Coconut Creek nursing home abuse attorneys have been watching closely the first year of the tenure Florida’s long-term care ombudsman Jim Crochet, who was appointed to the post following the ouster of the previous ombudsman by Gov. Rick Scott.
Nursing home abuse in Coconut Creek and elsehwere can be stopped or prevented by an active ombudsman’s office. Crochet took over, and in fact, it has been a tumultuous year not only for nursing home residents, but also for Crochet and the Department of Elder Affairs.
First, there was the whole issue of Crochet’s predecessor, Brian Lee, who was removed by the governor. Lee had long been considered a thorn in the side of health care providers because he was dogged in his efforts to expose nursing home abuse and neglect. Several of his volunteers held the same reputation.
Since he was fired, Lee has filed a lawsuit, alleging that the agency does not have the ability or the will to regulate the long-term care industry.
One of Lee’s volunteers had been named in 2010 as the Ombudsman of the Year for Broward County. However, he was dismissed following Lee’s firing, when he partnered with the Miami Herald and a local radio station, which were working to expose a serious of deaths from nursing home neglect and abuse at a number of the state-funded nursing facilities.
Now, the ombudsman program is staffed by a number of volunteers. Crochet reportedly favors advocacy over regulation. In theory, that may not be a terrible idea, but it doesn’t account for the fact that often times residents may be afraid to report abuse or neglect. They may have been threatened if they speak to the ombudsman, and when the program has no teeth, residents don’t feel compelled to share their stories or concerns.
Volunteers have an assessment form they must fill out, though it doesn’t include any sort of checklist (i.e., guidance). That means, for example, that whereas before, volunteers would check the temperature of a refrigerator at a nursing home to make sure that the food stored inside wasn’t going to make people sick. Now, volunteers will only check it if the residents complain. This seems particularly backward in a place where a number of the residents may suffer from dementia. Or they may fall ill, but have no idea why or connect it to the issue of food storage.
Crochet has been quoted as saying that he wants to try to work with these agencies, instead of against them, and that it’s cheaper to deal with his agency than the Agency for Health Care Administration, which has the power to fine these facilities. Again, in theory, cooperation may seem like a good idea. However, with facilities in which there is a culture of cover-up, this is not the best solution.
Some politicians, however, do seem to recognize that there is a problem with this whole approach. State Sen. Eleanor Sobel, a Democrat from Hollywood, was quoted as saying that nursing home residents are frequently too frail or mentally incapacitated to open up to an advocate. She further indicated that the changes to the program were done to appease the industry – not to further protect the rights of patients.
Clearly, these changes were made with political motivations in mind. The main point, however, is that in the last few years, there has been a clear downslide in the number of checks and balances there are for those housed in long-term care facilities. That means loved ones need to be vigilant in looking out for Coconut Creek nursing home abuse – and immediately contacting a personal injury lawyer when they spot it.
If you or a loved one have suffered from nursing home abuse in Coconut Creek, 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.
Florida ombudsman for long-term care changes operation, By Margie Menzel, The News Service of Florida
More Blog Entries:
Cooper City Nursing Home Abuse Watch: High Awards Come at a Steep Price, May 18, 2012, Coconut Creek Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog