Three Miami Herald reporters recently opened an investigation into Florida’s assisted living facilities. The results of their investigation were horrifying. As described by the Miami Herald’s Fred Grimm, “The maddening thing is that the horrors–and they were gut wrenching–have gone unpunished.” The investigation uncovered that some assisted living facilities tie their residents to beds with ropes or locked residents in closets, while others use powerful tranquilizers to subdue their residents. The reporters found residents living in sordid conditions, many suffering from physical neglect, lack of medications and untreated wounds. Many of the residents were beaten, terrorized or raped by staff and other residents of the assisted living facilities. Many of the residents’ wounds went untreated. The investigators discovered that one man had scalded himself so badly in a bathtub that he later died from his untreated burns, while another staff member stood by as residents smacked each other with two-by-fours.
“But the most disturbing findings…was that so much of the negligence and abuse and shoddy treatment and outright cruelty and cover-ups went unpunished.” Florida law limits the legal liability of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and as a result, the number of nursing homes and assisted living facilities has skyrocketed. The investigators found a number of reports from state and local agencies noting negligence, abuse and horrid conditions, but the facilities have not suffered any repercussions, only warnings. The states only look into the facilities every two years.
Many nursing homes have been caught putting false causes of death on their residents’ death certificates. In one instance, a ninety-three year old woman passed away and the facility listed her cause of death as “failure to thrive.” The funeral home was suspicious of the listed cause after seeing sores and injuries on her body. The medical examiner concluded that the resident died of “pneumonia brought on by traumatic injuries, including a fractured neck.” The investigators also discovered that many doctors simply declare a cause of death over the phone without ever examining the patient. The reporters concluded that staff negligence–“often utter obliviousness”–directly caused many of the deaths in the facilities.
Fred Grimm: Assisted living facility horrors have gone unpunished , www.miamiherald.com May 04, 2011.
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