Have you been struggling during COVID-19? Perhaps one of the most frustrating, infuriating and scary things about the COVID-19 pandemic is that there is so much beyond our control. For families with loved ones in Florida nursing homes, the inability to visit may create extra stress and uncertainty. Among other things, they may be concerned about how to spot signs of nursing home abuse or neglect if they cannot see their loved ones in person.
One of the best things you can do is to be vigilant during virtual visits with your loved one in a nursing home. Nursing home residents have certain rights under federal and state laws. In general, these include the right to privacy, including the right to open their mail, and make and receive private phone calls. Ordinarily, they have the right to see visitors at reasonable times and to deny visitation if they wish. As family, you are usually afforded access to your loved one at any time, unless he or she waives this right.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced Florida nursing homes to rescind some of these rights. Specifically, personal visits have been prohibited in an effort to protect residents at significant risk of COVID-19. Even so, there should be nothing precluding you and your loved one from talking on the phone or exchanging cards and letters. The AARP encourages families to connect with their loved one by FaceTime, Skype, Zoom and similar applications. In addition to using these virtual visits as valuable time to catch up with your loved one, you can also look for clues that something may be amiss.
You should also remain aware of visible signs of possible nursing home abuse or neglect. Three warning signs that you may be able to pick up on during regular video chats with your loved one include:
- New or healing injuries, such as cuts, bruising, scrapes or scars that your loved one cannot or will not explain
- Unusual weight loss
- Disheveled or unkempt appearance
Some signs of possible nursing home abuse or neglect can be more subtle than others and not so easy to see. Since you know your loved one, you may be able to pick up on subtle clues during video chats. Keep an eye out for changes in your loved one’s body language, such as looking down or refusing to make eye contact with you. Additionally, be aware of changes in behavior, such as being less talkative, seeming sad or withdrawn.
You may be able to pick up on other clues in letters, email messages, or phone calls, too. Please try to avoid ignoring these red flags, even if other family members think you are overreacting. You are well within your rights to make the nursing home aware of your concerns. If the administration fails to address them, you can also contact Florida’s long-term care ombudsman.
Depending on the circumstances, you may have other legal options. Please call our law firm to schedule a free consultation where we can discuss your concerns in detail.