Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse

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

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

A Vietnam War veteran was bitten more than 100 times all over his body by ants while laying in his bed suffering from cancer in a nursing home on the campus of an Atlanta Veteran Affairs hospital just days before he passed away.

The Air Force veteran’s daughter was visiting him at the Eagle’s Nest Community Living Center, a nursing home for veterans on the Atlanta VA Medical Center campus, where he was being treated for cancer, when she noticed her father’s hands were swollen and his body was covered with red bumps.

The woman said she alerted a medical center staffer to her father’s new ailments. The staff allegedly told the woman that they thought the man was dead because the ants were all over him. 

The man died just days later.

The Atlanta VA Hospital released a statement in response to the man’s case describing the actions they had taken including stripping all the bedrooms and inspecting them for ants, removing all open food containers, hiring a pest control company to do an inspection and purchasing plastic containers for the resident’s snacks.

“The Atlanta VA Health Care System leadership team has been notified that ants were found in our Community Living Center and impacting patients. CLC staff immediately cared for the Veterans and took action to ensure no other CLC residents were impacted. We would like to express our heartfelt remorse and apology to the Veterans’ families and have reached out to them to offer appropriate assistance,” the statement read.

After the incident, the woman said that the health center workers bathed her father and cleaned his room, but the next day, the ants came back. He was then moved to a new room where he would later die, according to reports. 

“Atlanta VA Health Care System always strives to provide Veterans with the very best health care available. When we don’t meet that standard, we hold ourselves accountable. That’s why we have initiated a fact finding on the nursing and environmental care processes to ensure we are providing safe and effective care,” the Atlanta VA Hospital statement concluded.

An infestation of any kind (ants, bed bugs, lice, cockroaches, rats, etc.) is a very strong indicator that a nursing home or assisted living facility is not taking the proper steps to make sure that their facility is clean and free from pests and contagious parasites. Moreover, this is a sign that the nursing home or assisted living facility is falling below the standard of care that they are required to provide to their residents. If your loved one is the victim of an insect infestation in a nursing home or assisted living facility, our Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys at Whittel & Melton urge you to speak with us as soon as possible. 

Nursing home abuse or neglect is a serious issue that affects thousands of residents. Indications of nursing home abuse or neglect include:

  • Malnutrition and dehydration
  • Bedsores and pressure ulcers
  • Soiled clothing or bedding
  • Generally unsanitary conditions

If you have a loved one who is living under poor conditions in a nursing home, you need to take immediate action. When neglect or abuse is prolonged, serious and fatal consequences are possible. 

The best way to prevent nursing home abuse and neglect is by visiting your loved one on a regular basis. Frequent visits will help you become familiar with the daily conditions of the facility. You will also get to know the staff and gain a better understanding of day to day operations. The more involved you become, the lower the chances of injury or death to your loved one. 

We understand that it is not possible to spend every moment in the presence of our loved ones, which is why many people turn to trusting medical professionals to care for their elderly family members in the first place. When nursing homes or assisted living facilities fail to provide the standard of care your loved one deserves, you may be entitled to take legal action. Our Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are here to review your case completely free of charge and help you determine the best way to proceed.

Continue reading

Arrests are expected Monday in the case of a Florida nursing home where 12 elderly patients died after it lost power during a 2017 hurricane, according to reports.

Three nurses and an administrator are apparently being charged. The charges are unknown at this time, but they will likely be some form of manslaughter.

Police have been investigating the deaths for nearly two years but no charges have been filed. 

Patients began dying at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills days after the hurricane. Investigators say the center did not evacuate patients as temperatures inside rose, even though a fully functional hospital was across the street. The home’s license was suspended days after the storm and it later shuttered.

On Wednesday, September 13th paramedics were called to see to patients in distress at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. Firefighters went throughout the entire nursing home facility and found three people dead. Emergency responders then evacuated more than 150 patients to hospitals, many on stretchers or in wheelchairs. By Wednesday afternoon, five more residents had died. The nursing home sits across the street from Memorial Regional Hospital, one of the largest hospitals in Florida, which did not lose power during the entire storm. Regardless, other than a couple residents, the facility did not evacuate any residents until residents began to perish starting early in the morning of September 13th. 

Paramedics from Hollywood Fire-Rescue testified last year that they are haunted by the deaths of 12 patients. A Fire Lt. said one of the female victims had a temperature of 107.5 degrees (42 Celsius), the highest she had ever seen in her 12-year career. Later that morning, another patient topped that with a temperature that was so high it couldn’t be measured, she said.

