Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer in Lakeland
Lakeland nursing home abuse attorney Sanga Turnbull spent years defending some of the country’s biggest nursing home chains in catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases throughout Florida. He knows how nursing homes operate and how their insurers act when faced with claims of abuse in their facilities. If you or a loved one has been or is being abused in a Lakeland nursing home or long-term care facility, count on The Turnbull Firm to aggressively pursue your rights and get justice and compensation for you and your family.
What is nursing home abuse?
Among the rights of nursing home residents outlined in Florida Statutes 400.022 are the rights to be free from mental and physical abuse, corporal punishment, and extended involuntary seclusion, including the right to be free from physical and chemical restraints unless medically necessary. Nursing home abuse can take many forms; it can be physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, or financial. Staff members commit abuse when they use force or threats for the purposes of punishment or discipline. Despite the often-demanding nature of the job, nursing home staffers are not allowed to take out their frustrations on the residents.
The job of a nursing home staff member is often physical. Regardless, staff members must take appropriate care when moving or turning immobile residents, helping residents up from a bed or chair, assisting them with walking or bathing, etc. Isolating residents by locking them in their rooms or other areas of the facility is another potential form of abuse.
Symptoms of Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect
People go into nursing homes because they need care due to illness, aging or age-related medical conditions. Residents may be frail and naturally prone to injury. If you have a loved one residing in a nursing home or long-term care facility and they get injured, how do you know if the injury was caused by unlawful abuse or neglect? Lakeland personal injury attorney Sanga Turnbull has represented nursing homes as well as injured residents for decades. He knows the symptoms of nursing home abuse and neglect, and he aggressively pursues justice on behalf of injured residents. Learn below about the symptoms of nursing home neglect and abuse below so that you can be vigilant for the signs, and contact The Turnbull Firm if you suspect abuse or neglect in a Lakeland nursing home.
Resident has bedsores – Many nursing home residents have limited mobility and spend the majority of their time in a chair or bed. Bedsores can result if residents are not moved or turned regularly. Bedsores should not occur when residents are treated according to their care plan, and the presence of bedsores is an indicator of nursing home neglect.
Resident is disoriented – Confusion or disorientation are symptoms commonly associated with malnutrition or dehydration, which could be caused by neglect. Staff members have even been known to withhold food as a form of punishment or discipline, which is unacceptable. Medications and medical conditions can also cause a resident to be disoriented, so it’s important to evaluate their nutrition plan to determine whether malnutrition or dehydration is a cause.
Resident is depressed – Depression can be a sign that the resident is being left isolated from social interaction with staff or other residents. Frequent social interaction is key to mental health and quality of life for seniors. Isolating a resident due to abuse or neglect is unforgivable.
Resident is losing weight – Weight loss is another symptom of dehydration or malnutrition.
Resident is fearful – If the resident appears afraid to speak about conditions at the facility or shrinks away from physical contact, these are signs the resident may be physically abused and threatened about speaking out.
Bruises – Older patients bruise more easily, but it’s important to determine what is causing the bruising. Bruising in the face can indicate the resident was violently slapped or hit. Symmetrical bruises at the wrists or ankles can indicate the resident was restrained, which may have been unlawful.
Cuts, broken bones – Physical injuries such as cuts and broken bones may indicate physical abuse or falls, which could have been prevented had the resident not been neglected. An experienced nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer at The Turnbull Firm can investigate the cause of such injuries and hold responsible parties accountable for their neglect or abuse.
What if I suspect abuse or neglect?
People often go into nursing homes in a weakened state due to medical conditions or the conditions of aging, so how do you know if injuries were caused by abuse or neglect? If you suspect your loved one may be the victim of abuse or neglect, speak to them in a private area. This is a right guaranteed by Florida law, and you should be especially suspicious if the staff at the nursing home are reluctant to allow private visits. Share your concerns with an experienced nursing home attorney who can investigate further or take immediate action to stop and prevent abuse and neglect of your loved one.
