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Broward Nursing Home Abuse Prevention Should Take Cue From Canada

Sebastian nursing home abuse lawyers are encouraged by the steps being taken in Canada to protect the elderly. hands.jpg

Canada’s creation of the Long-Term Care Task force on Resident Care and Safety could be adopted in South Florida to help prevent nursing home neglect and elderly abuse cases.

Of course, it’s important to note that the task force wasn’t formed until after a Toronto Star investigation uncovered a litany of violations – from sexual assault to neglect and physical abuse – in Ontario nursing homes.

Some background on the investigation:

Toronto Star reporters first started digging into this issue way back in 2003.

Reforms were promised, but nothing much seemed to come of it due to a lack of funding. Then last year, reporters were alerted to a story about a 71-year-old nursing home patient with dementia who was reportedly raped in her bed by a male nurse. That nurse had been identified several months earlier by other staffers as disappearing at regular intervals without any valid explanation. The patient had complained of abuse, but due to her dementia, was not believed. However, it wasn’t until a staffer actually caught the nurse in the act of sexual assault that it was reported.

The newspaper also uncovered incidents of patients being physically struck by staffers, chained to beds, punched, pushed and verbally abused. These are the same type of incidents that can happen in Sebastian nursing homes, and just like here, the incidents were rarely reported to police, even when staffers knew about them. Or, if they were reported to police, it was often much-delayed, which often resulted in a lack of any strong physical evidence that could be used in a criminal case.

In reviewing some 1,500 inspection reports, they still found page after page of nursing home abuse.

Following that in-depth investigation, the government founded the task force. In its first report, the agency has indicated 18 points of action that need to be taken in order to improve the living conditions and reduce the likelihood of abuse for the approximately 77,000 seniors.

Some of what that report calls for includes the following:

A committee for each nursing home that would consist of families, staff and residents who would advise on how to address problems specific to that facility;

A greater amount of flexibility in the ability to fire employees who are abusive;

Separate facilities for residents who suffer from dementia and have been identified as abusive;

A higher level of training for staff to learn to handle older residents who suffer from complex behavior issues.

The report also indicated there were approximately 3,200 incidents of neglect and abuse reported to the ministry of health just in 2011. That amounts to more than three cases per 100 beds.

While we don’t have comparative figures for nursing home abuse in Broward, we do know that Florida overall has a higher rate of seniors than other areas, so we can assume that the statistics here are much higher, even if they aren’t actually reported.

While Florida does have an ombudsman for long-term care that operates within the Department of Elder Affairs, it is high time some of the standard practices be re-evaluated, in order to reduce the instances of abuse in our nursing homes.

If you or a loved one have suffered from nursing home abuse in Sebastian, West Palm Beach or the surrounding areas, contact the Law Offices of Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez for legal assistance. 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Nursing home abuse and neglect targeted by task force, By Moira Welsh and Jesse McLean, Toronto Star

More Blog Entries:
Weston Nursing Home Abuse Watch: Why It Happens, May 22, 2012, Sebastian Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Blog

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