The case made national headlines and sparked political backlash. Months after the deaths, lawmakers passed a bill requiring backup power sources in Florida nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The legislation require the facilities to have a generator capable of keeping nursing homes and assisted living facilities at 81 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) or lower for at least four days.

Our Florida Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are passionate about helping families of wrongful death victims hold nursing homes accountable for their actions. When we take a nursing home negligence case, we will do whatever it takes to help family members obtain maximum compensation for their loss. If you have lost a loved one and believe that negligence or abuse may be to blame, we urge you to get in touch with us so that we can hold the nursing home responsible and win you the compensation you deserve.

Sadly, residents suffer these conditions as a direct result of receiving inadequate or improper care. Whether this is the result of a singular incident (such as losing power and suffering from sweltering temperatures) or deficient care over an extended period of time (as with malnutrition or dehydration), negligence on the part of nursing home staff members can easily lead to fatal medical conditions that with proper care should have been avoided.

It is important to note that even when conditions are not fatal, the elderly residents of nursing homes are still at an increased risk for contracting other life-threatening conditions and diseases. Severe injuries from falls and serious illnesses like untreated bed sores can all leave elderly residents in a weakened physical and emotional state. This makes them much more susceptible to being unable to fight off other illnesses and infections, and ultimately could result in them losing their life. When nurses and other nursing home staff members are unable or unwilling to provide details on how your loved one died, this can be a warning sign that negligence or abuse was a factor. You have every right to question the cause of your loved one’s death, and if the answers are hard to come by then you could have a valid wrongful death claim against the nursing home. 

Our lawyers can help you get the answers you are looking for, and if it appears that you have a claim, we will do whatever we can to make sure your are fully compensated for your losses.

Continue reading

In 2017, 12 residents at a nursing home in Broward County died in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

In March 2018, then-Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill requiring all nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have alternative sources of power in the event of a natural disaster. The original deadline for compliance was Jan. 1, but some facilities are still requesting extra time. June 1 was the official start of hurricane season and the new deadline for facilities to implement their plans.

Most counties in north central Florida are compliant, including Levy, Gilchrist, Columbia, Union, Bradford and Putnam. 

According to the state Agency for Health Care Administration (ACHA), Alachua and Marion counties are both in 100 percent compliance.

According to the ACHA, a facility is compliant if its plan is fully implemented, or it has requested or been granted a deadline extension based on valid delays. All such requests are considered on a case-by-case basis. 

Availability of proper equipment, installation scheduling and mechanical engineering plans reviews and approvals are some key reasons why facilities may require an extension. 

According to ACHA’s website, nursing homes and assisted living facilities may qualify for supply costs reimbursement and funding assistance through Medicare and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The new environmental control rule mandates that the plan a facility sends to a local emergency management department should include a timeline by which it would be fully implemented.

The new state law sets no limits regarding extension requests or their duration.

While Alachua and Marion counties are all in compliance. Other counties, however, have more work to do in order to become compliant.

Clay County is at 96 percent, but there is no timeline for reaching 100 percent. On April 10, according to state records, Governors Creek Health and Rehabilitation in Clay County filed a petition requesting more time beyond June 1. Heartland Healthcare Center – Orange Park is also seeking the same extension.

Duval County is also at 96 percent. Seven centers had petitioned for more time, including Heartland Health Care Center of South Jacksonville, San Jose Health and Rehabilitation Center, First Coast Health and Rehabilitation Center, ISLF Deerwood Place, Fouraker Hills Rehabilitation & Nursing Center, Terrace of Jacksonville and Riverwood Center.

Facilities granted extensions must send monthly and quarterly progress reports to ACHA.

The facilities with approved extensions are still required to have an adequate plan to protect patients during a power outage. This includes a temporary generator on-site, a plan to obtain a generator within 24 hours of a power outage or a full evacuation plan.

In Levy County, some facilities have taken a different approach. Instead of purchasing generators, they borrow them.  

The Electrical Generating Systems Association and Disaster Contractors Network offer website directories that allow facilities to search for local contractors providing resources and assistance.

Other regions, including Bradford and Union counties, have fewer nursing homes and assisted living facilities, but more group homes, which follow different regulations.

Group homes must adhere to the guidelines of both ACHA and the Agencies for Persons with Disabilities (APD).

North Central Florida is one of only two regions in the state to achieve full compliance. Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties in the panhandle are also at 100 percent.

