Common signs of nursing home abuse

Placing a loved one in a nursing home is often a very difficult decision that a family has to make. Usually, a family makes this decision because ultimately they believe their loved one will have a better life and be well taken care of. However, in some Florida nursing facilities, families learn that not only is their loved one not being taken care of properly, they are also being actively abused. Currently in the United States, there are close to 3 million people housed in various forms of nursing facilities. By far, most of these facilities do their jobs and do them well. But there are some facilities and some staff members who fail in their responsibilities.

In some instances, the care does not meet the requirement set by Federal and state laws and regulations. In these nursing homes, they could be short staffed; therefore, not all residents get the care and help that they deserve. Also, many staff people could be trying their best but they are poorly trained and make mistakes, thus harming the residents in some fashion. In order to make sure that your loved one is truly being taken care of properly, there are signs and symptoms of nursing home abuse and neglect that you should regularly check for:

  • If the resident has decubitus ulcers or pressure ulcers (more commonly known as bedsores);
  • If the resident was injured in a fall and fall protection devices were not in use or were improperly used;
  • Unexplained injuries suffered by the resident;
  • Signs of dehydration, such as cracked/chapped lips, dry skin, sunken eyes and cramping of the muscles;
  • You regularly notice that the nursing home workers are overworked and/or understaffed;
  • Signs of malnutrition such as sudden weight loss, loss of muscle mass, dizziness, dry hair and skin, lack of energy;
  • Infected sores that will not heal or keep returning for an unexplained reason;
  • When a nursing home attempts to limit the access to your loved one;
  • Residents that regularly appear to be overmedicated and are always sleeping or drowsy or confused;
  • When a resident dies, unexpectedly, and there is no apparent cause of the death.

Whatever type of abuse or neglect case your loved one is facing, a nursing home abuse attorney can help you investigate the incident(s) and determine if further investigation or even a lawsuit is necessary. Contact the nursing home abuse attorneys at Joyce & Reyes and we will fight for your loved one’s rights. If we find evidence of abuse or neglect, we will inform the nursing home of our findings to give them a chance to respond. Most nursing home will often agree to settle the matter out of court. However, in some instances, a civil lawsuit needs to be filed seeking monetary damages. We will handle the case from start to finish and make sure your loved one is safe. The initial consultation is free.

Types and symptoms of nursing home abuse

Nursing home abuse and elder neglect is a serious offense. Senior care facilities owe residents a reasonable standard of care. All residents of a nursing home facility deserve to not be neglected and abused. To ensure quality care, nursing homes and their staff should be capable, competent, caring and well trained.

Not all homes, however, provide their residents with standard care. Some nursing homes do not conduct proper background checks on staff, which may result in hiring unqualified people to perform critical duties.

Nursing home abuse comes in many forms. The National Center on Elder Abuse recognizes seven types of elder abuse:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional/psychological abuse
  • Neglect
  • Abandonment
  • Financial abuse
  • Self neglect

Physical abuse

Nursing home physical abuse can include actions such as, shaking, burning, kicking, pushing and beating with hands or an object. Other forms of elder physical abuse include force feeding and/or using physical or chemical restraints. Signs of physical abuse include: welts, bruising, broken bones, skull fractures, mysterious cuts, sprains, lacerations, open wounds, over or under medication or broken personal items.

Sexual abuse

Elder sexual abuse is a serious offense. Sexual abuse can take many forms and can include sodomy, sexual assault, taking pictures of a resident when they are nude, unwanted touching and intercourse. Signs of sexual abuse may include: bruised genitals, genital infections, bleeding from genitals/anus and sexually transmitted diseases.

Emotional/psychological abuse

Emotional or psychological abuse is often hard to detect as it does not have physical symptoms. Emotional abuse can take many forms such as, social isolation of the resident, verbal abuse and neglect. Signs of psychological abuse may include: unusual behavior mimicking dementia, resident is withdrawn/not responsive and/or the resident is agitated.

Elder neglect

Elder neglect is described as failing or refusing to provide necessities of life to a senior. Signs or neglect include: the elder living in unsanitary or hazardous conditions, dehydration, malnutrition, no care for health problems, untreated bed sores and reports of mistreatment by the senior.

Elder abandonment

Elder abandonment occurs when the person and/or people responsible for the senior fail or refuse to care for them. Signs or elder neglect may include seniors reporting they have been abandoned, nursing home staff ignoring a resident’s needs.

