Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Serving Largo, Clearwater & St. Petersburg FL
Do you suspect that your elder loved one has suffered abuse or neglect in a nursing home or assisted living facility (ALF)? It may be more likely than you think: an estimated 5 million US seniors are abused each year, but only one in about 14 cases of elder abuse are reported to authorities.
Moreover, symptoms of nursing home abuse aren’t always immediately alarming. It can be as subtle as a change in your loved one’s behavior, or even something as common as bedsores. As nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale once wrote, “If a patient has a bed sore, it is generally a fault not of the disease, but of the nursing.”
If you have suspicions that your parent, grandparent, or disabled family member is being harmed in a Florida elder facility, talk to us at The Schofner Law Firm about it. Trusted attorney Ted Schofner can help your family protect your loved one and help obtain any legal compensation your family deserves. For a FREE initial consultation, call The Schofner Law Firm toll-free at 1-800-891-9996.
Elder Abuse: A Serious Concern In Florida
Florida has the ‘oldest’ population in the US, meaning that it is the state with the highest percentage of older residents. Sadly, elder care in our state has serious inadequacies. Just last year (2018), a survey showed that Florida is below average when it comes to protections against elder abuse and neglect.
A report from the Florida Department of Children and Families gives us more concrete statistics. Reports of adult maltreatment have continually risen since 2012, with 52,858 reported cases just within the 2015-2016 period.
Within the 2016-2017 period, these were the top verified cases of adult maltreatment occurring in institutions:
- Inadequate supervision – 492
- Medical neglect – 140
- Physical injury – 124
- Exploitation – 82
- Environmental hazards – 45
Among institution cases, the employees were by far the most frequent abusers (78 percent of the cases), followed by the owners or operators (14 percent).
These numbers substantiate what many Floridian families have been concerned with for years: that their older family members may be vulnerable to harm when entrusted to elder care facilities. It is thus important for family members to choose a nursing home very carefully, and to be constantly sensitive of how their loved one is being treated in that facility.
Types of Elder Abuse, And The Warning Signs
Nursing home abuse is not always about physical force or violence. Though physical maltreatment is definitely prevalent, families must watch for symptoms of various types of elder abuse.
- Physical abuse. Signs include bruises, abrasions, cuts, pressure marks, broken bones, and burns.
- Passive neglect. This occurs when a caregiver fails to provide the elder with necessities such as food, clothing, and medical care. Symptoms include poor hygiene, unusual weight loss, bedsores, and missed medication.
- Willful deprivation. Some caregivers deliberately deny elders provisions. Watch for physical signs such as unusual weight loss, poor hygiene, and health complaints (headaches, stomachaches, and so on) as well as behavioral signs such as hostility at the presence of caregiving staff.
- Financial exploitation. A caregiver who has access to the elder’s finances may misuse or withhold these. If your loved one’s financial situation changes unexpectedly or without explanation, that is a warning sign. You may want to review bank withdrawals, bounced checks, secretive behavior, and changes in your loved one’s will or estate plan.
- Emotional abuse. An elder may receive verbal assaults, threats, harassment, or intimidation from staff. They may also experience undue ‘punishment’ such as confinement or isolation. Emotional harm symptoms include tenseness around the staff (an elder may flinch, feel nervous, or attempt to hide), arguments or hostility between caregiver and elder, and an elder’s unexplained withdrawal from usual activities.
- Sexual abuse. Any kind of sexual activity that the elder is unable to understand or unwilling to consent to may be considered sexual abuse. This can include touching or fondling. Some behavioral signs listed above may be due to this kind of abuse.
What To Do If Your Loved One Is A Victim Of Elder Abuse
Know that your elder loved one is protected by the law, particularly by Chapter 400 of the Florida Statutes. This set of laws enforces the standards of healthcare and treatment of those in nursing homes.
When you discover signs of abuse or neglect of your loved one, don’t wait to take action. Remember, though, too, to keep a calm and rational mindset.
You’ll first want to talk to your loved one privately to help them feel safe and enable them to open up about their condition at the facility. You may also speak with the nursing home staff, asking them about the signs that you’ve seen. It is possible that those signs may have reasonable explanations behind them that have nothing to do with abuse. Either way, don’t be afraid to be nosy and to take notes. Trustworthy caregivers do not mind your polite questioning.
It is also wise to document and gather relevant information. This may include your notes from conversations with the staff, photographs of your loved one’s condition, photographs of the facility, medical records, your loved one’s weight records, relevant receipts, financial records, and the like.
If there is clear abuse or imminent danger, don’t hesitate to call the authorities. You may call the police or the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873).
Finally, talk to a lawyer. Even if you are not considering any legal action at this point, an attorney’s guidance can lead you to your best next steps in terms of legal protections for your loved one. Choose a lawyer who is experienced in the field of Elder Law. When you do decide to pursue an elder abuse case, your attorney should make the law work for your loved one, especially when facing well-resourced nursing institutions.
Contact The Schofner Law Firm
Attorney Ted Schofner has been trusted by Tampa Bay area families for more than two decades now. His extensive experience and in-depth knowledge of the Elder Law arena is matched by his compassionate treatment of every single family he serves.
Talk to attorney Ted Schofner in a free consultation. Contact The Schofner Law Firm today at 1-800-891-9996 or through our online contact form.
2117 Indian Rocks Road, Largo, FL 33774
Mr. Schofner is licensed and admitted to the Bars of the State of Florida, Illinois, and the District of Columbia.
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