Counties with the lowest percentages are Bay and Highlands. They are both at 92 percent.

The overall compliance rate statewide is 98 percent. Out of 3,753 licensed facilities in Florida, 2,621 have fully implemented their emergency power plans and 1,070 have extensions.

Here is a full list of all nursing homes in Alachua County: 

  • North Florida Rehabilitation and Specialty Care
  • Oak Hammock at the University of Florida Inc
  • Palm Garden of Gainesville
  • Park Meadows Health and Rehabilitation Center
  • Parklands Care Center
  • Plaza Health and Rehab 
  • Signature HealthCare of Gainesville 
  • Terrace Health & Rehabilitation Center 

Below is a list of all assisted living facilities in Alachua County: 

  • Annie’s House
  • Brookdale Gainesville Southwest 
  • Harborchase of Gainesville
  • Hunter’s Crossing Place – Assisted Living  
  • Hunter’s Crossing Place – Memory Care
  • The Mayflower Assisted Living 
  • Misty Meadows
  • North Florida Retirement Village
  • Oak Hammock at the University of Florida
  • Plantation Oaks Senior Living Residence
  • Southwest Retirement Home
  • The Windsor of Gainesville Assisted Living & Memory Care

Marion County nursing homes: 

  • Avante at Ocala, Inc
  • Bridgewater Park Health & Rehabilitation Center
  • Hawthorne Health & Rehab of Ocala 
  • Life Care Center of Ocala
  • Oakhurst Center
  • Ocala Health & Rehabilitation Center
  • Ocala Oaks Rehabilitation Center
  • Palm Garden of Ocala
  • The Lodge Health and Rehabilitation Center
  • Timberridge Nursing & Rehabilitation Center

Marion County assisted living facilities: 

  • A Cottage Called Home LLC
  • Brentwood at Fore Ranch 
  • Bridge at Life Care Center of Ocala
  • Bridgewater Park Assisted Living 
  • Brookdale Canopy Oaks 
  • Brookdale Chambrel Pinecastle 
  • Brookdale Paddock Hills
  • Camelot Château
  • Canterfield of Ocala LLC
  • Change of Pace Ret Center
  • God Answers Prayers – Emmanuel, Inc
  • Hampton ALF at 24th Road LLC
  • Hampton ALF at Belleview LLC
  • Hampton ALF at Deerwood LLC
  • Haven House of Ocala
  • Hawthorne Inn of Ocala 
  • Hidden Pines ALF
  • Higher Ground Assisted Living Facility 
  • Marion Oaks Assisted Living 
  • Mcintosh Assisted Living Inc
  • Pacifica Senior Living Ocala 
  • Paddock Ridge 
  • Prestige Manor
  • Prestige Manor III
  • Solita’s Comfort 
  • Specialty Care Services Inc
  • Summerfield Suites
  • Superior Residences at Cala Hills
  • Syerra’s Angels 
  • The Harbor House of Ocala 
  • The Harmony House of Ocala
  • Windsor at Ocala
  • Wings of Love Assisted Living Facility LLC

While Alachua and Marion Counties are in the clear with the generator requirements, other Florida nursing homes and assisted living facilities are coming up short. If a Florida nursing home fails to comply with the generator laws, their actions could be deemed as negligence. This means that their actions, or lack thereof, may automatically open them up to legal liability if a resident becomes a victim. 

Continue reading

More than a year ago, a new state law went into effect requiring nursing homes and assisted living centers to have emergency power plans, backup generators and enough fuel in place to run those generators for four days.

A News 6 investigation has uncovered modifications to the law that are allowing facilities to keep smaller amounts of fuel onsite in case of an emergency.

According to a spokesperson for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, the rules state all facilities must have a plan to acquire a minimum of 96 hours of fuel in the event of an emergency situation, but they do not have to have that much on site.

The rules now state a nursing home must store a minimum of 72 hours of fuel onsite.

As for assisted living facilities, a facility with a licensed capacity of 16 beds or fewer must store 48 hours of fuel on site whereas a facility with a licensed capacity of 17 or more beds must store 72 hours of fuel onsite.

In November 2017 when ACHA and DOEA filed new proposed rules with the Department of State to create permanent nursing home and ALF rules. In December 2017, these rules were sent to the Legislature for ratification. Manderfield states the emergency rules were then extended/renewed while the two agencies awaited ratification by the Legislature, and both rules were ratified by the Legislature and approved by the governor on March 26, 2018 . 