Financial abuse

Financial abuse occurs when the nursing home’s staff steals a senior’s possessions and money, forges signatures on financial and legal documents, forces signatures on documents the senior does not understand, and abuses their power of attorney rights. Signs of financial abuse can include sudden changes to legal documents, large amounts of money being transferred out of a senior’s bank account and frequent and sudden ATM card usage.

Self neglect

Self neglect can occur when a senior carries out behaviors that are a danger to their health or safety, such as refusing to drink the proper amount of water, not eating properly, not dressing adequately and/or having poor hygiene. Signs of self neglect can signal poor nursing home maintenance, low staff numbers, negligent staff members or an unsanitary nursing home.

If you are concerned about a loved one’s treatment in a nursing home, then contact Joyce & Reyes the nursing home abuse personal injury attorneys. Let us assist you get the compensation you deserve. At Joyce & Reyes we have over 30 years of experience in personal injury cases. We will stand for your rights to obtain the highest compensation possible for injuries sustained as a result of abuse of a loved one in a nursing home facility.

Florida Senior Dies From Heat Stroke After Falling Off Scooter at Nursing Home

Last July a resident of a Florida assisted living facility fell off her electric scooter in the community courtyard. She was trapped for six hours before she was found by another resident’s family. Her adult children are now suing Harbor Place at Port St. Lucie for wrongful death, claiming that the fall and sun burns caused their mother’s death at 97.

Kathleen “Kay” Menard was at risk of falling, and had done so 14 separate times during her nine years at the community. “She always had a fall risk, and that is why we had her in assisted living,” explained Maria Gryner, Menard’s daughter, to the Palm Beach Post.

Menard passed away September 29. According to her death certificate, the causes of death included the fall from the scooter, heat stroke, extreme burns on her feet and nutritional deficiency.

The family’s attorney saw the case as one of “outrageous neglect.” He said Menard “essentially burned to death due to a facility not keeping any tabs on her and allowing her to bake outside in the summer heat for many, many hours.”

Erika Stewart, Harbor Place’s executive director, stated, “At Harbor Place at Port St. Lucie, providing compassionate care to our residents while ensuring they receive the utmost respect, dignity and independence is our highest priority. We take any allegation to the contrary seriously.”

After the fall, Menard was transported to a local hospital with a temperature of 105.7 degrees. Her burns and heat stroke eventually developed into sepsis. Menard then went back to Harbor Place for a short period of time before she registered at a skilled nursing facility.

Nursing home closes after resident attacks another resident

The question of the elderly’s safety within nursing homes is again in the spotlight with another offense at Good Samaritan Retirement Home in Williston, Florida. A recently exposed video reveals a resident of the Good Samaritan nursing home beating another resident, a helpless 86-year-old with dementia.

The video shows the 52-year-old resident punching the other man over 50 times within the span of two minutes, apparently over a stolen cupcake. The attack occurred in a secured common area that was unsupervised. The video surveillance for the unit was also unattended at the time of the incident.

The staff arrived at the scene of the beating a half a minute later. The 86-yer-old resident was sent to the hospital with a bruised and swollen face and hip pain.

The resident who beat the elderly man had been suffering from traumatic brain injury. He had already been arrested on multiple occasions for assault and battery. Because the man had been determined mentally incapacitated, he was not sent to jail and was not arrested for the beating on due to his limited capacity, according to the police report.

The man, whose name is unreleased, came to Good Samaritan in 2015. According to the staff of the nursing home, he had not shown visible aggression since he had been admitted. He was evaluated after beating the elderly man and later was allowed to come back to Good Samaritan.

Once he returned to the facility, he was given constant one-on-one supervision. However, the report by the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration claims that “there was no evidence that the staff had been trained on the scope of such responsibilities.”

Under the Florida Health Care Association, assisted living facilities and nursing homes are required to have staff training programs focused on understanding and preventing neglect and abuse, including abuse perpetrated by another resident.

Good Samaritan has recently been shut down after a long history of abuse and neglect violations.

Two staff members of a Florida nursing home arrested on charges of neglect

Last December, two arrests were made concerning nursing home neglect at a Williston, Florida retirement facility, the Good Samaritan. The arrests were made based on accusations of nursing home neglect.

