The spotlight was once again on Florida’s nursing homes last month when WFTV 9 exposed the battering of a Southern Oaks Health Care Facility Alzheimer’s patient by one of the St. Cloud facility’s nurses. The nurse was arrested on felony abuse charges when police acted on an eyewitness account of the nurse delivering a belly blow to the helpless female patient. In its investigative reporting, WFTV uncovered a long history of patient-care and safety violations at this facility, some of which had resulted in a fine exceeding $25,000.
A disturbing case of extreme Florida nursing home neglect came to light in December, 2011, when the nursing director and a registered nurse at the Clermont Health & Rehabilitation Center were arrested on charges of failing to follow doctors’ orders for the care of an elderly patient who was recovering from a hip fracture. Regulatory enforcement documents in that case identified failures to treat ulcers over the patient’s limbs and tailbone as factors contributing to the patient’s ultimate death at the Clermont facility.
Last month, long-investigated conditions at the Ocoee Health Care Center finally became the subject of fines and a licensing downgrade after the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration documented that the facility had failed to ensure adequate and appropriate health care, protection, and support services to residents, breaching standards for provision of pain management, infection control, and wound care. Staff at the facility was found, among other infractions, to have disregarded a patient’s report of severe pain from both a fractured femur and pressure ulcers, and to have sloughed and bandaged this same patient’s wounds without maintaining sterile conditions, and without regard for procedure-related pain.
The Many Faces of Long-Term Facility Abuse
There are, very sadly, all too many ways in which a resident of a skilled nursing facility may be neglected or abused. The media-catching cases described here are examples of obvious intentional and negligent misconduct, but there are more subtle ways in which residents may suffer harm. Gradual malnourishment of a patient through failure to provide him or her with needed feeding assistance may not make the news, but it nonetheless constitutes a life-threatening form of nursing home neglect that must be redressed. Similarly, depriving a nursing home resident of devices he or she needs in order to maintain mobility may not produce bodily injuries, but this sort of misconduct constitutes a type of false imprisonment for which a facility must be held accountable.