Common Nursing Home Injuries
Nursing home populations are increasing, and so, unfortunately, are nursing home injuries. Florida is a mecca for the nation’s aging population, and the state’s nursing homes and long-term care facilities owe a duty to ensure their residents receive appropriate medical care and attention for their safety, health and well-being. Unfortunately, high staff turnover, poor training and inadequate supervision all lead to injuries in nursing homes that could otherwise be prevented. The Turnbull Firm is a Lakeland personal injury law firm dedicated to helping nursing home residents get the medical care and compensation they need after being victimized by nursing home neglect or abuse. Watch out for these common injuries, which are often attributable to neglect or abuse, and call The Turnbull Firm if you suspect nursing home abuse or neglect played a hand in your loved one’s injuries.
Bedsores – Many ill or elderly residents spend a great deal of time in bed or a chair, including wheelchairs. Immobile residents need to be moved or turned often, such as every four hours, to prevent bedsores. High-density foam mattresses can reduce the frequency of turning, but they don’t absolve staff from their duty to be attentive to a resident’s physical needs. Bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers, are a progressive disease that goes through four stages and can cause major injuries. Related conditions from a bedsore include sepsis, cellulitis, osteomyelitis, joint infection, and squamous cell carcinoma, a potentially terminal cancer.
Medication errors – Some medicine names sound the same. Others look the same. Nurses and orderlies can easily mix up medications and administer the wrong medicine or the wrong dosage. Staff may also mix up patient names and medical conditions. Nursing homes administer medications all day long, sometimes during hectic conditions, but these are not acceptable reasons to make mistakes. Trained, attentive staff following well-established protocols and procedures should prevent most if not all medication errors from occurring. Medication errors can cause severe injury, including the worsening of a serious condition or even death.
Improper restraints – Injuries from physical restraints include bruising, cuts and abrasions around the wrists and ankles; broken bones; bedsores from prolonged use; and psychological or emotional injuries. Chemical restraints (sedatives, psychoactive drugs) can have profound negative effects, including personality disorders, respiratory ailments, depression, or wrongful death. Restraints should only be used when authorized in writing by a doctor for a specific, limited time and purpose, and only for the safety of the residents, not for punishment, discipline or the convenience of the staff. Demand to see the authorization for restraints, and call The Turnbull Firm if those restraints caused an injury.
Malnutrition/dehydration – Residents are sometimes intentionally denied food or water as a form of discipline or punishment, or due to simple neglect. Dehydration or malnutrition leads to a cascade of injuries and negative effects.
Falls – Not all falls can be prevented, but facilities should be maintained with handrails and guardrails, and residents should be adequately supervised and assisted to prevent most falls from occurring. Fall injuries can begin a slow and irreversible decline in health. Preventable falls create a tragic outcome for someone counting on the skilled nursing staff at a facility to take care of them.
Filing a complaint about nursing home abuse
The resident, the resident’s guardian, or another person acting on the resident’s behalf with consent, can bring a complaint of nursing home abuse in Florida with the long-term care ombudsman or an applicable government agency. Unfortunately, the process can be slow and ultimately ineffective. By contacting a private attorney or law firm experienced in nursing home abuse, like The Turnbull Firm in Lakeland, you can get help to put an immediate stop to abuse and begin the process of holding those responsible accountable for their actions.
Before you can file a lawsuit for nursing home abuse in Florida, your lawyer must conduct a reasonable investigation into the complaint and give the nursing home notice of the complaint. The facility has 75 days to evaluate the claim in good faith, including issues of liability or damages. Within that period, they must either reject the claim or offer a settlement.
Not only can you stop abuse immediately by filing legal action, but you can also recover the actual damages the resident suffered, including medical costs and pain and suffering. You can receive your attorney’s fees and litigation costs from the nursing home as well, which allows you to keep a greater portion of your monetary award. Florida law also authorizes punitive damages in nursing home abuse cases. When nursing home abuse takes the life of a resident, Florida law allows wrongful death or survival actions by the personal representative of the estate.
Florida Nursing Home FAQs
If you have a family member in a Florida nursing home, you are entrusting the life, health and safety of your loved one to the facility. You are trusting that staff is trained, supervised and hired in adequate numbers to provide the appropriate level of care and attention your family member needs. Unfortunately, neglect and even abuse in Florida nursing homes occur with alarming frequency. Once you know your rights and what to do if a resident is being mistreated, you can take steps to immediately stop any neglect or abuse and hold the facility accountable for any harm they have caused.
Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about nursing home abuse and neglect in Florida. If you have other questions or suspect that your family is being abused or neglected in a nursing home or long-term care facility in Lakeland, call The Turnbull Firm for immediate assistance.
When can nursing home staff members restrain a resident?
Restraints, including physical restraints as well as chemical restraints, can only be used when necessary for the protection or safety of the resident or others. A doctor must authorize the use of restraints in writing and only for a specific, limited time.
What is the difference between neglect and abuse in a nursing home setting?
Nursing home neglect refers to the failure to provide for a resident’s basic needs, including food, water, hygiene and medical care. Failure to maintain healthful sanitation in the environment and provide for a resident’s social needs may also qualify as neglect. Neglect may occur because of inadequate staff-patient ratios, poorly trained or supervised staff, or just indifference to residents’ rights and needs.
Nursing home abuse refers to intentionally inflicting harm through the use of force or threats. Abuse can be physical, verbal, emotional, sexual or financial. Medicating or isolating a resident for reasons that are not therapeutic or safety-related also constitutes abuse.
Whenever nursing home staff members are guilty of abuse or neglect, The Turnbull Firm responds forcefully with civil claims and injunctions to stop the abuse and compensate individuals for the harm they suffered. We’ll also pursue punitive damages against the nursing home in appropriate cases.
How can the resident and family discuss conditions at the facility without staff finding out and retaliating against the resident?
Among the many rights Florida law affords to nursing home residents (Florida Statutes 400.022) is the right to private and uncensored communication. This includes meeting in a private area in person, sending and receiving unopened mail, and telephone access. Residents have a right to visit with anyone during visiting hours, and visiting hours must be flexible to accommodate out-of-town visitors and working relatives and friends. Regardless of the facility’s visiting hours, immediate family members and other relatives are guaranteed immediate access to a resident, as are the resident’s doctor and representatives of government agencies, including law enforcement officers and the long-term care ombudsman.
Residents are allowed to restrict who can visit them. If you are a family member or other authorized person being denied access to the resident, contact the long-term care ombudsman or a Florida nursing home abuse and neglect attorney to determine whether it is the resident or the facility is restricting you. In Lakeland, contact The Turnbull Firm for immediate assistance.
Is a nursing home allowed to put a resident in restraints?
Nursing homes often overuse restraints for the convenience of staff so they don’t have to deal with residents as much, or as a means of discipline, punishment or control. However, Florida law makes it clear that restraints are only allowed for resident protection or safety and may not be used for the convenience of staff, punishment or other reasons.
The use of restraints must be authorized by a doctor in writing and may only be used for a specified and limited period. If restraints are needed in an emergency, they may only be administered by a qualified licensed nurse who puts the reasons for the restraint in writing.
The law regarding restraints applies to both physical restraints and chemical restraints, including psychoactive drugs or psychopharmacologic medication. If chemical restraints are used in an emergency, the facility must consult with a physician immediately after the restraint has been applied.
Can a resident get kicked out of the facility for breaking the rules, being uncooperative or being a pain to staff?
Residents in need of care have the right to stay in the facility and can only be transferred or discharged for medical reasons or the welfare of other residents. Also, residents are entitled to 30 days’ notice before they may be involuntarily transferred or discharged, except in an emergency. Residents may be discharged for nonpayment, but not just because the source of payment changes. If you think you or your loved one is being wrongfully discharged or transferred, call The Turnbull Firm for immediate action to protect your resident’s rights.
Are nursing homes liable for medical malpractice?
A nursing home’s liability for the medical negligence of a physician rendering care or treatment to a resident is limited to the administrative services of the facility’s medical director. If a doctor harmed a patient through medical negligence, the proper recourse would be a medical malpractice claim against the doctor, physician group or other applicable entity. The Turnbull Firm handles medical malpractice claims as well as nursing home abuse and neglect claims and can advise you on the right steps to take after a medical mistake or other malpractice at a nursing home.
Get Help Now to Stop Nursing Home Abuse in Lakeland
Don’t let your loved one suffer one minute of abuse in a Lakeland nursing home. Call our Lakeland nursing home abuse attorneys at The Turnbull Firm at 863-324-3500 for a no-cost consultation and immediate assistance.