Need a Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect Attorney in Tampa?
If you or a loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect in Tampa or any other Florida city, you probably have many questions. Common questions include:
- How do I make sure this does not happen to anyone else?
- Can I hold them accountable for what they have done?
- Can I move my loved one to a different nursing home?
We are here to answer all your questions. But more importantly, we have the knowledge and experience to hold nursing homes accountable for their abuse and neglect. We believe holding nursing homes accountable for money damages when they provide bad care will motivate them to improve and our Tampa nursing home abuse lawyers are passionate about doing so. For a free consultation give us a call.
The Distasio Law Firm Difference
How do you know if you have hired the best Tampa nursing home abuse attorney? The simplest way to know is to find a lawyer that has all the below characteristics.
- Knowledge and Experience Handling Nursing Home Abuse Cases
Your lawyer should not only know Florida nursing home law. They should also have years of experience handling abuse and neglect cases. Scott Distasio has been handling nursing home abuse cases for over 28 years. His years of experience investigating, negotiating, settling, filing lawsuits, taking depositions, and going to trial will absolutely make a difference in your case.
- Independent Verification of the Lawyers Ability
All attorneys claim they know what they are doing. Their marketing materials may also be persuasive. But you will only know the truth about that lawyer if the lawyer is rated by a respected independent non-biased rating systems. Scott Distasio has an “AV” rating by Martindale-Hubbell law Directory. This is the highest rating an attorney can receive for both ability and ethics. Scott Distasio is also Board Certified by the Florida Bar in Trial law. To achieve this accomplishment, a lawyer must have tried a minimum number of cases to a jury and pass a competency exam. Less than 1% of all Florida lawyers are Board Certified.
- Willingness and Ability to Go to Trial
Not all nursing home neglect cases go to trial. The truth is, most cases settle. But if your case does need to go to trial, it’s important to hire a law firm that has the experience, resources and ability to try your case. Scott Distasio is a board-certified civil trial lawyer. This gives him the right to call himself an expert trial lawyer.
What is Nursing Home Abuse?
Florida statute 415.102(1) defines abuse as any willful act by a caregiver which causes or is likely to cause significant impairment to a vulnerable adult’s physical, mental, or emotional health. Abuse includes acts and omissions. Florida nursing homes engage in abuse in many subtle ways. Nursing home management engages in nursing home abuse when they willfully understaff their facilities to increase profits. Nursing home staff members engage in nursing home abuse when they verbally and physically abuse residents. Both of these forms of abuse are very common.
Some examples of abuse include the following:
- Hitting uncooperative residents
- Twisting resident’s limbs when repositioning them
- Yelling at residents
- Teasing and/or calling residents names
A seasoned nursing home abuse lawyer in Tampa can gather the evidence necessary to hold these wrongdoers accountable. If you suspect that your loved one may be suffering from abuse and need help identifying the signs, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our team today!
What is Nursing Home Neglect?
Florida statute 415.102(16) defines neglect as the failure or omission on the part of a care giver to provide the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the physical and mental health of a vulnerable adult, including, but not limited to food, clothing, medicine, shelter, supervision, and medical services, which a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of a vulnerable adult. The most common forms of nursing home neglect happen when nursing home management and staff become so used to the plight of growing old that they lose their ability to care.
Some examples of physical neglect may include the following:
- Failure to help with hygiene
- Failure to supervise residents that are at risk of falling
- Failure to change bedding
- Failure to change clothes
- Failure to feed the person
- Failure to hydrate the person
- Allowing incontinent residents to lay in their waste
- Allowing incontinent residents to lay in their waste
Some examples of medical neglect may include:
- Failing to provide proper medical attention
- Failing to provide prescription medication
- Over-medicating a person
- Under-medicating a person
- Failure to diagnose symptoms
- Failure to treat evident symptoms
- Failing to send a resident to the hospital when symptoms warrant it
A Tampa nursing home neglect attorney can’t change what has happened, but by holding them accountable for damages, a lawsuit can help deter this type of conduct in the future. If you suspect your loved one has been the victim of neglect in a nursing home in Tampa or any other city in Florida, give us a call.
Why Does Nursing Home Neglect & Abuse Happen?
Most nursing homes provide good care to their residents, but some are so driven to make as much money as possible that they intentionally sacrifice care of their residents to increase profits. Of course, there is nothing wrong with making a profit, but when profits are put ahead of providing resident care, nursing home abuse and neglect occurs. These nursing homes literally make a conscious decision to put profits over people. They know that the largest cost of running a nursing home is the cost of paying the employees. They willfully understaff their facility by reducing the cost of paying staff members so they significantly increase profits.
There are two ways nursing homes reduce staff costs. The first way is to purposely have fewer employees than is necessary to meet the needs of the residents. They reduce the number of staff members per shift so that the employees on duty do not have time to care for all the residents. Those with the most needs often get the least help. In fact, some residents that need extra assistance simply do not get it. Basic things like turning and repositioning residents at risk of developing pressure sores, cleaning incontinent residents, feeding and providing water to resident’s incapable of caring for themselves, and supervising residents at risk of falling do not happen. The end result is an increase in pressure sores, falls, injury, and even unnecessary death.
The second way nursing homes decrease the cost of staff is by hiring under-qualified employees for less money than other facilities. They have nursing assistants do the job of LPN’s and LPN’s do the job of registered nurses. These employees are so under-qualified and underpaid that they do not know how to handle older residents that are set in their ways and/or suffering from dementia. These employees take out their frustration on their residents in the form of mental and physical abuse.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Nursing home abuse and neglect comes in many forms, but they all end the same way: injury and/or death to vulnerable nursing home residents.
The most common types are:
- Bed Rail Entrapment
- Combative Residents
- Dropped Patients Hoyer Lift
- Elopement and Wandering
- Feeding Tube Neglect
- Impacted Bowels
- Insect Bites
- Medication Errors
- Poor Hygiene
- Pressure Sores
- Sexual Assault
- Slip and Falls
- Smoking Accidents
- Ventilator Neglect
How To Identify Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Identifying elder abuse and elder neglect is not always easy. It will take careful observation on your part but it will pay off in the end. If you keep your eyes open and are aware of potential signs of elder abuse and elder neglect, you can prevent it from occurring.
Some signs to watch out for may include the following:
- Unexplained bruises
- Sudden changes in personality
- Fear of a caregiver
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Fainting, tiredness or other symptoms of malnutrition
- Unclean environment
- Excessive restraints
- Recurring injuries
- Injuries that cannot be easily explained
- The caregiver will not let you be alone with your loved one
- Withdrawal or depression
- Strange financial transactions
Fluid intake is one of our most basic human needs. Without it, a person will suffer from dehydration and ultimately death. Often the elderly population in nursing homes and assisted living facilities is not capable of keeping properly hydrated on their own. Their medical conditions cause them to use up fluid faster, their kidneys often do not work properly, they forget to drink, and /or they need help taking in fluids.
Neglect Is A Main Cause of Dehydration
In Florida nursing homes and assisted living facilities, neglect is one of the main reasons that residents suffer from dehydration. Simply put, overwhelmed workers in understaffed facilities do not have enough time to check on residents throughout the day to ensure their fluid needs are being met. The end result is often a resident that suffers from contractures, dehydration, malnutrition, sepsis, and pressure sores.
Signs of Dehydration
The signs of dehydration are usually not hard to miss. Residents that need more fluid will usually have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Dry or cracked skin
- Dry or cracked lips or mouth
- Dark urine
- Loss of appetite
- Fatigue or Dizziness
Pay attention to these signs or symptoms in your loved one. If you notice any of these problems, report them immediately to the nursing home or assisted living facility Director of Nursing and/or Administrator.
Nursing Home Elopement & Wandering Neglect
Nursing home residents with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia often spend time walking or rolling their wheelchairs aimlessly throughout the facility. This type of behavior, whether you want to call it wandering or elopement, can put such patients at risk of serious injury and/or death if the nursing home does not provide proper supervision.
Although wandering and elopement involve similar behavior, they are not the same:
- Wandering occurs when a nursing home resident moves aimlessly down hallways and from room to room inside a facility;
- Elopement occurs when a nursing home resident that needs supervision finds a way to leave the facility unnoticed and unattended.
Patients that wander hallways are at risk for falling and injuring themselves. Patients that elope from the facility are at risk of quickly becoming lost outside. Such patients can suffer injury or death from many different things including harsh weather, drowning, dehydration, starvation, or being hit by a car.
What Nursing Homes Should do to Address Wandering and Elopement
Unfortunately, patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia often wander the facility and try to leave. There is simply no way to rationalize with these residents to get them to stop but there are plenty of ways to ensure these residents do not get hurt. Techniques to eliminate injury from wandering and prevent elopement include:
- Screening patients during admission to make sure the facility is capable of supervising and caring for them;
- Providing enough staff members to meet the needs of all of the residents;
- Providing sufficient nursing home activities to address resident boredom;
- Providing safe supervised areas for residents to wander;
- Training staff on how to identify residents at risk of elopement;
- Training staff on how to redirect residents that have escape behavior;
- Using window and door alarms;
- Using wander guard GPS devices to alert the staff to exit-seeking behavior;
- Placing video surveillance on all exits
When is a Negligent Nursing Home Responsible for Injury or Death After Wandering or Elopement?
