Tragic death of a nursing home resident after possibly being left out in the sun too long

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Nursing Home sun

Recently, there was an article on a the tragic death of an elderly man who died after possibly being left out in the sun at a Pinellas Park nursing home.  The 65 year old had second-degree burns on his body and blisters on his abdomen, and was dehydrated when paramedics responded to a call Saturday at the Gracewood Nursing Home, 8600 U.S. Hwy 19 N., Pinellas Park police said.  The elderly male had gone into cardiac failure and died.  Detectives are working to determine what happened and whether the man was a victim of abuse, police said, and they are working to determine what staff members were working Saturday. The deceased had no next-of-kin but a guardian appointed to him was informed about his death.

The facility has been the subject of an investigation on more than one occasion.  In its latest inspection report, Florida’s Department of Children and Families gave Gracewood Rehabilitation and Nursing Care just one star. A one star rating ranks the 120-bed Pinellas Park facility in the bottom 20 percent of facilities in its region.  According to the Nursing Home Compare site at Medicare.gov, Gracewood was flagged for 27 deficiencies in for a 12-month period ending in August 2015. The average number of citations for Florida nursing homes is 6.5.  In its report, inspectors noted broken air conditioners and inadequate dining facilities.

The state has cited Gracewood 29 times since 2008, according to records from the Agency for Health Care Administration. The agency, which measures the performance of health care facilities around the state, placed Gracewood on its watch list after ranking it in the bottom 20 percent of facilities in its region in the areas of quality of care, quality of life, administration and overall inspection.  The facility received high marks in the areas of nutrition and hydration, restraints and abuse and pressure ulcers. In February, Gracewood was fined $2,000 for failure to provide adequate dental care.

Did you know that there are over 3.2 million adults living in nursing homes and other long term care facilities in the U.S. As many as 40 percent of all adults will enter a nursing home at some point during their lives and as the U.S. population ages, the number of nursing home residents is expected to grow. Many of these elders are well-cared for but many may be the victims of abuse.

Nursing home abuse is a serious concern and seniors who have been abused have a 300 percent greater chance of death in the 3 years following the abuse than those who aren’t abused. Up to 1 in 6 nursing home residents may be the victim of abuse or neglect every year.

A congressional report showed that an examination of nursing home records conducted over a two-year period showed that nearly 1 in 3 nursing homes were cited for violations that had the potential to cause harm and almost 10 percent of all nursing homes have violations that caused actual harm, serious injury or placed them in jeopardy of death.

A survey of nursing home residents showed that up to 44 percent of nursing home residents reported that they had been abused at some time in residency and nearly all of those surveyed (95%) had seen another resident neglected.

A study conducted by the U.S. General Accountability Office revealed that state regulators are likely to miss signs of abuse. The GAO found that 70 percent of state surveys missed significant deficiencies and 15 percent missed notice of actual harm or immediate jeopardy of a nursing home resident.

Due to reports like these, legislatures in all 50 states have passed anti-elder-abuse laws but nursing home abuse continues to occur.

In Florida, we have extensive laws to attempt to protect the elderly but we still see the abuse as I cited the story in this blog.  Florida has a Nursing Home Resident Bill of Rights.  According to Section 400.022, Florida Statutes:

Nursing home facilities shall adopt and make public a statement of the rights and responsibilities of the residents and shall treat such residents in accordance with the provisions of that statement. Each resident shall have the right to:

  • Civil and religious liberties.
  • Private and uncensored communication.
  • Visitation by any individual providing health, social, legal, or other services and the right to deny or withdraw consent at any time.
  • Present grievances and recommend changes in policies and services free from restraint, interference, coercion, discrimination, or reprisal. Includes the right to have access to the ombudsmen and other advocacy groups.
  • Organize and participate in resident groups.
  • Participate in social, religious, and community activities that do not interfere with the rights of others.
  • Examine results of recent facility inspections by federal and state agencies including the plan of correction if applicable.
  • Manage his/her own financial affairs. A quarterly accounting will be furnished to resident or legal representative.
  • Be fully informed, in writing and orally, of services available at the facility and of related charges for such services.
  • Refuse medication and treatment and to know the consequences.
  • Receive adequate and appropriate health care, protective and support services within established and recognized standards.
  • Privacy in treatment and in caring for personal needs.
  • Be informed of medical condition and proposed treatment and be allowed participation in planning.
  • Be treated courteously, fairly, and with the fullest measure of dignity.
  • Be free from mental and physical abuse, corporal punishment, extended involuntary seclusion, and from physical and chemical restraints except those ordered by resident’s physician.
  • Be transferred or discharged only for medical reasons, the welfare of other residents or nonpayment of a bill.
  • Receive a thirty (30) day written notice of discharge or relocation, and challenge such notice.
  • Choose physician and pharmacy.
  • Retain and use personal clothing and possessions.
  • Have copies of rules and regulations of the facility.
  • Notification prior to room change.
  • Information concerning bed-hold policy for hospitalization.

If you or a loved one has been neglected or abused in a nursing home, contact us at Edwards & Ragatz for a free consultation.  (904)399-1609 or toll free (800)366-1609.  You may also contact us through our website – www.edwardsragatz.com

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