We have all seen the stereotypical scenario in movies, TV, and in real life: after years of working up north, a retired couple moves to Florida to spend their golden years on golf courses and sandy beaches. South Florida is a great place to live, vacation and retire. Many of us have parents and grandparents who, after some time, require the care and comfort of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.
Nursing home abuse has been a hot topic for exposés around the country and, as the Orlando Sentinel and the Miami Herald reported last month, it is a growing concern in Florida. Both the Sentinel and the Herald highlighted several incidents of nursing home abuse, including: a 71-year-old in South Florida who died from burns in a bathtub; a 75-year-old priest with dementia in Pinellas county who wandered off unsupervised and was found in a lake with bodily injuries from alligators; and an assisted-living facility owner in the Panhandle who threatened residents with a stick and refused them food and drugs. Both the Sentinel and the Miami Herald also note recent attempts by Florida legislature to impose restrictions on nursing home lawsuits and restrictions on Florida’s nursing home watchdogs. (Note: the Herald also includes a 3-part video on its investigation).
The Herald’s 3-part series on its investigation – which spanned one year and included examination of state inspections, reports and files, as well as interviews with operators and residents – noted that the “Agency for Health Care Administration, which oversees the state’s 2,850 assisted-living facilities, has failed to monitor shoddy operators, investigate dangerous practices or shut down the worst offenders.” The findings were quite appalling: (1) regulators could have shut down 70 facilities who committed violations, but only closed 7; (2) facilities are frequently found in violation for using restraints (tranquilizers, ropes, closets), but not punished; and (3) almost once a month, residents die from neglect, but arrests are rarely made.
Choosing the appropriate nursing home facility is a very difficult task. Though most rely on reviews and ratings of a facility, word of mouth and reputation, you can never be too careful when entrusting your loved ones to the care of a nursing home. As attorneys, we feel it is our privilege and our duty to represent those who have been abused or neglected by nursing homes. If you or a loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse, consult with a Florida nursing home attorney today.