AND TOO MANY SENIORS AND PATIENTS ARE NOT GETTING ADEQUATE CARE
The Nursing Home Tragedy In Hollywood, Florida Reminds Us of the Risks
In the wake of a devastating Hurricane Season in the Caribbean and in Florida, Americans are left with lots of messes to clean up as well as questions: about storm safety and preparedness; about extreme weather; but also about the vulnerability of nursing home patients. Specifically, what protects people in nursing homes from bad management? The kind of bad management that endangers lives? The question seems all the more urgent in a place like Florida, which is subject to the kinds of extreme weather that knocks out electricity as well as subject to the kinds of temperatures that can kill elderly nursing patients when there is no electricity to power air-conditioning.
Moreover, Florida is home to so many elderly retirees, the first thought is that: there must be laws that protect innocent people from dangerous business practices (like failing to properly staff a nursing facility or failing to put generators in place when the risks of such a power outage are well known). We often assume, “there’s gotta be a law.” Well, in Florida, there are less laws protecting vulnerable patients than you would think. (Miami Herald,
The New York Times feature describes a chaotic timeline from the time power was lost, with residents wheeled into hallways, attempts to cool them using air cooler units, and horrific conditions (Garber, Fink, Yee, September 23, 2017). It also describes some of the reasons why nursing homes must offer thoughtful care to their patients: many have dementia and cognitive challenges so they cannot care for themselves; and the human body’s systems get worse at cooling the body in extreme temperatures as we age. Now that this tragedy has already occurred, plans and preparations cannot benefit those who have lost their family members and loved ones. Many of those people will turn to the only remedy they have left: an attorney who can investigate the neglect and the death (or extreme injury).
Nursing Care Affected by Forced Arbitration
However, there are hurdles that families can run into even after the devastation has occurred. As we previously wrote here, here, here, and here, one of the most dangerous laws facing nursing patients today are “Arbitration Clauses.” It turns out Florida was ground zero for such clauses. (Huffington Post, 9/19/2017, Joanne Doroshow). As we previously described, these are contract provisions that nursing homes slip into the pile of documents that residents (or their families) are asked to sign at admission. Rarely, if ever, does the staff explain that signing this part of the Contract means that you are not allowed to resolve your dispute in court. Instead, you’re forced to go before an arbitrator that might be a regular arbiter for the specific nursing home you’re suing. And the proceedings are private, not in open court.
Ask Questions–Consult With Experienced Attorneys
This terrible tragedy is a reminder to anyone who has ever visited a loved one in a nursing home that, no matter how good the intentions are of the nursing staff or the assistants who care for your family members and friends, many decisions that will affect quality of care are made at the management level. There are many well-run nursing homes in Florida and in Illinois. But patients and their advocates cannot be afraid to ask important questions about disaster plans, nurse staffing levels, fall protections, the systems for distributing medications, doctor checkups, and hygiene.
When you have questions about nursing care, do not be afraid to consult with Our Attorneys to ask the important questions and to be sure your loved ones are properly cared for.