On November 1, Betty Hurst, 72, was wandering around outside the nursing home when Sudeall found her. Earlier that night, Hurst had fallen and struck her head.

Hurst was taken back inside by Sudeall, who allegedly failed to provide first aid care. Six hours later Hurst was found unresponsive. She was transported to UF Health Shands Hospital where she died the following afternoon, police stated.

On December 7, Nenita Alfonso Sudeall, 48, an administrator at the Good Samaritan was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force.

According to Florida law, the liability in the case of nursing home neglect is placed on the facility administrator. The Good Samaritan nursing home is under investigation by the Florida Department of Children, the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) and the State Attorney’s Office.

A few days after Sudeall’s arrest, Rhaimley Yap Romero, 31, was also charged with nursing home neglect. Romero replaced Sudeall after her arrest.

A nurse gave Romero specific instructions regarding a resident’s outpatient procedure, telling him to let her know if the resident had any change in health. A staff member contacted Romero twice over the weekend to inform him of the resident’s decreasing condition. Romero allegedly failed to contact the nurse until Monday, when he was back at the nursing home.

The Good Samaritan Retirement Home went under investigation, by the Florida AHCA which reported finding the facility lacking necessary supervision and staffing as well as being unable to provide adequate care for their patients.

The AHCA has fined The Good Samaritan $73,750 for 63 deficits over the last five years. The Good Samaritan holds the most fines out of any facility in the region.

Abuse in Florida nursing homes is apparent with hidden cameras

Following the 13 deaths at a Hollywood Hills nursing home during Hurricane Irma, many families are concerned for the safety of their loved ones in the care of nursing facilities. As a result, more families are placing hidden cameras inside the nursing home rooms to see what is actually happening to elderly patients.

Recently, disturbing video recordings from a family whose loved one was in a nursing home in Pompano Beach, Florida. The 94-year-old male patient with dementia was doused in mouthwash, hit and pushed around. Blake Dolman, the attorney of the man’s family, says, “Mouthwash has alcohol in it. Guess what? He’s going to end up with ulcers and bedsores from dried out skin, and that’s exactly what happened to this man when he had stage three ulcers, that ultimately proved to be fatal.”

Due to concerns of her father’s health, the patient’s daughter placed a hidden camera in the room. The video proved to be valuable in the lawsuit. The nursing assistant who abused the man with dementia has lost her license, but no criminal charges were brought.

Other hidden camera videos show similar neglect and abuse in Florida nursing homes. In one, an employee is seen sleeping through an alarm going off in a patient’s room. Another shows a nursing assistant neglecting to fix a patient’s breathing tube, then denying that she knew about it when another assistant came to the scene.

Currently, Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington allow video monitoring in nursing homes. However, the Florida Health Care Association is against the use of cameras to monitor nursing home patients.

Florida local sues Whitehall nursing home for negligence

A nursing home neglect lawsuit has been filed against a Florida facility, with the plaintiff claiming his care was so poor that he needed additional surgery and medication.

Ross Bayer, 66, was in a landscaping accident over seven months ago that resulted in breaking both of his feet. He was instructed to go through two months of physical therapy and to cover his feet with fresh bandages daily. Rather than staying at home, Bayer stayed at Whitehall nursing home located in Boca Raton, Florida to get the care he needed.

Two weeks later, Bayer called his wife who was out of state with ill parents to get him out of the home. He complained of “horrendous pain” and claimed that the nurses at Whitehall nursing home only changed his bandages once a week even though he begged them to be replaced daily as instructed by the doctors. Once he decided that he was better off at home, he asked Whitehall to send him his medical charts for a better explanation for his lack of care.

Whitehall never sent the documents to him, Bayer claims. He reached out to an attorney for help. Again, requests were put through for Whitehall to send over Bayer’s medical records. Even though months have gone by since Bayer left Whitehall, the documents have not been received, according to Bayer. Due to the alleged negligence while at the nursing home as well as never receiving his medical records, Bayer has filed a lawsuit.

As a result of his time at Whitehall nursing home, Bayer says he now needs additional surgery and treatment for his injuries.

Nursing assistant sentenced to jail in Florida nursing home abuse case

Nursing home abuse and neglect was at the forefront of a recent case in which a former certified nursing assistant in Florida received a five-month jail sentence and five years of probation for the abuse of a nursing home resident, which was caught on a hidden camera.

