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Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse

concentration-4929210_1920-300x200Nursing home neglect happens at nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the country. While this is not as violent as abuse, it is equally as dangerous. When staff at these facilities fails to keep close tabs on their elderly patients or provide them with proper care, this can quickly cause their health to decline. 

Nursing home neglect is when a facility fails to provide its residents with a basic standard of care. Sadly, 15.3% of elderly abuse complaints arise from neglect, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime. 

If you think this cannot happen to your loved one at their nursing home or assisted living facility, think again. A facility administrator at the Good Samaritan Retirement Home, a 45-bed assisted living facility at 507 SE First Ave. in Ocala, was arrested for elderly neglect when he did not notify a nurse of a resident’s failing health. The facility had many infractions over the years and was finally shut down in 2018. 

According to police, the nurse who was assigned to the elderly patient requested that the 31-year-old administrator report any changes in health to her. The resident had recently undergone an outpatient procedure and had been transported back to Good Samaritan.

According to reports, the staff on duty over the weekend let the administrator know that the resident’s health was declining, but were never instructed to contact the nurse. 

It is unknown why no one contacted the nurse. 

Upon the man’s return to work Monday, he apparently contacted the nurse of the resident’s failing condition. She told him to call 911 and get the resident to the hospital. 

The man was charged with elderly neglect. 

An investigation by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration apparently found the nursing home was guilty of failing to supervise residents, not taking appropriate action when a resident fell, not meeting staffing requirements, failing to train staff appropriately, and failing to provide the necessary care and services to meet their resident’s needs. 

Good Samaritan was disciplined by the state many times before it was officially shut down. 

Nursing home neglect is most often the result of poor staffing. Facilities that do not have enough staff may be stretched too thin, and exhausted and overworked employees may not be able to provide the residents in their care with the quality they need to live a healthy and happy life. Some facilities are aware of their issues, and others simply choose to ignore them. Regardless of the reasons, elderly neglect is never acceptable, and all resident’s basic needs must be met on a daily basis. 

Elder neglect is a form of elderly abuse. This is because neglect causes harm to the elder. In facilities that do not have the appropriate staff, employees may find it difficult to provide the appropriate standards of care because they lack the support needed to do so. This can result in poor hygiene and affect the resident’s physical and mental health. This can result in a variety of conditions, including: 

  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss
  • Injuries
  • Sickness
  • Dental issues
  • Depression
  • Anxiety 
  • Insomnia
  • Substance abuse
  • Loneliness
  • Fear
  • Personality changes
  • Unpaid bills/debts
  • Suicidal thoughts/actions
  • Wrongful death 

In the most severe cases of elder neglect, death can result. It is important to note any signs and symptoms that point to neglect. If you have a loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility and see any of these signs, you should report your suspicions to local police. 

  • Bedsores/ulcers
  • Lengthy time periods between showers/baths and changing of clothes or bed linens
  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Unexplained burns, broken bones or bruises
  • Sleep loss
  • Severe personality changes
  • Medication errors

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woman-65675_640-200x300Abuse and neglect in nursing homes, assisted living facilities (ALFs), and even adult daycare centers is rampant across the U.S. While this is a terrible thing, this is what happens at facilities that are more about making money than taking care of their residents. Not all facilities are guilty of these deplorable behaviors, but the reality is that many of them are. 

In Williston, the owner of an adult care home was charged with mistreating residents by not providing them beds, restraining one with handcuffs, and abusing residents. 

It was found that the woman failed to provide all the residents in her care with a bed, did not care for residents wounds, inflicted wounds on residents, abused a disabled adult, and used handcuffs to restrain another resident. She also did not pay two disbaled adults their monthly allowance for their personal needs. 

This was a small adult home with only 10 residents, according to reports.

The woman was arrested by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the Sheriff’s Office. All of her charges are felonies. 

Abuse in nursing homes, ALFs, and adult daycare centers are heartbreaking as well as shocking. The signs are not always blatantly obvious, which is why so many of these cases go undetected. This is especially true when the victim is disabled or suffering from depression, anxiety, or even PTSD. These conditions may prevent seniors from telling someone about their mistreatment, but some seniors are too fearful of staff members to speak out as they believe their treatment will get worse. The truth is that unless someone is keeping close tabs on the facility in question, abuse can continue to happen without consequence. This is why if you have a loved one in a nursing home or other type of facility, you must educate yourself on the warning signs of nursing home abuse and neglect. 

While there are many types of abuse at these facilities, you can be on the lookout for certain patterns that could lead to abuse. The first being physical abuse, which is one of the more obvious forms of abuse as you can see the results on the person’s body. You should look for unexplained bruises, scrapes, cuts, broken bones, fractures, and welts. These could all be signs of trauma happening, such as residents being dropped, restrained, or beaten. Some of these injuries could be the result of accidental slip and falls, but a medical doctor can evaluate the injuries and determine what was the result of an accident or assault. 

Other signs of physical abuse may be a resident all of a sudden becoming withdrawn socially and being scared or startled easily. Any behaviors or injuries that are recurring are likely signs that abuse is the culprit. 

Emotional abuse can also happen at nursing homes and ALFs. These signs are a bit more subtle, but if you notice a loss of self confidence, isolating, acting scared or not wanting to be left alone, rocking back and forth, sucking, mumbling, or a refusal to take medications, then this could point to neglect or abuse. 

Sexual abuse also occurs in nursing homes and ALFs. Signs to look for are torn or stained underwear, bruising on the breasts or genitals, vaginal or anal bleeding, self-isolation, and episodes of rage or anger. 

Financial abuse is another form of abuse that occurs regularly at these facilities. This abuse usually involves manipulation, so that the abuser has the seniors consent. You can look for unexplained expenses, missing money or valuable possessions, bills for unknown expenses, and missing checkbooks or credit cards. 

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coronavirus-4817431_1920-300x80There have been 1,502 deaths of residents at nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Florida, according to a new report. This is an increase of 145 deaths in just one week. 

However, reports are showing that the weekly death rate is slowing down. Last week was a 10.7% increase, but still a decrease from 14.1% for the period of May 29 to June 5. 

Records indicate that 10 employees at these facilities have died since March. 

covid-19-4982910_640-150x150Late Saturday there was a call for body bags and by Monday, the police received an anonymous tip about a body being stored in a shed outside one of the state’s largest nursing homes.

Once police arrived, the corpse had been removed from the shed, but they discovered 17 bodies piled inside the nursing home in a small morgue, intended to hold no more than four people.

The 17 were among 68 recent deaths linked to the long-term care facility, Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center I and II, including two nurses, officials said. Of those who died, 26 people had tested positive for the virus.

For all the others, the cause of death is unknown.

Of the patients who remain at the homes, housed in two buildings, 76 have tested positive for the virus; 41 staff members, including an administrator, are sick with COVID-19, according to county health records shared Wednesday with a federal official.

This nursing home is certainly not alone. Coronavirus has killed thousands of residents at facilities struggling with staff shortages, increasingly sick patients and a lack of personal protective gear.

Andover Subacute has beds for 700 patients and records show it is the state’s largest licensed facility.  

Even before the pandemic, the nursing home had struggled. Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation II recently got a one-star rating of “much below average” from Medicare for staffing levels, inspections and patient care.

Reports indicate that the nursing home is overwhelmed by the death toll and has requested help from the governor’s office to stop the spread of coronavirus. 

The state Department of Health sent two shipments containing 3,200 surgical masks, 1,400 N95 masks and 10,000 gloves to the nursing homes, according to a spokeswoman. 

The nursing home has told local health officials that they are housing sick patients on separate wings or floors, Danielson said. And local residents have been gathering supplies to donate to the nursing home.

Most of the state’s nursing homes have reported at least one case of the coronavirus, which as of Wednesday had infected 6,815 patients of long-term care facilities in New Jersey. At least 45 of the 351 coronavirus-related deaths announced on Wednesday were residents of long-term care facilities.

Thirteen of the bodies discovered on Monday at the Andover facility were moved to a refrigerated truck outside a hospital in nearby Newton. A funeral home had made arrangements to pick up the other four.

The number of deaths in nursing homes from coronavirus is rising by the day. Due to the fact that older adults and those with underlying conditions are the most vulnerable to the virus, nursing homes and elderly assisted living facilities must follow infection control protocols as well as guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When a nursing home or assisted living facility breaches this duty during a pandemic, a nursing home neglect lawsuit could result. 

A pandemic is no reason to let safety and security measures slide, especially among the elderly and those with compromised immune systems who are among the most at-risk populations for contracting the deadly coronavirus. As such, nursing homes across the United States have failed to take swift actions to protect their employees and residents during the COVID-19 outbreak and can be held liable for their negligence.

Due to nursing homes failing to contain certain areas, many sick and elderly residents quickly contracted coronavirus and spread the disease to others in their nursing homes. In the majority of these cases, the spread of the disease could have been prevented with common-sense guidelines, like social distancing, frequent hand washing, and the usage of face masks.

Sadly, many nursing home residents came in contact with COVID-19. Our Nursing Home Negligence and Abuse Attorneys at Whittel & Melton know this would not have happened if nursing homes had followed pandemic guidelines. 

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veteran-2698167_640-150x150A military veteran who contracted coronavirus in mid-March at a Florida VA nursing home in Pembroke Pines has died, state officials confirmed Saturday.

The deceased veteran, who was not identified, was one of two men living at the nursing home for veterans in Pembroke Pines who were hospitalized last month after they tested presumptive positive for the coronavirus, according to the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. They were transferred to a local hospital.

The two residents at the Alexander Nininger State Veterans Nursing Home were tested after they showed signs of a low-grade fever, according to officials. They have been the only veterans at the state’s seven veteran nursing homes and domiciliary facilities who have contracted the disease since the coronavirus outbreak in Florida last month.

With more coronavirus test results rolling in, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among veterans at the Miami VA hospital has more than doubled to 36 as of Saturday, according to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs records. One of those veterans, a man in his 90s, died last week, according to the Miami VA officials.

About half of those patients are being treated at the downtown Miami VA hospital and the other half are quarantined at home, records show.

The Miami VA hospital now surpasses the Orlando VA facility, with 34 positive COVID-19 patients, for the most coronavirus infections in Florida.

Statewide, 104 veterans have tested positive for the viral disease at federal VA hospitals as of Saturday, up more than 30 percent this past week.

That figure, however, represents less than 1 percent of the total confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide, according to Florida Department of Health records. As of Tuesday, there have been 13,629 positive test results and 254 deaths in Florida due to the highly contagious respiratory disease.

The 372-bed Miami VA hospital, which serves 58,000 veterans in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties, has also had four staff members test positive for the viral infection, and the employees are all in isolation, mitigating further risk of transmission to other patients and staff, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. 

The Miami VA hospital was among dozens of veterans’ facilities nationwide recently cited by a federal inspector general for failing to maintain adequate equipment and supplies, including critical N95 masks for healthcare workers. The reality is, hospitals in and outside the VA system are reporting shortages of the N95 masks as well as traditional surgical masks.

On Monday, Miami VA officials started requiring employees to use and reuse surgical masks for one week, unless they are treating patients with COVID-19 or their masks become soiled. In those instances, they can ask supervisors for a replacement.

“These masks are expected to be used for a week at a time, longer if possible,” Miami VA Healthcare System Director Kalautie JangDhari told staff in an email Sunday that was updated with the same message Wednesday. “Masks may be removed while eating or drinking, but must be immediately put back on.”

Despite the new policy, Miami VA healthcare workers say surgical masks are not as thick or effective as the N95 masks that were found to be in short supply at the hospital by federal inspectors during a visit last month. 

Sadly, nursing homes are habitually understaffed. With the novel coronavirus pandemic, staff shortages are even worse. However, nursing homes and assisted living facilities are known to keep resident to staff ratios high, and staff numbers low, in an effort to boost profits. These facilities are notorious for placing profits over people, which can ultimately lead to serious injuries and death.

The staff at nursing homes and assisted living facilities are not always properly trained on infection control measures, which means they are often unaware of the policies and procedures to prevent infection. It has been documented that Florida nursing homes have struggled with infection control. There have been repeated instances of workers failing to wash their hands as they move between patients.

The CDC has released new regulations for how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in nursing home and assisted living facilities, which include:

  • Implementing symptom screening policies
  • Restricting visitors and nonessential personnel
  • Active screening of health care personnel, including documenting respiratory symptoms and temperature
  • Training staff on infection control
  • Restricting resident movement and group activities

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ball-2585603_640-150x150A nursing home in Baker County that saw a sudden spike of 10 coronavirus cases said the illness was bought into the facility from someone who was recently moved to the facility.

The Macclenny Nursing and Rehab Center suddenly found that 10 patients in the facility had been infected with COVID-19 as of Thursday. Only one other case of the infection had been reported in the county prior to the outbreak in the nursing home, the Florida Department Health data showed on the coronavirus dashboard.

Susan Kaar, vice president of compliance and quality management for the nursing home’s owning company Southern Healthcare Management LLC, said the facility’s first confirmed case was a resident who was admitted to the center after being at a local hospital. While monitoring residents, the center noticed others displaying symptoms associated with COVID-19 and tested them. The virus spread rather quickly. All victims of coronavirus were transferred to a local hospital. 

As a proactive and preventative measure, all patients and staff were tested for the virus. This is when the additional cases were found. 

It is unclear how many of the 10 victims were elderly patients and how many were staff. 

The facility says it is collaborating with the local Department of Health. .

Baker County Commission Chair James Bennett Friday said county first responders have handled the situation and the jurisdiction is taking the outbreak in stride.

As of Monday, the DOH coronavirus dashboard said Baker County had 12 victims of the illness with no deaths. The dashboard indicates the age range of the 12 victims is 24 to 97. 

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Florida is at 12,350, as of Monday. The number of residents that have tested positive for coronavirus are 11,961. The number of hospital admissions are 1,555 and the number of deaths are 221. 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, nursing homes are experiencing a shortage of caregivers. Regulators are now allowing “personal care attendants” to perform more hands-on functions normally handled by certified nursing assistants, according to the state Agency for Health Care Administration. In addition, the state of Florida is temporarily waiving a live-scan fingerprinting requirement for new employees who work with residents because fingerprinting vendors are shut down, according to an emergency order. Instead of fingerprinting, nursing homes are required to conduct background checks through several sources, according to the order. The waiver is in effect for 30 days and is due to expire April 27 unless extended.

Nursing Homes Still Have a Duty of  Care to Residents 

Florida nursing home and assisted living facilities owe their residents a duty of reasonable care to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Elderly nursing home residents and residents with underlying health issues are at an increased risk of dying from coronavirus. Because of this, nursing homes and assisted living facilities must take extra precautions to prevent coronavirus from spreading throughout their facilities. 

When nursing homes and assisted living facilities do not take the necessary steps to protect their residents from coronavirus, this could translate to negligence. Any residents who suffer harm or die from being infected with coronavirus have a legal right to bring a lawsuit against a negligent nursing home or assisted living facility.

Nursing Homes Must Take Extra Precautions

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), advises healthcare employees to follow very strict procedures for preventing the spread of viruses, including the following:

  • Staff should wear personal protective equipment
  • Staff should restrict visitors from coming into contact with infected patients
  • Staff should practice proper hand hygiene
  • Staff should prevent potentially infected or infected staff members from coming into contact with nursing home patients

Filing a Nursing Home Negligence Lawsuit After Contracting Coronavirus

Nursing homes that fail to take the necessary steps to prevent coronavirus from spreading can be held legally responsible for any suffering and death caused by the virus. Let’s say an infected nursing home staff member contracted the virus and exposed a resident to it after failing to wear protective gear around the resident. The resident may very well have a valid claim for a negligence lawsuit.

Contact Our Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse Attorneys at Whittel & Melton 

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care-4083343_640-150x150A Washington state nursing home that had at least 37 Covid-19 deaths faces a fine of more than $611,000, according to federal inspectors. 

The facility could also lose Medicare and Medicaid funding if it does not correct a plethora of deficiencies that led to the country’s first major outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

In a letter Wednesday to Life Care Center of Kirkland, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services wrote that the nursing home failed to report an outbreak of respiratory illness to local authorities for two weeks as required by law, gave inadequate care to its residents during the outbreak and failed to provide 24-hour emergency doctor services.

The inspectors said that if the nursing home northeast of Seattle “does not correct all deficiencies and return to full compliance by September 16, 2020, then CMS will terminate your facility from participating in the Medicare/Medicaid program.”

As of Thursday afternoon, Life Care had not responded to a request for comment on the inspection findings and the penalties. The company has a right to appeal.

Inspectors levied a per-day civil penalty of $13,585 for the alleged deficiencies, dating to Feb. 12, around the time that the outbreak is thought to have taken hold, and continuing through March 27. They said the fine could be raised, or lowered, depending on the facility’s compliance with its correction plan.

In addition to losing its federal payments under the Medicare and Medicaid programs, the facility also could lose its Nurse Aide Training and Competency Evaluation Program and forfeit federal payment for the patients it admitted from March 21 to March 27.

Officials said that 129 residents, staff and visitors were infected with the coronavirus, which causes mild-to-moderate symptoms in most people but can prove fatal to the sick and elderly. As of March 23, 37 people associated with Life Care had died. 

In figures updated April 1, the county said that 2,496 people had tested positive for covid-19 in total and that 164 people had died due to covid-19 illness.

In a summary of its findings issued last month, CMS said inspectors had found that Life Care failed to swiftly notify regional authorities that it had a surge in respiratory infections, and continued to admit new patients and hold events such as a Mardi Gras party for dozens of residents and guests.

King County said it received notification of an increase in respiratory illnesses at the nursing home late on Feb. 27. Life Care has said it also left a voice message with county officials the day before. State law and county regulations required Life Care to report any suspected flu outbreak within 24 hours.

The Seattle region was the site of the first confirmed coronavirus case in the United States. Authorities said on January 21 that a 35-year-old man in Snohomish County, which neighbors King County, had tested positive after traveling from the Wuhan region of China, where the virus is thought to have originated. The man has since recovered.

Managers at the facility held quality-assurance meetings on Jan. 27 and Feb. 19, after the virus had already been detected in a neighboring county.

The home’s director, who joined the facility in January, told CMS inspectors: “Normally if there are concerns in infection control it would have been discussed in the QAPI meeting.”

CMS said infection concerns did not come up at either meeting, including the one in February, which was held days after Life Care said it posted signs warning visitors about the respiratory outbreak that staff thought was the flu.

“Further review of the 02/19/2020 monthly QAPI meeting minutes under the nursing section revealed: no reports of infection concerns at the facility,” the CMS report said.

The nursing home’s medical director, who was not identified, did not attend either of those meetings, the report states. Life Care’s “Infection Preventionist” nurse attended the January meeting, but did not attend the Feb. 19 meeting.

The executive director and two unidentified administrative staff members said “it was very chaotic” inside Life Care, as patients and dozens of staff members fell ill in February and March. Patient records were incomplete. Staff members were sick and unable to tend to the residents, they told inspectors.

“We were triaging residents as the residents were crashing, so there wasn’t going to be a lot of documentation,” one nursing home official, who was not identified in the report, told CMS inspectors.

CMS said the facility “did not have effective systems in place” to prevent the infection or respond to it. Life Care officials did not notify health-care authorities of the outbreak until Feb. 26 and did not have a 24-hour emergency physician or adequate staff to respond to the outbreak.

The facility lacked a “clear medical plan of action,” inspectors said, leading to a “systemic failure.”

Nearly a month after the outbreak, on March 7, inspectors said two certified nursing assistants, a man who had worked at Life Care for 15 years and a woman who had been there for four years, said they had not been trained to properly sanitize items with bleach wipes.

Also that day, inspectors spotted a laundry staff member who delivered clothing to residents in multiple rooms without changing her gown, gloves and other protective gear despite warning signs that patients might have been contagious.

CMS Guidance for Limiting the Transmission of COVID-19 for Nursing Homes 

CMS has released a guidance labeled as QSO-20-14-NH to respond to the threat posed by COVID-19.

For ALL facilities nationwide: Facilities should restrict visitation of all visitors and non-essential health care personnel, except for certain compassionate care situations, such as an end-of-life situation. In those cases, visitors will be limited to a specific room only. Facilities are expected to notify potential visitors to defer visitation until further notice (through signage, calls, letters, etc.). 

Note: If a state implements actions that exceed CMS requirements, such as a ban on all visitation through a governor’s executive order, a facility would not be out of compliance with CMS’ requirements. In this case, surveyors would still enter the facility, but not cite for noncompliance with visitation requirements. 