Nursing homes that choose to care for Alzheimer’s and dementia residents are aware these patients can wander and elope. They are being paid well to ensure such residents are not harmed by this behavior. Therefore, it is rarely true that there was nothing they could do if injuries have occurred as a result. Such facilities are most likely negligent under the following circumstances:
- Special precautions like the ones described above were not put in place even though the nursing home was aware of the resident’s history or wandering;
- The staff members failed to follow policies and procedures designed to prevent elopement;
- The staff members did not recognize the resident was missing, failed to notify law enforcement, and/or failed to implement an organized search for the missing resident
At Distasio Law Firm, our nursing home neglect and abuse lawyers have the experience in getting to the truth of what happened. If a loved one has suffered injury or death from elopement or wandering, let us help you in your time of need.
Many nursing home and assisted living facility residents have swallowing problems and disorders. The medical term for this condition is Dysphasia. If the swallowing problem is neglected, the person suffering from this condition can choke on their food, liquids, or medication. The worst cases of choking can lead to lack of oxygen to the brain, brain damage, or even death.
The Most Vulnerable Are The Most Neglected
Many physical conditions and diseases can lead to a person having difficulty swallowing. The most common conditions linked to swallowing issues include:
- Dementia and/or Alzheimer’s
- Parkinson’s disease
- Neurological disorders
People with these conditions need extra care to make sure all of their needs are met.
Understaffing Leads to Choking From Neglect
When a person has dysphasia, it is usually because they are just not physically capable of chewing and/or swallowing regular food, liquids, and medications. If proper care is not given, they will choke. Fortunately, these simple solutions usually solve the problem:
- One-on-one supervision while eating;
- Thickening liquids;
- Pureeing food;
- Crushing pills and mixing them in applesauce or pudding
Although the solutions are simple, implementing them in a nursing home or assisted living facility that is understaffed can be quite difficult. Understaffed facilities simply do not have enough time to properly ensure residents with swallowing problems have their special needs met. In the rush to care for everyone, these special needs residents often suffer from neglect. Staff members forget to thicken liquids, puree food, and crush medicine. They also skip the one-on-one supervision these residents need in order to provide care to other residents.
Florida Choking Neglect Attorneys Can Help
At Distasio Law Firm we have helped many family members hold nursing homes and ALF’s responsible for the harm they have caused when a resident with swallowing problems is injured or dies while choking on their food. The consultation is free, so call us today if you want to help make sure they think twice before neglecting resident swallowing needs.
Nursing Home Patient Falls
At Distasio Law Firm we understand that many vulnerable adults are residents in nursing homes because they need help moving from one place to another. They simply do not have the strength to do so on their own. Whether they are bed-bound, walk with a walker, or use a wheelchair, they rely on the nursing home staff for mobility. All nursing homes have safety policies in place to assist residents with mobility while at the same time protecting them from a slip or fall. When these safety rules are not followed, residents can be severely injured. A nursing home neglect attorney can help figure out whether or not the fall was preventable and if so, make the facility take responsibility for what happened.
Types of Fall Prevention Assistance Offered by Nursing Homes
There are many reasons that a nursing home resident may need help moving or walking. Sometimes residents are recovering from surgery and only need help for a short period of time. Other times, residents suffer from muscle atrophy or weakness, Alzheimer’s disease, or dementia and as a result, need help all the time.
In order to determine what type of assistance is needed, the nursing home staff will assess the resident’s mobility and ability to walk. If the nursing assessment determines the resident is at risk of falling, the facility then creates a plan of care to address the resident’s needs and protect the resident from slips and falls. The type of assistance outlined in the care plan will depend on the resident’s needs. Common types of assistance include:
- Visual Observation and Supervision
- One-person assist for transfers and walking
- Two-person assist for transfers and walking
- Physical therapy
- Occupational Therapy
- Preventable Causes of Florida Nursing Home Falls
The fact that a nursing resident is unsteady on their feet does not mean a fall is inevitable. In fact, when nursing homes follow the resident care plan put in place to prevent falls, the number of falls is drastically reduced. Unfortunately, many nursing homes are so understaffed they do not have the time to follow the resident’s fall prevention plan.
The overwhelming reason that preventable falls occur in nursing homes is understaffing. When a nursing resident falls, the nursing home will often say there was nothing that could have been done to prevent it.
Types Of Injuries Suffered by Residents That Fall
Nursing home residents are usually frail and suffer from brittle bones. In addition, they often do not have good mental judgment. When they fall, they do not have the strength to break the fall. All of these factors combined can lead to injuries that are catastrophic. The following are some of the injuries that most often occur:
- Fractured bones of the hip, leg, arm, and or wrist
- Facial and/or orbital fractures
- Subdural hematoma
- Brain injury or damage
According to the Centers for Disease Control, half to three-quarters of all patients living in nursing homes fall every year. Out of those that fall, most fall multiple times. In fact, people fall in nursing homes at twice the rate as the same age group living in the community.
Reasons Nursing Home Residents Fall
Some falls are simply not preventable. Muscle weakness and gait problems cause most slips and falls. However, the fact that a nursing home resident suffers from these problems does not mean they are destined to fall. If the nursing home staff is vigilant in following their own safety rules, many falls and injuries can be prevented even in frail, unsteady residents.
Most preventable falls occur because of understaffing. The nursing home caregivers simply do not have time to assist all the residents they are assigned. As a result, call bells go unanswered and residents get left in bed, in a chair, or on the toilet. At some point, the resident gets tired of waiting. Often they simply do not want to go to the bathroom on themselves. They try to get up and walk on their own when they are supposed to have assistance.
Hoyer Lift Accident Victims & Dropped Patients
Nursing home residents often rely on the nursing home staff to help them sit, stand, pivot, transfer, or walk. These residents often have difficulty moving in bed, getting out of bed, or even walking. They need help with these activities. As a result, nursing homes have written protocols on how to help residents accomplish these tasks.
However, having good policies is not enough because most injuries from dropping residents occur when a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) fails to follow the nursing home’s resident transfer protocols. This most often occurs because the nursing home is understaffed and/or has failed to properly train its employees. When a nursing home is understaffed the CNAs do not have the time to provide proper care to everyone in the facility.
As a result, they rush through their job and cut corners. When a nursing home fails to train its staff members, the employees literally do not know how to properly transfer their residents. When the resident is injured as a result of being dropped, the nursing home will claim the injuries were unavoidable, the resident had a fall when no one was around, or that a CNA found the resident already injured lying in bed.
Many times when Distasio Law Firm investigates these claims, we find the facility employees’ stories just do not make sense.
What Kind Of Transfers Can Cause Injury?
Most patients that are dropped have some type of disability that either limits their ability to bear weight on their legs or prevents them entirely from weight bearing. The most common types of transfers that put this kind of resident at risk to be dropped include transfers from:
- A Hoyer lift
- Bed to wheelchair
- Wheelchair to bed
- Wheelchair to shower chair or bath
- The toilet or commode
The patients that can bear some weight will often need the assistance of two CNAs. These patients are most likely to be dropped when a busy CNA decides to transfer the resident on their own because they do not want to wait for help.
The nursing home residents that cannot bear any weight on their legs may need a machine called a Hoyer lift to pick them up and move them. Using a Hoyer lift takes a lot of time. These patients are often dropped because a CNA decides not to use the Hoyer lift to save time. Other times patients are dropped because the staff uses the wrong size straps or fails to connect the straps properly.
What Are The Most Common Injuries from Being Dropped?
The injury a frail patient suffers from being dropped can be life-changing. The most common types of injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injuries, brain bleeds, and subdural hematoma
- Fractured bones including facial bones, arms, hips and legs
- Organ damage or bruising
Victims of Nursing Home Combative Behavior
Nursing home residents that suffer from vascular dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease can become aggressive as they lose their memory. In fact, aggression is one of the leading reasons people put their loved ones into nursing homes. Families become overwhelmed with the behavior and seek out help. Nursing homes market themselves to the families as having the knowledge, skills, and training to handle aggressive behavior. Some even have special areas within their facility to deal with the special problems of ambulatory Alzheimer’s and dementia residents. They often call these areas Memory Care Units.
The nursing home industry calls aggressive nursing home resident behavior combativeness. Aggressive and combative behavior exhibited by nursing home residents includes yelling, screaming, cursing, biting, scratching, hitting, pushing, punching, throwing things and kicking.
Strategies to Prevent Injury From Combative Nursing Home Residents
The nursing home industry markets themselves as being able to handle aggressive combative residents. They also make a lot of money caring for them. However, when a combative resident causes injury, harm, or death to another resident, they will often claim it was unavoidable or that there was nothing they could do. Often, their explanations are simply not true. The following measures can drastically reduce and may illuminate the potential of a combative resident harming themselves or others:
- Evaluate the level of combativeness of the resident to make sure the facility has the knowledge, skill and training to care for them;
- Ensure the facility is not understaffed;
- Train the staff to deal with the combative resident with compassion;
- Identify what is triggering the behavior and remove the trigger;
- Create a routine that is familiar to the combative resident;
- Manage medications
What Should You do if Your Loved One is Harmed by a Combative Aggressive Nursing Home Resident?
The nursing home & assisted living neglect attorneys at Distasio Law Firm are trained to figure out if the injury, harm, or death of a loved one in a nursing home was caused by facility neglect or abuse. We can also help hold them accountable for what they have done. It will not cost you anything to get us involved, so call today for your free consultation.
Bed Rail Entrapment
Bed rails are often used in hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities as a safety precaution to help prevent patients from falling out of bed. However, there are hidden dangers associated with using bed rails. Injuries can include strangulation, suffocation, and broken arms and legs. Because of these dangers, bed rails require a specific physician’s order for their use.
Bed rails are used much more often in hospitals than any other type of facility. This is because there is much more monitoring of patients in hospitals and the population is usually much younger. Conversely, in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, the population is much older and less mobile. As a result, there are many more dangers in using bed rails in these facilities. In fact, nursing home and assisted living facility staff members actually consider bed rails to be physical restraints.
CPSC and FDA Warn Of Risks From Bed Rails
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have been warning of the dangers of bed rail entrapment since at least 1995. At that time, the FDA concluded the risks are highest for elderly patients because of problems with memory, mobility and multiple medications. Elderly patients with the following conditions are most at risk:
- Alzheimer’s, dementia, or memory problems
- Paralysis, Parkinson’s disease, or limited mobility
- Taking multiple medications
These patients are most likely to fall while trying to climb over the bed rails and or become entrapped between the rail and the bed.
Injuries Caused By Bed Rails
Elderly patients can be injured by bed rails in many different ways. According to the CPSC and the FDA, the most likely injuries include:
- Suffocation or strangulation from an entrapped head or neck
- Broken, fractured, bruised, or lacerated arms and legs
Finding the Right Facility
Tampa, Florida has 21 nursing homes with the capacity to care for 2,688 residents.
The best way to prevent your loved one from being the victim of nursing abuse and/or nursing home neglect in one of these facilities is to investigate before you place your loved one. When your researching facilities, these are things you should look for:
- Does the nursing home appear to be clean?
- Are the nursing home staff knowledgeable and friendly?
- Are residents engaged in activities or are they just sitting around with nothing to do?
- Does the nursing home have video monitoring in the halls and patients’ rooms (video monitoring assures that nursing home residents will be watched and others will be watched while interacting with the residents, which could prevent possible abuse)?
- Does the nursing home have medical directors and physicians who supervise medical staff and the medical procedures residents receive?
- Does the nursing home have licensed nurses and/or CNA’s on staff?
- Does the nursing home employ enough staff to sufficiently provide for the care, treatment, and supervision of every patient?
- Are the nursing home physicians, supervisors, and administrators accessible and willing to address concerns?
- Have incidents of abuse or neglect occurred in the past and how were they handled?
Take the time to research the facility or facilities that you are interested in. Familiarize yourself not only with the facility but with the people who work there. Simply by taking the time to do this, it is much more likely that you will notice any questionable situations and can therefore avoid elder abuse or elder neglect. You can take an active role in helping to ensure that your loved one receives the treatment and care he or she deserves.
What You Can Do If Your Loved One Has Suffered Nursing Home Abuse
After you have made sure your loved one’s issues have been addressed, you should seriously consider hiring a nursing home abuse attorney from our law firm to bring a lawsuit against the facility. A nursing home abuse lawyer can hold the nursing home accountable for what they have done and help ensure no other nursing home residents suffer from the same type of abuse or neglect.
Nursing Homes in Tampa, Florida
Looking for a Tampa Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer? Call 813-259-0022 Today!
Talk to our team at Distasio Law Firm if you have been injured by the negligence of another. We understand how complex these cases can be and will do everything in our power to ensure that you and your loved ones receive justice. We offer a free case evaluation so that you can tell us the details of your case quickly and easily. You should not have deal with this difficult situation on your own so please do not hesitate to call our office to learn how we could help you. Contact Distasio Law Firm today to schedule an appointment. We could help get the compensation you deserve for what you have gone through!