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Chronicles of Florida Nursing Home Neglect Earn Journalists Top Award

The in-depth, enterprise reporting of the Miami Herald staff on the immense problem of nursing home neglect in West Palm Beach and throughout the state has earned the newspaper top honors.

Our West Palm Beach nursing home neglect lawyers applaud the newspaper for working to bring to light this widespread issue, which is sadly under-reported and often unnoticed.

Efforts like this four-part series, Neglected to Death, by the Herald’s I-Team, help to shed light on what is far too often swept under the rug.

The series focused on the deadly consequences of neglect at assisted living facilities and nursing homes in Florida, including poor supervision of Alzheimer’s patients leading to disappearances and death, inadequate and missing records and reports and unchecked violence inflicted by both other patients and staffers.

For these efforts, the Florida Society of News Editors awarded the three I-Team reporters the Gold Medal for Public Service in Division A, which is for newspapers with a circulation of 125,000 or more. According to FSNE, this is awarded for “meritorious public service by a newspaper through distinguished reporting, presentation and writing.”

The reporters exposed some abuses that had never before been revealed to the public. Some of those included one facility in Washington County, in the Panhandle. The scenes mirror something out of a horror movie: According to the paper, the nursing home director reportedly punished helpless residents by denying them medication and food, threatened them with sticks and doped them up with powerful tranquilizers.

When they broke the stiff rules, he beat them – in at least one case, sending a patient to the hospital.

But this was no movie – it was real life, and what is perhaps most maddening about it all is that the abuses had been reported to state authorities by multiple anonymous callers. When state regulators followed up back in 2004, he physically chased them off the property. And yet, he was allowed to remain open. Indeed, all that happened was that he was ordered to undergo anger management therapy and instructed not to use any object or weapon on his charges. He was allowed to stay open until 2009. By that time, the report indicates, he had broken just about every provision of the state’s assisted-living law. Among those abuses:

Throwing a woman to the ground and forcing her to sleep on a soiled box spring for nearly a week;

Forced residents to suffer without air conditioning, though temperatures spiked well into the 100s;

Fell asleep during an overnight shift, during which time a 71-year-old woman wandered from her bed, out the door and into a pond, where she drowned.

It was a telling scenario, because as the reporters put it: “The case represents everything that has gone wrong with homes once considered the pride of Florida.”

The truth is, it’s only the tip of the iceberg in this avalanche of reported abuses and neglect across the state.

While this type of reporting is critical to our understanding of the problems that exist in this realm, we are a long way from a permanent solution.

If you suspect a loved one has been neglected or abused in a nursing home or assisted living facility, you need to consult with an attorney as soon as possible. You owe it to each and every resident of that home.

Call the Law Offices of Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez at 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Neglected to Death, a Miami Herald I-Team Investigation

More Blog Entries:
Could Cameras be Key to Belle Glade Nursing Home Abuse Prevention?, June 28, 2012, West Palm Beach Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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