For individuals that enter in compassionate situations (e.g., end-of-life care), facilities should require visitors to perform hand hygiene and use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as facemasks. Decisions about visitation during an end of life situation should be made on a case by case basis, which should include careful screening of the visitor (including clergy, bereavement counselors, etc.) for fever or respiratory symptoms. Those with symptoms of a respiratory infection (fever, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat) should not be permitted to enter the facility at any time (even in end-of-life situations). Those visitors that are permitted, must wear a facemask while in the building and restrict their visit to the resident’s room or other location designated by the facility. They should also be reminded to frequently perform hand hygiene.

Nursing Homes Are Still Obligated to Meet Residents Needs During a Global Pandemic

The coronavirus is a very serious condition that can be fatal to elderly residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The CMS is working hard to provide the guidance nursing homes need to protect their residents. This is no time for nursing homes to place profits over people. Instead, nursing homes need to step up and protect the elderly in their care and place their safety as top priority.

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covid-19-4908692_640-150x150Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order preventing a wide array of people from visiting nursing homes, assisted living facilities and similar sites in Florida in an effort to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus among some of the state’s most vulnerable people.

Anyone who’s traveled internationally, traveled on a cruise ship, is showing symptoms of the coronavirus or has been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus is temporarily prohibited from visiting those sites, he said.

The order applies to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult family care homes, long-term care facilities and adult group homes across the state.

“These are important efforts to mitigate the risk to our most vulnerable population to COVID-19,” DeSantis said.

The order required facilities to prevent the following groups of people from visiting:

▪ Anyone infected with COVID-19 who hasn’t had two consecutive negative test results cannot visit the facilities.

▪ Anyone showing signs of a respiratory infection cannot visit.

▪ Any person who has or been in close contact with a person infected with COVID-19 who has not tested negative is prohibited from visiting for 14 days.

▪ Any person who has traveled internationally must wait for 14 days from their return to the U.S. before visiting.

▪ Any person who has traveled on a cruise ship must wait 14 days from the date of their return before visiting.

▪ Any person who has been in a community with confirmed “community spread” of the virus must wait 14 days before visiting.

▪ Any person who lives in a community with confirmed community spread is prohibited from visiting.

“No one is exempt from the screening,” Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew said.

People throughout Florida, the United States, and around the world are concerned about the spread of the coronavirus, which is officially known as COVID-19. This disease originated in China, where over 100,000 people have been infected and thousands more have died. While the U.S. rate of infection has been relatively low in comparison, the main concern is that the disease may continue to spread, causing serious illnesses and deaths.

A large concern with coronavirus is how it affects the senior citizen population, which raises the question of how residents of nursing homes will be able to fight the spread of the coronavirus, especially since the largest outbreak that has occurred in the United States so far has taken place at the Life Care Center nursing home in the Seattle, Washington area. There have been more than 10 deaths at this facility, and the infection has spread to dozens of people in the surrounding community.

Our Florida Nursing Home Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton understand the concerns about how coronavirus infections may affect nursing home residents. We are here to help you and your families understand if negligence was a factor when harm is suffered by a loved one. We know the law as it pertains to infections and other forms of nursing home neglect and abuse, and we can work with you to establish liability and help you pursue your legal options. 

The Dangers Of Coronavirus for Nursing Home Residents

It has been determined that COVID-19 is more likely to cause serious harm to the elderly as compared to other age groups. According to researchers who have studied the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, the overall fatality rate for those who are infected is around 2%. But, for those over the age of 70, the fatality rate is around 8%, and it increases to nearly 15% for those over the age of 80. Fatalities are also much more likely for patients who have conditions such as cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes, hypertension, or cancer.

Nursing Homes Must Act Responsibly to Control the Spread of Coronavirus

All nursing homes and assisted living facilities are required to have plans in place for disease prevention and control, as well as emergency preparedness plans that address how to respond to an outbreak. Staff members are required to follow proper hygiene procedures, which includes thoroughly washing hands and wearing eye protection and facial masks. Commonly-used areas and surfaces should be regularly disinfected. They must also follow the above listed protocols as outlined by the governor’s order. 

Nursing Homes Can Be Liable for Coronavirus Infections

When a nursing home facility fails to follow the proper steps to prevent infections, it may be liable for injuries or wrongful deaths that occurred as a result. If a resident does not receive the proper medical care after contracting an infection, the victim or their family may be able to pursue financial compensation. Claims can also be pursued if the nursing home did not take the proper measures to prevent the spread of infection to visitors to the facility.

