Sadly, incidents of nursing home abuse appear to be on the rise all over the United States and the State of Florida is no exception. Take, for example, the somewhat shocking recent news report of a 74 year old nursing home worker who allegedly abused a 66 year old resident in Deltona, Florida. The 74 year old nursing assistant was charged with elder abuse after co-workers claimed they actually witnessed her striking the back of a patient’s head multiple times. The incident occurred at Deltona Health Care which is now under investigation by the Agency for Health Care Administration, or AHCA, as well as the Florida Department of Children and Families.
According to documents released in the case by the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, Randall Allison, a 66 year old wheelchair-bound resident suffering from severe dementia, tried to leave the facility without authorization last November. Nursing assistant Marthe Alonzeau, 74, allegedly noticed Ellison trying to leave and turned his wheelchair around and then “struck Ellison in the back of the head several times with an open hand,” according to the police report filed in the case. Unfortunately, the incident was not reported to authorities until over a month later, at which point Alonzeau was charged with elder abuse, a third degree felony in the State of Florida punishable by up to five years in prison. The only explanation offered by the facility’s administrator as to why the incident was not immediately reported was that he was “extremely busy with other duties.”
What makes this story even more disturbing is the fact that numerous complaints have been filed with the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration against Deltona Health Care, a 120-bed facility affiliated with service provider Consulate Health Care, since 2008. In fact, the facility was fined $36,000 by the AHCA back in 2012 as a result of one of those complaints that claimed the nursing home failed to ensure that patients who were at risk for falls and weight loss received the proper care. Moreover, a spokesperson for the Florida DCF indicated that there have been 21 cases of reported neglect at Deltona Health Care since 2014. Only three of those complaints, however, concluded that abuse or neglect had actually occurred.
How to Prevent Your Loved One from Becoming a Victim of Nursing Home Abuse
What makes this story so shocking is actually the fact that it isn’t shocking. Elder abuse is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. One reason for the significant increase in elder abuse cases is the correlating increase in the number of people living in the U.S. who fall into the “over 65” age bracket. Another explanation for the increase in reports of elder abuse is likely tied to the efforts of both public agencies and private advocacy groups to bring awareness to the issue and encourage victims to speak up.
If you are an adult child, caregiver, or loved one of an elderly individual who currently needs long-term care, or who may need it in the near future, it is imperative that you choose the facility carefully. While there is no way to guarantee your loved one will not become a victim, there are some steps you can take to dramatically decrease the likelihood of your loved one becoming the victim of elder abuse, including:
- Discuss the topic with your loved one. If your loved one is capable of understanding, sit down and have a very open and honest discussion about the subject of elder abuse. Make sure your loved one understands that he/she should not feel embarrassed or ashamed of being victimized and that you want to protect him/her but you cannot do that if you are unaware of what is going on at the facility.
- Research facilities thoroughly. Check a facility’s history of complaints through the ACHA. Check online resources hat provide ratings. Basically, do what you can to find out as much as possible about a prospective facility before even considering it for your loved one.
- Speak to staff, residents, and family members. Ratings are helpful; however, nothing is as good as speaking to staff, current residents, and/or family members off current/past residents. If possible, arrange to talk to them away from the facility.
- Make unannounced visits. Make a point of showing up unannounced on a regular basis. Doing so ensures that you will get to see how the facility really runs – not how it runs when prospective residents and their families are visiting.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Often, preventing or identifying elder abuse comes down to intuition. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. Don’t be afraid to follow up on your gut instinct by talking to your loved one and asking to speak to someone in charge.
If you have additional questions about elder abuse and/or nursing home abuse in the State of Florida contact the experienced elder law attorneys at Kulas & Crawford. by calling 772-398-0720 to schedule an appointment.