According to reports from the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, about 4-6% of elderly people suffer abuse and about 84% of elder abuse incidents are never reported to the authorities. The problem is no better here in South Florida… and there is evidence to suggest that elderly abuse inside of nursing homes is more widespread than among seniors living at home or with a relative.
A 2002 study by the Congress’ General Accounting Office found that almost 30% of nursing homes around the country have been issued citations from inspectors for harming residents or placing them in jeopardy.
If the problem is so bad, why doesn’t anything happen?
One reason has to do with the way the nursing home system works. For example, a nursing home in Miami, Hollywood, or Fort Lauderdale may need to hire workers from out of state. Unfortunately, other states don’t typically exchange information about abusive nursing home workers and there’s no central list of workers that have committed abuses.
Abuses that get reported may cost a worker their ability to work in nursing homes in that state, but not necessarily in others. That worker can now just find a new state and a new job at a nursing home there. A nursing home in South Florida may have no idea that the person they hired has a record of abusing patients in Texas.
Further compounding the problem is the reluctance of all parties involved to report abuse. Patients fear retribution from their abusers, as well as a cessation of care. Victims of abuse often find themselves in a position where they rely on their abusers to care for them and feed them, a position which abusers exploit.
Relatives may fear that the abused patients will be forced out of the nursing home if they report abuses, since they may believe that the nursing home wants to avoid the hassle of dealing with the issue, so instead they will find a reason to get rid of the patient at the center of the trouble.
Nursing home managers often fear reporting abuse will cause adverse publicity, or bring penalties and fines from state regulators. Nursing home employees often fear retribution from co-workers or losing their jobs should they report abuses they witness. According to the 2002 investigation, some in-house employees have helped cover up abuses as serious as rape.
On the other hand, there are rarely any penalties meted out to nursing homes that fail to report abuses. In many cases, the abuses may only become known when others note evidence of injury.
The sad fact is that nursing home abuse in South Florida is very real, even if it never goes reported. As a “retirement hot spot”, South Florida has a high concentration of nursing homes — but residents in cities like Miami or Fort Lauderdale still have to take responsibility for their situation, and that includes taking action to hold their abusers accountable.
If you have a friend or loved one that is caught in an abusive situation inside a nursing home or retirement facility, do not hesitate to take action. Get in contact with a South Florida nursing home abuse attorney such as Marc Schwartz right away.
A qualified attorney will be able to navigate the legal issues involved in such a case to ensure that your loved one no longer has to live in these horrible conditions. In addition, securing proper damages will help ensure that nursing home operators will think twice about covering up other cases of abuse within their facilities.