The new emergency power plan law went into effect after Hurricane Irma, when a dozen nursing home residents died in Hollywood Hills.

The nursing home they were staying in lost power for days following the September 2017 storm, creating hot temperatures and dangerous conditions inside the facility.

But despite the urgency presented by then-Gov. Rick Scott, who demanded the creation of safer conditions for the state’s most vulnerable residents, News 6 has found that there are some Central Florida facilities that still do not have backup generators or other crucial power equipment in place, despite having more than a year to do so.

News 6 visited three of the more than 3,000 assisted living facilities currently licensed in the state to see which ones had their emergency power plans and equipment in place. Only one of them did: Alabama Oaks of Winter Park.

In April, News 6 visited Oasis National Assisted Living Facility in Apopka and was shown the facility’s written emergency power plan and new generator that was recently installed in the backyard. But the staff admitted they were still waiting for a transfer switch to go in. Recent calls to check if the transfer switch has been installed have gone unanswered.

That same month, News 6 also checked with the administrator at Excellence Senior Living in Orlando, who confirmed the 185-bed facility was still missing the permanent backup generator administrators had ordered, but has been approved for an extension. So that means even though the generator is not in place, the facility is not violating state law.

According to AHCA, 100% of the state’s nursing homes and almost 98% of the state’s assisted living facilities are in compliance with the new state law, but that just means they submitted an emergency power plan or extension, not that they have all the equipment in place. Some facilities have even received two or more extensions.

According to Florida law, there is no limit regarding variance requests or duration. The agency is evaluating extension requests on a case-by-case basis to ensure appropriate timelines for compliance and safety measures are in place. 

There are currently 248 nursing homes and 2,328 assisted living facilities that have reported fully implemented generators.

The plan implementation and verification at facilities is ongoing, with 284 surveyors making onsite visits and inspections across the state.

As facilities implement their power plan initiatives, their information can be found on FloridaHealthFinder.gov.

According to News 6, Orange County’s Office of Emergency Management and the agency confirms it has approved plans for 82 assisted living facilities in its jurisdiction, and requested 11 ALFs to resubmit their plans. A county spokesperson confirms six ALFs have not submitted plans and the agency has notified AHCA. Orange County Emergency Management personnel are required to approve the emergency power plans, but the submission of approval letter to AHCA is the responsibility of the provider.

It is up to the state to confirm facilities are following their plan and AHCA is ultimately responsible for licensing the facilities. 

So, what can you do to make sure your loved one is safe and that their facility has a plan and proper equipment in place?

  • Visit the facility in person unannounced. 
  • Ask to see the emergency power plan booklet; it should be in an easy-to-access location.
  • Ask to see where the generator and fuel source are stored.
  • Ask staff if they have been trained on the power plans and how to use the equipment.
  • Check the AHCA website for a list of nursing homes in which facilities have been approved for an extension or multiple extensions.

A good facility will have no problem providing family members with their emergency plan and power plan safety measures. If you run across a facility that does, that is a big red flag that something is askew. 

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are legally obligated to properly care for every patient/resident in their care 24/7. This means that even during a hurricane they must provide appropriate medical care. If the facility is not prepared for severe weather like a hurricane or tropical storm, residents can suffer serious personal injuries and even wrongful death. Any residents or family members of loved ones who have suffered injuries in a nursing home or assisted living facility have the right to take legal action against a facility who acted negligently by not being prepared. Our Florida Nursing Home Negligence Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can investigate the nursing home or assisted living facility in question to determine if they are liable for any wrongful actions.

We are happy to help injured nursing home and assisted living facility residents, as well as surviving family members, recover financial compensation to cover damages such as medical expenses, therapy, rehabilitative care, and even wrongful death expenses. We will first launch an investigation into the nursing home or assisted living facility’s policies and practices to determine if negligence caused a resident to suffer harm. Once we conclude our investigation we can possibly take further action through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. 

Continue reading

The results of a six-year study by Georgetown University Medical Center revealed that nursing home costs are increasing across America, and quite rapidly. The future does not look so bright as far as nursing homes are concerned. 

Dr. Sean Huang, the study’s lead author, said the brutal dynamic governing long-term care in the U.S.—where many nursing home residents must spend down the bulk of their life savings before qualifying for federal assistance—is intensifying. California, Florida, New York and Texas all saw increases that far outstripped the 11.6% rise in inflation from 2005 to 2010, the period reviewed by Georgetown’s analysis of eight states. Additional data show the upward trend has continued in the years since.

