Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse

Florida Nursing Home LawsuitsThe Florida Senate has passed a measure that would impact the amount of damages residents of a nursing home or their families may receive. The bill (SB 670) has provisions that would prohibit plaintiffs from seeking damages from nursing home investors, unless it can be shown that those investors, in some way, were responsible for the nursing home neglect or abuse.

The bill has been described as a compromise by some legislative insiders. While the measure seeks to limit those who can be named as defendants in nursing home litigation, it also lowers the cost to access medical records, which could help plaintiffs’ attorneys and actually lead to an increase in nursing home lawsuits.

The measure also contains provisions that would force nursing homes to pay judgments that have been levied against them. Nursing home payouts in Florida are often delayed for long periods of time or not paid at all.
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In a decision that is sure to add fuel to the fire over arguments regarding the controversial practice of having nursing home residents sign arbitration agreements before entering nursing homes, the Florida Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that a family that filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a Leesburg nursing home must go to arbitration, rather than be allowed a jury trial.

The daughter of a man who died four days after being admitted to the Avante at Leesburg nursing home in 2006 believed that since she had not signed the arbitration agreement and her father was deceased, she was not bound to the agreement.

The Florida Supreme Court disagreed and ruled that arbitration agreements in such wrongful death cases are binding, even if the signer is dead. “As reflected in the terms of the arbitration agreement, it is clear that the contracting parties intended to include wrongful death claims such as those brought in this case,” wrote Justice Barbara Pariente.
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A profoundly disabled 14-year-old girl, who was taken out of her mother’s care and placed in a nursing home, died while in the care of the Miami Gardens facility.

In April of 2011, the girl had been placed in the home against her mother’s wishes after social workers insisted that the facility was the “safest” place for her daughter. Allegedly, the girl was crying and shaking and asking for her real home after she was brought to the Florida Club Care Center.

The girl suffered from cerebral palsy and had other health issues. According to the Miami Herald, the evening the girl arrived at the nursing home, nurses failed to give her prescribed life-saving anti-seizure medication.

Allegedly, there is no record that anybody called a doctor, even when the girl struggled to breathe a mere two hours before her death. She later died of a heart attack at Jackson North Medical Center. After the death, the home did not notify the state as required by Florida law, because the home’s administrator contended that, “She did not expire at the facility. She expired in the hospital.”
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A new German study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association claims that if staff is properly trained and support materials are provided to nurses, staff, residents, and relatives, the use of physical restraints in nursing homes can be greatly reduced.

Evidence has shown that use of physical restraints in nursing homes, such as bed rails and belts, is typically ineffective and can cause injuries to patients -physical as well as psychological.

After choosing an intervention group of nursing homes and a control group, the researchers from the University of Hamburg set out to determine if intervention tactics such as staff training and education would reduce the use of physical restraint among patients. After six months, the intervention-group had reduced physical-restraint use significantly – from 32% to 23%. The control group only dropped physical-restraint use slightly – from 31% to 29%.

In a news release, the German researchers wrote that changing the “culture of care” among nurses and staff may account for the notable difference and that nursing home care “does not necessitate the administration of physical restraints.”
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After weeks of back and forth lobbying and debate between the Senate and the House, the Florida Legislature could not agree on a bill that would have increased oversight of Assisted Living Facilities (ALF).

The Senate wanted tougher regulations imposed to deal with what one senator described as “atrocities” in the ALF industry. The Florida Assisted Living Association backed the House version of the bill that emphasized increased enforcement of current regulations over proposed new directives and fines.

The bill was proposed after an expose in the Miami Herald last year revealed 70 cases of death due to abuse and neglect in Florida’s assisted living facilities since 2002. According to the Herald, nearly once a month, a resident at an ALF dies from abuse and neglect, but law enforcement seldom makes arrests. And while 550 new homes have opened in Florida in the past five years, the state has dropped inspections by 33 percent and has allowed the worst abusers to stay open.
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A Florida legislative study says that there are too many rogue assisted living facilities (ALF) in the state that are abusing and endangering elderly and disabled residents and they need to be shut down and heavily fined. The report, by the state Senate Health Regulation Committee, also calls for tougher qualifications for those who run ALF’s and to better fund oversight which is supposed to be conducted by the Agency for Health Care Administration. Florida’s ALF industry has been regularly criticized for allowing the worst run facilities to stay open. Last May, a Miami Herald investigation found that due to neglect and abuse, nearly one person a month died in a Florida ALF and the worst ones are still open for business.

The investigation also found:
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In order to save money, one state lawmaker proposed that nursing home patients spend less time with a certified nurse every day. That proposal became law on July 1 in Florida, designed to save $40 million a year. The reason for the move – state nursing homes will see $187.5 million less in Medicaid money and as a result, direct one-on-one time with a certified nurse will be reduced from 2.7 hours per day to 2.5 hours. Back in 2007 the Legislature mandated 2.9 hours of direct care a day.

At least another hour of direct came is supposed to come from the nursing home staff. It should come as no surprise that staff reductions will occur. The union that represents health care workers said that petitions were delivered to 41 nursing homes last week asking them to maintain their staffing levels, but the reality is that few will be able to withstand the financial blow leveled by this legislative session.
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The Miami Herald has completed a yearlong investigation into Florida’s assisted-living facilities (ALF) and a gruesome picture emerges of abuse, neglect, and inaction by the state agency charged with regulating the industry. There are 2,850 ALFs in the state that are supposed to provide a safe shelter for those who cannot live alone. Some of the residents suffer from dementia, others are mentally disabled.

Unfortunately these are some of the most vulnerable individuals and the investigation finds the state regulatory agency, the Agency for Health Care Administration, does little to monitor, regulate, and shut down the worst offenders. The Miami Herald spent a year examining records from the state, police, and court reports, and autopsy files to expose a lucrative industry that is allowed to be a repeat offender. Among the findings:
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In what should accurately be called an assault on a citizen’s right to a remedy through the courts, Florida lawmakers are considering capping the amount of money an attorney can receive if they successfully represent a victim of a negligent nursing home, reports The St. Augustine Record. The proposal, (HB 661, SB 1396) caps pain and suffering (non-economic damages) at $250,000, even if it costs that much to bring a successful case to trial. It would also make it tougher to obtain punitive damages to make sure the nursing home never commits the crime of negligence again. The bills also do not allow the injured to name the owner of a nursing home in a lawsuit if they live outside the area or are strictly an investor.

The lines in this debate are drawn with lobbyists for the nursing home industry, the Florida Health Care Association interested in cutting down on “opportunistic lawsuits”, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which represents business, facing off with the AARP and Florida Justice Association, which represents trial attorneys. Debra Henley, the executive director, points out that there is nothing in the bills that would help nursing home residents and nothing that makes homes accountable for their actions that lead to injury and death.
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Some people writing into News4Jax.com say it is about time. The Glenwood Nursing Center, in the Arlington section of Jacksonville, has lost its license to operate after receiving poor reviews from the state. The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration revoked the license after years of poor reviews. That means 106 residents will need to find a new place to live by the time the facility closes its doors for good on August 26.

A report card from May gave the center poor grades for quality of care, quality of life, and dignity. The report card says the center doesn’t do a good enough job of preventing residents from hurting other patients and themselves. Lawyers representing the owner of Glenwood have filed an appeal to extend the deadline.

Relatives of the residents who talked to News4 seemed surprised that the doors will close and said they never saw any problems. Lois Craig says she never felt her husband, Gordon, was in any danger at all. “To move him would be awful because I don’t know what to do next.”
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