Out of Sight Does Not Necessarily Mean Out of Mind

Forty-seven-year-old Wanda Franklin suffered from schizophrenia. As her condition worsened and Wanda’s ability to care for herself vanished, her husband placed her in a personal care home. Two months later, Mrs. Franklin leapt from her bedroom window, but survived the 20-foot fall, suffering a shoulder fracture, skull fracture, and brain damage.

Suicide is the number one cause of premature death among people with schizophrenia, with 40 percent attempting suicide at least once. In this case, the home’s failure to provide appropriate safety procedures to prevent Mrs. Franklin’s fall was found to be an act of negligence. When McAleer attorney, Katherine Jackson, was asked to take the case (Franklin v. Ryan’s Hope), we weren’t surprised when it resulted in a default judgment of nearly $1.2 million awarded to the Franklins.

“Negligence” is technically an umbrella of actions that cause harm or risk to the life and safety of a vulnerable person including, but not limited to, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment, and financial exploitation. Sadly, neglect is not always easily identified, as elderly victims are often unsure of reporting procedures, fearful for their safety, or dismissed when they speak up.

With stories of personal care negligence on the rise, it’s normal to feel hesitant when seeking a place to mind our loved ones. Make sure to ask these questions when considering a hospice, nursing or residential care home for the disabled or elderly:

Ask for Recommendations. Don’t settle for the first positive review you hear. If you’re not familiar with the organizations, ask healthcare providers, friends and family members to suggest specific housing options. Get more than one source to endorse their propositions.

Do Your Research. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities routinely undergo inspections. Browse amongst online resources to check the scores and inquire about specific circumstances surrounding violations and fines.

Speak with Leadership. After narrowing your list of housing options, you should confirm that the facility administrator is appropriately licensed. Are staff members background checked? Ask management if they provide training for both staff and residents to identify and challenge instances of abuse. What is the internal chain of reaction if these situations arise?

Request Resources. What resources are available to residents? Do they have access to a social worker, counselor or programs of support? What opportunities are provided for social activities? What options are offered for physical activity? Do residents have access to spend time outdoors? Depending on location, would they want to spend time outdoors? These questions are critical to assure that your loved one feels stimulated in their new residence.

Visit the facility. Is it overcrowded? Are public areas and rooms clean? How comfortable are the living areas? Always trust your first impressions.

Observe Interactions. How much independence do nurses and aides grant residents? Take note of interactions between staff and residents. What can you decipher about interactions amongst staff and management?

Keep Checking In. After settling in, check in on the resident and visit as often as you can. Remaining involved and aware of normalcies helps pinpoint potential problems later.

It’s impossible to control the actions of others, but we can be proactive and explicit in our expectations. These tips can help avert instances of long-term abuse. Has your loved one been hurt, mistreated or stripped of their dignity through abuse or financial exploitation? If you have observed reason to suspect anything, you must seek justice and act quickly. Call McAleer Law Firm at 404-MCALEER. That’s 404.622.5337.