The baby boomers are not the only ones who should worry. Generation X, millennials and Generation Z might face an even darker old age. Rising wage pressure on a sector in need of workers is driving up costs, and unless Washington comes up with a fix, be it a version of “Medicare for All” or something less ambitious, the funding for some programs is projected to start running out in the next decade.

People with disabilities, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, etc., will use all of their wealth until it runs out because Medicare does not cover that. 

The study suggests that we will not see any improvements in these trends, and if anything, things will probably get worse.

Many Americans have no idea how Medicare works, including those approaching retirement. Eligibility for the program, a sort-of government health insurance policy largely for older Americans, generally begins at age 65, covering some of the costs of routine and emergency medical care. What it doesn’t cover are most aspects of long-term “custodial” care—as in nursing homes, where a large portion of Americans can expect to spend the last years of their lives.

That’s where Medicaid—state-administered coverage for Americans whose assets fall below a certain level—comes in. For those who qualify for nursing home admission, Medicaid generally requires that they exhaust most of their assets before qualifying for coverage. Without expensive long-term care insurance, which most people don’t have, an increasing number of older Americans are doing this. 

And their nest eggs are being depleted more quickly than ever. Huang’s study found nursing home price rises over the period measured generally outpaced increases in overall medical care (20.2%) and consumer prices (11.7%). For example, in California from 2002 to 2011, the median out-of-pocket cost for nursing home care increased 56.7%.

Huang and three co-authors began looking into the matter in 2013. With no central database, they had to collect information from each state as well as from individual nursing homes. Some states only had data through 2010, he said. In the end, they managed to crunch data from an average of 3,900 nursing homes for each of the years measured, representing approximately 27% of free-standing U.S. facilities.

Nursing homes in New York during the period reviewed had the highest average daily price, at $302, while Texas had the lowest average daily price, at $121. Additional information has shown that nursing home costs have continued to increase at a much higher rate than inflation, albeit slightly slower than during the study period.

In 2010 the average price per day for nursing home care in California was $217, up more than 30% (with Florida close behind) from 2005. In a more recent analysis, Huang calculated that from 2010 to 2015, nursing home prices in California rose more slowly, by roughly 19.6%, to $258 per day. However, inflation from 2010 to 2015 increased only 8.7%, he noted, adding that his research doesn’t point to any improvement going forward.

The median daily price for a private room in a California nursing home just last year was $323, while the national median was $275 per day, according to life insurance company Genworth. Looking at the issue from an annual perspective, the median cost in the U.S. for a private room in a nursing home was $100,375. Oklahoma provided the cheapest annual median cost, at $63,510, while Alaska was the most expensive at $330,873, Genworth data showed.

Nursing homes have long been a financial drain on most who need them, constituting one of the greatest risks retirees face when it comes to managing retirement funds, a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed. Unfortunately, the annual costs for nursing home care will continue to grow at a rate much faster than inflation, according to Urban Institute Senior Fellow Richard W. Johnson. 

More elderly Americans means more demand for nursing home care, and more demand for nursing home employees. Wages go up, and the cost is passed along to consumers.

In an industry that requires significant hands-on attention, technology can’t eliminate many jobs. And just when the labor market for nursing homes is already tight, uncertainty over U.S. immigration policies may further reduce the number of available workers, he said. In 2017 immigrants made up 23.5% of formal and nonformal long-term care sector workers, according to Health Affairs.

Home health aides and personal-care aides are ranked as the third- and fourth-fastest growing occupations and are expected to increase 47% and 39%, respectively, from 2016 to 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Another trend that may be driving up costs is tied to Wall Street. Four out of the 10 largest for-profit nursing home chains were purchased by private equity firms from 2003 to 2008, according to a case study analyzing a private equity takeover. 

Research on the impact of private equity has yielded mixed conclusions, though one study revealed how a nursing home chain that was taken over by a private equity firm showed a general reinforcement of profit-seeking strategies already in place, while adding some strategies aimed at improving efficiency. Other reports, however, have detailed darker results.

Some states have started taking matters into their own hands. Washington state passed a bill in April that would implement a 0.58% payroll tax that would give residents up to $36,500 to pay for long-term care services. Payroll tax will begin collecting in 2022, while residents can start withdrawing in 2025. But that’s just one state, and the problem, Huang and Johnson note, is national in scope.

