What to do if You Suspect a Nursing Home is not Taking Care of a Loved One

Often, we get calls from the children of nursing home residents who think that their parent or relative is not being cared for appropriately in a nursing home. They usually do not know what to do or where to turn.

Our first piece of advice is to trust your instincts. While many nursing homes provide satisfactory care, there are many instances where they do not.

Call a Meeting with the Nursing Home Staff

If the signs of abuse or neglect are not obvious, a first step may be to call for a meeting between staff and family members. At this point, it is usually necessary that the resident has executed Authorizations for the Release of Protected Health Information in favor of the family members or else the nursing home staff will not discuss care specifics with family members. A Health Care Power of Attorney/Surrogate will allow the person designated to speak with nursing home staff; however, other family members will not be allowed to participate. Insist that the Director of Nursing be present at the meeting.

If you need forms for either a records authorization or a Health Care Power of Attorney/Surrogate, our firm will gladly provide them to you at no cost. It is important to have these documents executed at a time when your loved one has the mental capacity to understand the nature and effect of the documents. Documents signed after a person has obviously lost capacity by reason of advanced dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may vulnerable to legal challenge.

Your relative always has the right to transfer to another nursing home. If a decision is made to leave your relative in the nursing home, prepare a written summary of the promises made by the nursing home and provide it to the nursing home via certified mail. This always gets their attention and can often turn empty promises given to appease family member into actions.

Get the Nursing Home’s Records for Your Loved One

It is important at this point to get a copy of your loved one’s records from the nursing home. Again, a written signed release will be necessary. The records may not mean much to you and the nurses’ progress notes are often written in a biased manner that explains injuries or care problems on causes other than neglect.

Have the Records Reviewed by an Independent Nurse

A second opinion is always a good idea. There are a host of nurses in the Jacksonville area who are willing to review the records at a reasonable cost. These nurses review many situations and are trained to look for neglect. We will be happy to provide you the names and contact numbers for nurses who can provide this service for you.

Report Suspected Abuse or Neglect to Florida’s Department of Children and Families

Anyone can call Florida’s Abuse Hotline at 1(800)96-ABUSE. The hotline is answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The counselor you speak with will let you know if your situation is going to be investigated. Our experience has been that Florida’s DCF does take these situations seriously, especially where serious injury or death has occurred. Information on Florida’s Abuse Hotline can be found at: http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/programs/abuse/publications/mandatedreporters.pdf

See Legal Counsel

Most law firms will provide you a free consultation to discuss your concerns. If it appears that your loved one may be entitled to be reimbursed for medical expenses, injuries, harms and losses, then it is likely you will be able to hire an attorney with no out of pocket cost, instead, the lawyers will work on a contingency basis, meaning they only get paid if a financial recovery is made. Please let us know if our firm can help answer any questions you may have.