Before the arrest of a small assisted living facility owner in West Palm Beach on charges of elder abuse and neglect, daughters of two of the residents had tried to alert authorities. The Palm Beach Post reports the women filed at least three complaints with the Florida Department of Children and Families regarding the level of care at the facility, alleging unexplained injury to their mother, poor food quality (hot dogs and expired frozen fish) and furniture that smelled like urine. In one instance, when staffers reportedly refused to change her mother’s diaper, one of the women attempted to do it on her own – only to be forced by the owner to leave. Another time, she said she witnessed another resident suffering from dementia being “punished” by being forced to sit in the hot sun facing a backyard fence.
They also filed a complaint with the Agency for Health Care Administration, specifically in charge of inspecting both assisted living facilities and nursing homes. When they didn’t get responses, they petitioned the court to have their parents returned to their home (they had been deemed incapacitated and had an unrelated court-appointed guardian). The court dismissed their complaint as unfounded.
Then, the facility owner was arrested on charges of unlawfully restraining elderly female residents to their beds and leaving the residents alone overnight. The investigation was only sparked after a service provider of the facility snapped some photos of one resident restrained to her bed. That individual also alleged the owner was sexually molesting residents at night, though the 52-year-old does not face any such charges. Residents have since been removed from the facility (owned by defendant and his wife), and a moratorium has been placed on accepting new residents.
When their mother died in May, shortly after being removed from the facility, she reportedly had numerous and unusual bruises on her legs and arms. Her daughters inquired about an autopsy, but were told their mother had been moved too many times in the weeks prior to her death that it would be nearly impossible to determine whether abuse had occurred or contributed to her death.West Palm Beach nursing home abuse attorneys know it’s not uncommon for relatives’ concerns of maltreatment not to be taken seriously at first. The facility certainly isn’t going to admit it, and action may require working with an attorney.
Guardianship of an Elderly Ward
In this case, prior to being placed in the assisted living facility, a judge ruled the sisters’ parents could no longer care for themselves, placing their care and finances placed in the hands of a professional guardian.
If you have elderly parents or loved ones who require nursing home care or suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, this is a process you may want to read up on. As noted by the Florida Bar and outlined in Chapter 44 of Florida Statutes, guardianship is when an individual (such as a family member or person appointed by the court) is appointed by the court to care for a person who has been deemed “incapacitated.” This person, referred to in statute as a “ward,” has been judicially determined to lack the capacity to manage at least some of his/ her property or to meet some of their own essential health and safety requirements. Any adult can file a petition with the court to determine another’s incapacity and present factual information based on that belief. The court will then consider the testimony of three experts, usually three doctors and one other whose experience is relevant. There is a physical, mental and functional health exam. Weighing all the evidence, the court will decide if the person is: Not incapacitated at all, partially incapacitated or totally incapacitated. If incapacity is found, a guardian will be appointed. This can include relatives (including those out-of-state) or it may be a professional guardian appointed by the court.
Had it been the sisters who were awarded guardianship, they would have had the authority to have their parents removed from the facility. As it stood here, they did not – even though the facility owner had been cited numerous times for deficiencies, including lack of sanitary conditions, errors in administering medicine and lack of an emergency plan in case of a hurricane or other emergency.
If you have concerns about the care and treatment of a loved one in a South Florida nursing home or assisted living facility, our elder abuse attorneys can help you determine the most efficient course of action to protecting your loved one and holding negligent facilities accountable.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Assisted living owner charged with elder abuse; sisters tried to sound alarm, May 12, 2018, By John Pacenti, Palm Beach Post
More Blog Entries:
Report: Florida Nursing Homes Aren’t Prepared for Hurricane Season, Aug. 6, 2018, West Palm Beach Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog