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Florida Nursing Home Care Compromised When Facilities Fail to Vet Staff

In Oklahoma recently, legislators passed a measure that requires nursing home and adult day care staffers with direct patient access to undergo fingerprint-based background checks. Officials say the measure is intended to significantly reduce nursing home abuse and neglect by those with a proven track record for crimes.

Pompano Beach nursing home abuse lawyers know that there have been numerous instances in which those with criminal backgrounds were allowed to work in close or direct proximity to Florida nursing home patients, sometimes with disastrous results.

In 2010, Gov. Charlie Crist signed a measure that requires background screens for caregivers of children, seniors and the disabled. Previously, inconsistent laws allowed workers to start on their jobs before the background check was done. In other cases, staffers were only required to have their criminal backgrounds in Florida screened, meaning they could have a felony out-of-state, and their current employer wouldn’t be compelled to seek out that information.

Additionally, nursing homes were allowed to give caregivers an exemption, so long as they promised not to violate the law again. In doing so, some 8,700 people – including convicted murders, sex offenders and child abusers – were granted jobs. Of those, 3,500 worked in nursing homes in 2009, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Roughly 20 percent of those were later re-arrested.

Now, state law requires that only top state officials have the authority to sign off on any exemption, and sex offenders are banned from ever becoming caregivers. Fingerprints are also submitted for periodic renewed checks.

Also, volunteers at these facilities who offer more than 10 hours also must pass a national background check.

Of course, all of this is not to say that every facility strictly abides by the law, or that offenders don’t fall through the cracks. This may become more of a problem as the demand for nursing home services increases over the next two decades. That’s also not to say that someone with no prior documented criminal history couldn’t commit an atrocious crime.

This is why it’s so important for family members to be alert with regard to their loved one’s care.

Be aware of any obvious signs of physical abuse. These might include burns, cuts or bruises. If you notice any of these, inquire about them. Don’t let the matter drop until you receive a satisfactory answer.

It’s also important to note poor hygiene. Not only can this be a sign of bigger problems, but it could be a major issue in and of itself, particularly in the form of bed sores.

Next, take note of whether your loved one’s needs are being met or ignored. For example, is she receiving the right medication in the right doses and on time? Are her dietary needs being met? Is she receiving regular treatment and care from a doctor?

You’ll also want to take stock of your relative’s financial health. A sudden or dramatic change in spending could indicate that someone is taking advantage.

And finally, look for signs that your loved one is acting out – or becoming increasingly withdrawn. Any type of behavior that seems out-of-character should be thoroughly explored.

These actions help ensure that if neglectful or abusive actions are happening, you will catch it in its earliest stages.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Law requiring fingerprint-based background checks takes effect Saturday, Feb. 28, 2014, By Kim Passoth,

More Blog Entries:
State Eyes Palm Beach County for New Veterans’ Nursing Home, Feb. 25 2014, Pompano Beach Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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