Pensacola Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect Attorney

As our loved ones age, we go through the transformation of becoming caregivers for those who once cared for us. When a family member becomes not only old but fragile and infirm, requiring round-the-clock attention, we may have to make the difficult decision to put that loved one into a nursing home. Though most people do their very best to check the reports and reputation of nursing homes they consider, and to visit and personally evaluate them, the sad fact is that most are understaffed and many are not managed with sufficient care which leads to nursing home abuse and neglect.

If you have the misfortune of suspecting, or actually discovering, that your parent, grandparent, or other well-loved relative is being neglected or abused in a nursing facility, don’t hesitate to report the problem to the management of the facility and, if necessary, to law enforcement authorities. Most important, contact the prime team of experienced personal injury attorneys at Staples, Ellis + Associates, P.A. We serve clients in Pensacola and surrounding areas and are deeply committed to holding nursing homes accountable for any and all harm they cause to the vulnerable population they are supposed to be protecting.

We Will Approach Your Nursing Home Abuse/Neglect Case

We will evaluate the specifics of your case:

  • Help you gather evidence, including medical data and records of staff interactions, observations and medication administrations
  • Interview other patients and their families, staff members and supervisors
  • Have your loved one examined by a doctor from outside the facility

We also have a stable of experts in medicine, psychology, psychiatry, engineering and environmental science who can testify on your behalf in court.

What is the difference between abuse and neglect?

Neither abuse nor neglect should ever take place in a nursing home, but there is a significant legal distinction between the two. Nursing home abuse is characterized by a specific intent to harm — physically, emotionally, or sexually. Nursing home neglect, on the other hand, is defined as a breach of duty which results in substandard care.

It is hard to imagine what motivates people to abuse the elderly. Perhaps, as with abusing children, it’s simply easier to get away with. The elderly, particularly those in nursing homes, are weak and dependent. They are less likely to report abuse because their abusers have so much control over them that they fear retaliation. Tragically, nursing home abuse is by no means uncommon.

Although the majority of healthcare workers are dedicated to the patients they work with and try hard to be responsive to their needs, most staff members work long hours for low pay. In addition, society gives them little respect. Under these conditions, it is not totally unexpected that those who are the most resentful and have serious anger and abuse issues, turn on those most available to punish: their elderly patients.

Types of Nursing Home Abuse

If you suspect nursing home abuse, you should act quickly because your loved one may be in serious danger. Types of nursing home abuse include:

Physical Abuse
If you see any unexplained cuts, red marks, bruises or scarring on your relative, you should think of the unthinkable: physical abuse. This is also true if you are told by a staff member that your loved one has fallen or banged into something. Remember — If someone has inflicted physical abuse, that individual is not going to report it to you. If your loved one reports that someone has hurt him, pay attention. If she doesn’t remember what happened, investigate. Physical abuse can take many forms — slapping, pinching, hair pulling or unnecessary confinement.

Medication Abuse
In nursing homes medication may be overused to make patients more docile or administered less frequently than prescribed as a way of inflicting pain. If you find your loved one overly sleepy or in serious pain, ask to speak to those in charge and to see time charts of medication administration, including dosages. Then call Staples, Ellis + Associates.

Emotional Abuse
Bullying is a method of manipulating and controlling through nasty verbal comments and threats of physical punishment. The more vulnerable you are, the more bullying threatens you and very few people are more vulnerable than nursing home patients. Your relative may tell you that someone has made hurtful, derogatory, or degrading comments, or may just be more withdrawn or angry than usual. She may be afraid of retribution if she complains of mistreatment, so make sure to ask probing questions.

Sexual Abuse
It may be hard to imagine your elderly relative as a victim of sexual abuse, but such abuse does happen. Rape and other forms of sexual abuse are about power, not lust. To an abuser, the more vulnerable the victim, the more tempting, since the goal is to have complete control. Signs of sexual abuse may be physical injuries, peculiar, unexpected behavior of a sexual nature, or evidence that your loved one is inordinately fearful.

Types of Nursing Home Neglect

There are several recognized types of nursing home neglect: personal hygiene neglect, emotional or social neglect, medical neglect, the neglect of meeting basic needs.

Neglect of Personal Hygiene
Though we hate to admit it, most people who live to advanced age become unable to tend to personal hygiene as well as they used to. They may be incontinent, have difficulty reaching parts of their own bodies, have trouble washing their own hair or brushing their teeth. Because of pain or lack of mobility, they may also be unable to dress themselves properly.

Aides in nursing homes are trained to toilet, bathe and dress patients so that those under their care feel presentable as well as comfortable, and so that their emotional and physical health is not impacted by being unclean or experiencing the humiliation of looking unkempt. If your loved one’s hair is awry, shirt unbuttoned, or if he smells unclean, you can be fairly certain his hygiene is being neglected.

Emotional or Social Neglect: Wandering and Elopement
Social interaction is a human need. Nursing homes are responsible for keeping patients in places where they can talk with one other and where interaction is stimulated by music, games, discussion or entertainment. If you find your patient alone and withdrawn when you visit and he doesn’t report any contact or conversations with staff or other patients, there is definitely something wrong. Emotional neglect or improper supervision can result in patients wandering, or even eloping (leaving the premises). It is the responsibility of the nursing home staff to know where your loved one is at all times and to keep him safe and protected.

Medical Neglect: Bed Sores, Falls, New Illnesses or Injuries
Since one of the reasons your relative is in a nursing facility is so that she can receive needed medical attention, if she is injured or develops an illness she should be seen promptly by a physician and you should be notified immediately.

If your loved one has developed bed sores due to not being turned frequently enough, you should be aware that such sores can rapidly become seriously infected and even life-threatening. In the same vein, though falls are common among the elderly, your patient should be monitored closely enough to prevent them. Falls, especially those resulting in significant injuries such as hip fractures, are cause for deep concern. Bedsores and falls frequently result in lawsuits.

Neglect of Basic Needs: Dehydration and Malnutrition
Patients in nursing homes often become dehydrated or malnourished because they are unable to get themselves beverages or food. Even gifts of fruit or beverages brought specially for them may be out of their reach. It is hard to be dependent on others for your basic needs; the nursing staff is responsible for keeping their patients from being thirsty, hungry, uncomfortably hot or cold. The staff also must be responsive when their patients have to go to the bathroom or be changed. Imagine the indignity of being left helpless! Patients are also entitled to a clean and safe environment. If you observe unclean bathrooms or slippery floors during a visit, improvements have to be made.

Staples, Ellis +Associates Will Fight Hard to Win You Compensation

Nursing home abuse and neglect should never be tolerated. If you and your family are going through the misery of recognizing that your elderly loved one has been harmed while living in a facility that is supposed to offer the safety and kindness, contact our capable medical malpractice attorneys. We will file a lawsuit on your behalf, backed up by our excellent lawyers and experts who will testify on your behalf. We will win you and your loved one the damages you’re entitled to for medical and rehabilitative costs, psychological counseling, physical pain and emotional anguish.

The Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys at Staples, Ellis & Associates serves clients in Pensacola County, Escambia County, Santa Rosa County, Okaloosa County, Walton County, and throughout Northwest Florida.