Those who live a long life deserve dignity and respect. Far too often, however, what the elderly get instead is abuse and neglect. How serious is the nursing home abuse problem in the United States?

Is someone you love at risk? Even if you have no loved ones in a nursing home today, keep reading, because you can’t know what the future may hold, and you need to be prepared.

Floridians were shocked in September when they learned that eleven elderly residents of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills – described on its website as “a warm, caring place” – died during and immediately after Hurricane Irma.

Of the 160 Florida nursing homes that lost power during the storm, only the Rehabilitation Center reported fatalities. Police in Hollywood are conducting a criminal investigation, and state authorities may close the facility.

Most nursing home abuse, however, gets little notice. Elder abuse is “any form of mistreatment that results in harm or loss to an older person,” according to the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse. Abuse of the elderly can be physical, emotional, or financial.

In Florida, the victims of nursing home abuse are entitled by law to relief. They may sue for compensation from their abusers – and usually from the employers of those persons as well.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SAFETY OF NURSING HOME RESIDENTS?

Nursing homes in Florida are legally responsible – that is, liable – for the well-being and safety of their residents.

When nursing home residents are forced into any kind of unhealthy or dangerous situation or experience, and when they are isolated or neglected, those residents and their families may sue the nursing home and the individuals responsible for their abuse.

Many nursing homes in Florida are professionally and in fact exceptionally well-managed and maintained. Sadly, many others are not. If you follow the news, you’ve seen some utterly frightening stories of nursing home abuse.

If you even suspect that someone you love is a victim of nursing home abuse in central Florida, take your concerns at once to an experienced Orlando personal injury attorney.

Nursing home abuse and neglect can never be tolerated. Below, you’ll learn what types of abuse are common in nursing homes – and how to spot elder abuse. Every case is different, of course, so if you believe that someone you love is being abused, it’s best to have an attorney’s advice from the start.

If the abuse involves battery or assault, or fraud, forgery, or theft, your attorney may recommend bringing in the police.

WHAT ARE THE LEADING CAUSES OF NURSING HOME ABUSE?

Nursing home abuse often happens when overworked and underpaid nursing home personnel vent their frustrations on a facility’s residents, who are essentially captive victims.

When nursing home owners pinch pennies in terms of staffing, training, and pay, abuse and neglect are a predictable consequence.

That’s never unacceptable. Every business, of course, has the right to earn a profit, but no nursing home owners can be allowed to put profits above the well-being of residents.

The root causes underlying most mistreatment and abuse in nursing homes is an unwillingness to pay for sufficient staffing and appropriate staff training.

The Department of Justice tells us that approximately five million of the elderly are targets of elder abuse – every year.

Nursing home abuse can sometimes be difficult to identify because the elderly themselves may not understand that they are being abused – or they may be ashamed to admit it.

Nursing homes residents with dementia are particularly vulnerable.

PRECISELY WHAT CONSTITUTES NURSING HOME ABUSE?

If you are a nursing home resident in Florida, the law is on your side. In fact, everyone in Florida is required to report any suspected abuse, exploitation, or neglect of an elderly person.

It’s your obligation, and it’s the law. The failure to report elder abuse is a second-degree misdemeanor in this state.

The law in Florida specifies that elder abuse includes:

– physical or sexual abuse, assault, and battery
– neglect, abandonment, and isolation
– extortion, exploitation, fraud, forgery, and theft
– medical negligence or malpractice and any ensuing medical complications

The financial exploitation of residents in nursing homes has been on the rise in Florida. Financial exploitation includes the theft of cash or jewelry, the forgery of signatures on checks or other documents, and bullying or tricking a nursing home resident into agreeing to sign something like a contract or a will.

Anything, in other words, that puts seniors in peril, overlooks their rights, or denies their dignity may constitute nursing home abuse.

If you have a beloved elderly relative who resides in a Florida nursing home, look for these signs of neglect and abuse: bed sores, bruises, ulcers, cuts, sudden mood swings, or an unexpected medical emergency.

If you find any of these signs of neglect or abuse, make the call immediately to an Orlando personal injury attorney who will aggressively defend your loved one’s rights.

A personal injury lawyer will open an investigation of the nursing facility, gather evidence and testimony on your behalf, and work with experts to help your family win justice.

The Florida Department of Health has established guidelines for nursing home staffing and patient ratios in our state. Each facility must have at least one state-certified doctor, nurse, and dietician available and on-site.

Florida requires extensive nursing home employee training, and the requirements for that training are spelled out by law. The state also requires criminal background checks for nursing home employees before they can work with residents.

ARE CHANGES BEING MADE AT FLORIDA NURSING HOMES AFTER IRMA?

As a result of Hurricane Irma and the tragedy at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, Florida Governor Rick Scott has ordered new emergency measures for Florida’s nursing homes.

Nursing homes and assisted-living facilities now must have sufficient supplies and power to sustain their operations for at least 96 hours after a power outage. Also, the facilities must have a generator and fuel to maintain comfortable temperatures for the same length of time.

There is simply no reason for any elderly nursing home resident in Florida to receive anything but the highest-quality medical care, and there is no reason for any elderly nursing home resident in Florida to be treated with anything less than full dignity and respect.

In this state, reporting elder abuse is everyone’s responsibility, and when a family sues a nursing home for the abuse of a loved one, they’re helping to prevent abuse in the future.

If you have a beloved relative living in a Florida nursing home, get to know the staff, meet the families of other residents, and keep your eyes and ears open for signs of neglect or abuse.

Don’t hesitate to ask an experienced Orlando personal injury attorney for advice and help.