It’s disturbing. The abuse and neglect of the elderly occurs all too often in Florida. Miami nursing home neglect lawyers frequently represent the victims of nursing home abuse and their families in personal injury cases in south Florida.

What constitutes nursing home abuse? What are its causes? How can families act to protect their loved ones from abuse in a nursing home facility? And what are your rights if you become a victim of nursing home abuse?

If you keep reading, you’ll learn the answers to those questions. You’ll also learn where a family can turn for help if they suspect that a family member is a victim of nursing home abuse here in south Florida.

WHO’S AT RISK?

About 10,000 of us in the U.S. turn 65 every day. Already in Florida, 23 percent of us are age 60 or above. The Florida Health Care Association reports that about 72,000 families in Florida rely on a nursing home facility for the care of an elderly loved one.

If your own family has a relative in a nursing home, you need to be aware of elder abuse and recognize its signs. Reports of elder neglect and abuse in Florida are up by 74 percent since 2011, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Also since 2011, over 350 convictions for elder abuse have been handed down by Florida’s criminal courts. Nursing home abuse is a real and growing concern.

WHEN SHOULD YOU SPEAK TO A NURSING HOME ABUSE ATTORNEY?

It’s important to know that most of the nursing home facilities in this state are professionally managed and well-operated. Staffers often go above and beyond what’s required to care for their elderly residents. But unfortunately, in other Florida nursing homes, it’s a different story.

If you suspect that your loved one is a nursing home abuse victim, speak at once to an experienced Miami nursing home abuse attorney. Have good legal advice from the start. If the abuse involves battery, fraud, or theft, your lawyer may recommend speaking to the police.

DOES NURSING HOME ABUSE HAVE ANY IDENTIFIABLE CAUSES?

Abuse can happen at a nursing home when underpaid, overworked staffers vent frustrations in their interactions with the facility’s residents. Neglect and abuse are the predictable results when a facility’s owners are unwilling to pay for adequate training and sufficient staffing.

Businesses have a right to make profits, but the owners of nursing homes are not permitted to place profits above the lives and the dignity of nursing home residents. Owners can be found liable and ordered to pay damages to nursing home abuse victims.

However, abuse and neglect at nursing homes can be difficult to uncover because the residents may be afraid or ashamed to report or discuss it. Families need to know what the signs of abuse are, make frequent visits, and stay alert for anything that may indicate abuse or neglect.

HOW DOES FLORIDA DEFINE NURSING HOME ABUSE?

Florida offers considerable legal protection to the elderly. Everyone in Florida is required by law to report suspected neglect, exploitation, or abuse of the elderly, and a failure to report the abuse of an elderly person may be charged as a criminal offense. Florida defines elder abuse as:

  1. abandonment, isolation, or neglect
  2. battery, assault, or any other type of physical abuse 
  3. theft, forgery, extortion, exploitation, or fraud
  4. medical malpractice or negligence and its medical consequences

Financial exploitation can include check forgery, theft, or unduly pressuring a resident into signing a financial document. It’s a growing problem at nursing homes in Florida.

WHAT SIGNS OF ABUSE SHOULD FAMILY MEMBERS LOOK FOR?

But anything that endangers nursing home residents or ignores their dignity and best interests may be nursing home abuse. Along with financial exploitation, nursing home neglect and abuse include:

  1. ulcers or bed sores
  2. malnutrition and dehydration
  3. the failure to monitor the residents
  4. medical malpractice or negligence
  5. physical, verbal, or emotional abuse

If your beloved family member is a nursing home resident in south Florida, stay alert for these indications of abuse and neglect: abrupt mood swings, sudden weight loss, bruises, bed sores, ulcers, cuts, or sudden and unexpected medical emergencies.

IS THERE A SIGNIFICANT DISTINCTION BETWEEN NEGLECT AND ABUSE?

Broadly speaking, neglect is often unintentional, while abusers more often act intentionally. Neglect usually indicates other problems at the facility, such as poor training or poor employee supervision.

But if your loved one is injured, it won’t matter if the reason is abuse or neglect. Either way, the owners of nursing homes, and sometimes individual employees, can be held liable for abuse and neglect under Florida law.

If you believe that your loved one is being or has been neglected or abused in a nursing home in south Florida, you must act at once. Consult a personal injury attorney who has abundant experience representing nursing home abuse victims and their families – as fast as you can.

IS THERE A DEADLINE FOR TAKING LEGAL ACTION IN THESE CASES?

If you wait, it may become more difficult to prove neglect or abuse; evidence can deteriorate or disappear, and witnesses can forget details quickly. Under Florida law, the statute of limitations is two years for taking legal action arising from an incident of nursing home neglect or abuse.

However, if the abuse or neglect incident isn’t immediately discovered, Florida allows you to take legal action for two years from the discovery date. The statute of limitations may be extended only if “concealment or … misrepresentation of fact prevented the discovery of the injury.”

Don’t be worried about cost. Miami nursing home neglect lawyers will provide a free first consultation to review your claim and your grounds for legal action. Meeting an attorney for the first time entails no obligation.

WHAT ABOUT YOUR ATTORNEY’S FEES?

If you and your lawyer move forward with legal action, no attorney’s fee is paid until your loved one is compensated for his or her injuries, including medical expenses, pain and suffering, and all related damages and losses. Let nothing prevent you from taking the action you need to take.

If you think that a beloved relative may be at risk in a south Florida nursing home, let an experienced injury attorney discuss your family’s rights and the steps you need to take. Every case is different, so you are going to need personalized advice.

Nursing home abuse is real. If you even suspect it, you need to act. Contacting a nursing home abuse lawyer is your right, and if you suspect abuse, it’s the right thing to do.