The only way they see nursing home quality to improve is if there would be a higher reimbursement rate, either by Medicaid or Medicare, but that is unlikely to happen in the near future. 

Paying for a Nursing Home Stay

There are essentially four main ways to pay for a nursing home stay:

  1. Cash out of your pocket
  2. Medicaid
  3. Private Long Term Care Insurance
  4. Medicare

What Does Medicaid Cover?

Medicaid is a joint federal and state government program that helps people with low income and little assets pay for their nursing home costs. As discussed in the article above, to be eligible for Medicaid, your income and asset levels can’t exceed levels set forth in your state. Medicaid officials will review your financial information over a certain number of years to determine if you have been getting rid of “wealth” in order to receive Medicaid. If you have assets over the allowable level, you are allowed to “spend down” or decrease your assets before you receive Medicaid. Typical spend down costs include medical expenses, mortgages and other debts, and funeral expenses. Also, your house and car are generally not counted against you for qualification purposes. 

You should also keep in mind that not all nursing homes accept Medicaid, so you’ll need to ask about a particular nursing home’s policy. You can find nursing homes that accept Medicaid by clicking here.

What is private long term care insurance?

Private long term care insurance is an insurance policy that’s purchased separate from your primary medical insurance, sort of like buying life insurance. In simpler terms, the insurance coverage that covers your doctor’s appointments and prescriptions won’t cover nursing home stays. If you want a nursing home cost covered, you’ll have to purchase long term care coverage. Long term care insurance can be very costly and not all policies are the same, so it is important to thoroughly evaluate all policy information before purchasing it. You can find out more about this type of insurance by clicking here.

What does Medicare cover for nursing home stays?

Medicare helps pay for short stays of no more than 100 days in a nursing home for a few reasons: 

  1. You were hospitalized recently for at least 3 days. 
  2. You were admitted to a Medicare-certified nursing home within 30 days of your prior hospital stay. 
  3. You need skilled nursing services.

The earlier you begin planning for the cost of nursing home care, the better chance you have of being able to afford it without causing you or your family a major financial hardship. No one wants to think about this kind of thing, but the reality is that the matter is getting worse, not better. We must think about these costs and plan, so that we can all have a better future with better nursing home care, if and when needed. 

Continue reading

A caretaker is facing charges of abuse of a mentally disabled person after police said she hit several residents at a group home with a frying pan.

Darnika Martin is charged with two counts.

According to the arrest report, she struck two mentally ill patients at a group home in Pinellas Park.

The woman was unaware that cameras were rolling when she lunged at one of the residents with a frying pan.

The owner just happen to review his cameras over the weekend.

The woman apparently struck one man several times because he was attempting to get food from a bag.

The woman is out on a $10,000 bond.

People living in group homes are usually there because they cannot take care of themselves on a daily basis. These are some of the most vulnerable people in society, and sadly, neglect and abuse run rampant in these facilities. Even worse, people living in group homes are not able to tell others about what is happening to them.

If you have a loved one who is living in a group home, you may have reason to believe that neglect or abuse is happening. Our Tampa Bay Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can help you get the answers you need. We know the regulations that govern group home responsibilities, and what these institutions can and cannot do.

Continue reading

A Florida caregiver is accused of abusing a 94-year-old amputee at an assisted living home.

The 64-year-old caregiver was arrested last week after the woman’s son placed a camera inside her room at the facility in Clermont.

An arrest report says the woman told her son the caregiver was being too “rough with her.” The son viewed the video footage and found his mother was being abused by her caregiver.

He reported what he saw to management at Crane’s View Lodge Assisted Living and Memory Care.

The caregiver was suspended and the facility reported the incident to the Department of Children and Families and police. She’s charged with abuse of an elderly person.

Placing a loved one in an assisted living facility or nursing home is a tough decision, but oftentimes necessary. You trust that the facility you choose will treat your loved one with the respect and dignity they deserve, but sadly this is not always the case.

Our Florida Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are dedicated to protecting the rights of nursing home patients and ending nursing home neglect and abuse. If you suspect a loved one is a victim of neglect or abuse in a Florida nursing home or assisted living center, we have the experience and resources you need to secure justice and recover financial losses.

The first step in protecting your loved one from further harm is reporting suspected neglect or abuse. Contacting our team of attorneys is a great next step as we can help ensure your claim is thoroughly investigated and that critical evidence is preserved. We can also pursue financial compensation for associated damages including medical expenses, pain and suffering, and in the worst cases, wrongful death.

Continue reading

Contact Information