the years, I have successfully prosecuted cases against local assisted living facilities that have wrongfully retained residents whose medical needs may no longer safely be met in an ALF environment.
Adult Day Care Neglect
Facilities that hold themselves out as qualified and capable of providing adult day care services to the elderly have a duty to protect our seniors from harm while they are under their supervision. One of the biggest risks a that a senior confronts is the risk of falling and suffering serious injury or death at an adult day care center that is understaffed.
If you have questions regarding a potential case against an adult day care center in Florida, call our law firm for a free evaluation at (941) 485-7600. Adult day care centers that neglect, abuse or harm our seniors should be held accountable.