Contact Our Florida Nursing Home Coronavirus Infection Lawyers

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connection-4884862_640-150x150Across the country from Miami to Seattle, nursing homes and other facilities for the elderly are stockpiling masks and thermometers, preparing for staff shortages and screening visitors to protect a particularly vulnerable population from the coronavirus.

The outbreak began in China where the disease has been substantially deadlier for the elderly. In Italy, the epicenter of the virus outbreak in Europe, the more than 100 people who died were either elderly, sick with other complications, or both.

Of the 19 deaths across the U.S. as of Saturday, at least 14 had been linked to a Seattle-area nursing home, along with many other infections among residents, staff and family members. The Seattle Times reported that a second nursing home and a retirement community in the area had each reported one case of the virus.

That has put other facilities in the U.S. on high alert, especially in states with large populations of older residents, such as Florida and California. About 2.5 million people live in long-term care facilities in the United States.

“For people over the age of 80 … the mortality rate could be as high as 15 percent,” said Mark Parkinson, president of the nursing home trade group American Health Care Association.

The federal government is now focusing all nursing home inspections on infection control, singling out facilities in cities with confirmed cases and those previously cited for not following protocol.

Federal rules already require the homes to have an infection prevention specialist on staff, and many have long had measures in place to deal with seasonal flus and other ailments that pose a higher risk to the elderly.

In Florida, where about 160,000 seniors live in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, mandatory visitor screening is not in place ‘because we’re not at that stage,’ said Kristen Knapp, a spokeswoman for the Florida Health Care Association.

But elder care centers are posting signs urging visitors to stay away if they have symptoms, and are looking into alternate ways for families to connect, such as through video chats, Knapp said.

Concierges in the 14 Florida nursing homes run by the Palm Gardens corporation are now giving all visitors a short questionnaire asking about symptoms, recent travel and contact with others, said company Vice President Luke Neumann.

Neumann said the nursing homes also have purchased extra thermometers in case they need to check visitors’ temperatures and stockpiled preventive supplies, including medical masks, protective eyewear and gowns. In the laundry rooms, they are making sure to use enough bleach and heat to kill any lingering virus germs, he said.

Many facilities across the country have said they were having trouble getting medical masks and gowns because of shortages.

Facilities are stressing basic precautions, including hand washing and coughing etiquette.

Centers throughout the country are also trying to prepare their staff for the worst.

Late Friday night, the DOH announced two Florida seniors who had traveled abroad have become the state’s first residents to die from the coronavirus plus additional presumptive positive cases in Broward and Lee counties.

Both died following international trips.

The World Health Organization has stopped calling the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak an epidemic, but the disease is causing serious problems all over the world, including Florida. Treating the illness is at the top of everyone’s priority list, but there are still lingering questions that remain to be answered, including those about negligence and liability. Could a nursing home be held liable for virus-related deaths of its patients? The answer may not be that simple.  

What Is Coronavirus? 

Coronaviruses are part of a larger family of viruses that cause illnesses in humans and animals. In rare cases, coronaviruses that infect animals make the jump to humans. This is believed to have been the case with the specific virus responsible for COVID-19. COVID-19 presents as a respiratory illness, and symptoms include coughing, fever, and shortness of breath. For those whose immune systems are compromised, the virus can cause serious problems and can even be deadly. The symptoms are quite similar to those associated with the common cold or the flu, which means that a person might be infected with COVID-19 and not even realize it. This is why these cases can be such a huge problem in nursing homes. 

Can Nursing Homes Be Liable for Coronavirus Deaths? 

A nursing home can be held liable for injuries and deaths to patients if they failed to provide a standard duty of care. This would mean that they did not offer the level of care mandated by local, state, and federal guidelines. In extraordinary situations, as is the case of coronavirus, nursing home facilities are expected to take extra precautions. If they fail to do so, then they very well could be liable for patient injuries or death.

CDC Guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidelines for preventing the spread of the coronavirus in nursing home facilities. To prevent further patients being introduced to the virus, facilities are expected to post signs instructing visitors to stay out if they have symptoms of a respiratory illness. Facilities are also expected to have sick leave policies that allow staff members to stay home if they have similar symptoms.

Furthermore, proper hygiene, such as hand washing and disinfecting procedures, should be used at all times. Residents who are suspected to be infected should be kept away from other residents, and facemasks should be used if they need to leave their rooms for required procedures. Limitations on visitors and outside interactions should also be implemented if and when an infection is suspected.  