The Florida woman was charged with battery on the elderly after video from the hidden camera showed her and another nursing assistant abusing a 76-year-old Alzheimer’s patient. The incident occurred at a nursing home in Winter Haven, Florida.

The nursing assistants are shown in the video footage hitting, kicking and taunting the nursing home resident on three occasions in 2014. The other nursing assistant previously received an 18-month prison sentence and five years of probation.

The family of the nursing home resident noticed bruising on the man’s body, which led them to place a hidden camera in his room, inside a clock. The man has since passed away.

The nursing assistant’s sentence also includes forfeiting her nursing license, writing a letter of apology to the man’s family, and undergoing a 26-week batterer intervention program.

The case was influential in a movement by the legislatures of several states to allow hidden cameras in the rooms of nursing home residents.

If you suspect that your loved one may have been a victim of nursing home neglect or abuse, contact Joyce & Reyes for a free consultation.

Administration proposes new rules to help prevent nursing home abuse

The Obama administration has proposed modernizing federal safety rules that nursing homes must abide by in order to receive Medicaid and Medicare payments.

Sylvia Burwell, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, said that the proposed changes set high standards for safety and quality in nursing homes. The proposals were announced as part of the White House Conference on Aging.

Some of the proposals address nursing home abuse. Nurses would be required to be trained in dementia care and preventing elder abuse. There will also be a requirement that nursing homes report staffing levels, which Medicare officials will review to determine whether they are adequate. This stops short of requiring a federal nurse-to-resident ratio, which many advocates had pushed for. Dr. Shari Ling, the deputy chief medical officer for Medicare, said the administration’s approach focused on competency rather than “a numbers game.”

The proposed changes include measures to ensure that families are more involved in the care of their loved ones, as well as rules to promote more individualized care. For instance, residents would be able to choose their own roommates, and requests for meals and snacks at non-traditional times would be accommodated. The proposed rules also address reducing hospital readmissions, minimizing the use of antipsychotic drugs and antibiotics, and strengthening infection control.

If you suspect that a loved one has been abused or neglected at a nursing home, contact Joyce & Reyes for a free consultation to learn more about your rights.

Families Turn to Hidden Cameras to Uncover Nursing Home Abuse

A recent article in the New York Times covers the growing use of some high technology in curtailing nursing home abuse: hidden cameras.

Reporter Jan Hoffman tells the story of 96-year-old Eryetha Mayberry, an Oklahoma City nursing home resident with dementia. Mayberry’s daughter, Doris Racher, noticed that a few of her mother’s belongings had gone missing from her room at the nursing home. She thought it might be another resident with dementia who often wandered into Mayberry’s room.

Racher bought a tiny hidden camera disguised as an alarm clock and placed it on her mother’s nightstand. No further thefts occurred for some weeks, and Racher nearly forgot about the camera. But she eventually decided to go through the recordings anyway. What she saw shocked her.

A nursing home aide was seen stuffing latex gloves into Mayberry’s mouth while another teased her, tapping on her head and laughing at her. They hoisted her from her wheelchair and flung her on the bed, whereupon one gave her rough chest compressions, Hoffman reports. Mayberry died soon after.

In the wake of that incident, on November 1, 2012, Oklahoma became the third state – following Texas and New Mexico – to explicitly allow residents in long-term care facilities to place surveillance cameras in their rooms. In the past two years, lawmakers in at least five states have proposed similar laws.

Most such efforts have been stymied by concerns of privacy rights raised by employee unions and facility owners, but families of residents nevertheless are using the so-called “granny cams” in increasing numbers.

Even government agencies are using them. The New York state attorney general’s office has used the cameras for years in patient neglect and abuse cases. The office recently demonstrated its methods to investigators from other states at a national conference.

In June, 2012, Ohio state attorney general Mike DeWine announced that cameras had been placed in residents’ rooms – with permission from their families – at unspecified facilities throughout the state. DeWine has since moved to shutter a facility in Zanesville, where he says cameras caught an aide repeatedly leaving food beside a resident who was completely unable to feed himself.

But surveillance raises legal and ethical questions. For instance, residents often have roommates, who have the right not to be monitored. Maryland law says cameras must be fixed and pointed directly at the intended resident. Facilities that permit cameras often require families who use them to post a notice to that effect on the resident’s door.

A family’s decision to place a camera in their loved one’s room must be weighed carefully, but in all cases, families should watch carefully for signs of abuse.