Potential Lawsuits

There are certain scenarios where the family of a coronavirus victim could be eligible for compensation from a nursing home. If the facility’s sick leave policy encouraged an infected employee to come to work despite being sick, and a resident was infected as a result, the facility could certainly be held liable. On a side note, the employee that came to work even though they knew they were positively diagnosed with COVID-19 but came to work anyway could also be liable.

A victim’s family can also file a personal injury or wrongful death claim if the nursing home facility failed to take proper steps to quarantine patients who were known or suspected to be infected. Nursing homes must follow the CDC guidelines.

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A South Florida appeals court has made a decision regarding arguments that the state improperly revoked the license of a Broward County nursing home where residents died after Hurricane Irma in 2017.

A panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal last week rejected the appeal by The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. The one-page order did not explain the court’s reasons.

Lawyers for the nursing home asked the court to find that an administrative law judge made a series of errors in recommending that the facility lose its license.

Hurricane Irma knocked out the facility’s air conditioning, with authorities attributing as many as 12 resident deaths to sweltering conditions in the building. But attorneys for the Agency for Health Care Administration contended in a brief that the nursing home’s “abject failure to meet its obligations as a licensed facility and the tragic consequences justify AHCA’ s decision to revoke its license.”

Hurricane Irma made landfall Sept. 10, 2017, in Monroe and Collier counties and caused damage through much of the state. The nursing home lost power to its air-conditioning system, which was out until Sept. 13, when residents were evacuated.

The deaths drew national attention and led the state to move quickly to shut down the facility and, ultimately, revoke its license. Four staff members were charged with manslaughter. Administrative Law Judge Mary Li Creasy in 2018 issued a recommended order supporting the revocation.

While authorities have attributed as many as 12 deaths to conditions at the facility, Creasy wrote that “clear and convincing evidence” was presented during the case that nine of the 12 residents “suffered greatly from the exposure to unsafe heat in the facility.” Following Creasy’s recommendation, the Agency for Health Care Administration in January 2019 issued a final order to revoke the license.

Florida’s current nursing home generator law requires assisted living and nursing home facilities to acquire generators and fuel as a direct result of the Hurricane Irma tragedy. The equipment that they have must allow them to keep the temperature at their facility at 81 degrees or below even if they suffer a loss of power. Small facilities must be able to provide air conditioning for 48 hours and larger facilities must provide power for up to 96 hours after a power loss. 

There are additional requirements, such as facilities must create and report an emergency plan to the Department of Elder Affairs, which must be a comprehensive emergency management plan. Additionally, they must also pass an inspection by the Florida Fire Marshall. The Fire Marshall performs an inspection to ensure that the generator and fuel that the facility acquires is adequate to comply with the law.

Just like all other states, Florida’s nursing home laws are set in place to provide patients with specific standards of treatment and basic rights. These laws protect the safety, comfort, and health of nursing home patients. 

Nursing home patients are also entitled to certain services such as social interaction and mental health counseling. If you are a nursing home patient or a family member and you feel you or your loved one’s rights have been violated, you should seek the assistance of our Tampa Bay Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys at Whittel & Melton.

Florida laws state that nursing homes and assisted living residents are entitled to a certain set of rights when living at a long-term care facility. These laws ensure that  residents are provided a comfortable, safe, clean, and homelike environment. Facilities are required to provide their patients with bedding, clean clothes, and comfortable living quarters. Residents should have access to hot water, clean drinking water, comfortable temperatures, and adequate lighting. Likewise, facilities must be equipped with rails, ramps, and other safety features. These facilities must also provide their residents with nutritious meals, daily exercise, medication, social activities, emergency care, and a living space free from abuse.

In Florida, nursing home abuse and neglect is defined as a caregiver’s failure to meet or provide an individual’s basic needs for things like food, clothing, shelter, hygiene, and medical care. When these basic needs are forgotten, patients are at an increased risk of developing an infection, illness, deterioration, and compromised safety.

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are also required to provide their patients with a safe environment that is functional, safe, comfortable, and sanitary. When facilities fail to live up to these standards, neglect can happen and result in terrible consequences like the deaths that were seen after Hurricane Irma.

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