As your parent’s guardian, what can you do if your parent’s nursing home is not providing the care he or she needs and deserves? Unfortunately, this is a question that far too many adult children are forced to answer. Nursing home neglect is a pervasive issue; and, while some nursing homes certainly provide professional and compassionate living environments for their residents, far too many do not.
7 Important Facts for Guardians of Florida Nursing Home Residents
As a guardian, you have clear legal rights under Florida law. As a nursing home resident, your parent has clear legal rights as well. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to take action on your parent’s behalf, here are some of the key pieces of information you need to know:
1. You Need to Make Sure You Know What Type of Guardianship You Have.
First, you need to make sure you know what type of guardianship you have. In Florida, there are two types of guardianship: (i) guardianship of the person, and (ii) guardianship of the property. As a guardian of the person, you would generally have the right to make decisions regarding your parent’s residence and medical care. As a guardian of the property, you would generally have the authority to manage your parent’s finances on his or her behalf. For more information, you can read: Guardianship of the Person vs. Guardianship of the Property.
2. You Do Not Need to Be Guardian to Protect Your Parent from Neglect or Abuse.
Critically, you do not need to be your parent’s guardian in order to protect him or her from neglect or abuse. If you believe that your parent is being treated improperly or that his or her health is at risk, you can – and should – seek help immediately. You can call the police or contact the Florida Department of Elder Affairs to report your concerns, and you can speak with an attorney about your family’s legal rights.
3. You Should Be Prepared to Prove Your Guardianship If Necessary.
When dealing with nursing home administrators or caregivers on your parent’s behalf, you should be prepared to prove your guardianship, if necessary. Make sure you have a copy of your guardianship order, and review it to make sure you know exactly where it provides you with the authority to act on your parent’s behalf.
4. As a Nursing Home Resident, Your Parent Has Clear Legal Rights That You Can Enforce.
Under Section 400.022 of the Florida Statutes, your parent has clear legal rights as a nursing home resident. Your parent has rights under federal law as well. You can review these rights on the Florida Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program’s website. As a guardian, you can enforce these rights on your parent’s behalf. Some examples of these rights include:
- The right to private and uncensored communication with family members and doctors
- The right to visitation by health care providers, social workers, and lawyers
- The right to manage the resident’s own financial affairs and receive a quarterly accounting of billed expenses
- The right to receive adequate and appropriate medical, protective, and support services
- The right to be informed of medical needs and proposed treatment options
- The right to refuse medication and treatment
- The right to be treated courteously, fairly, and with dignity
- The right to exercise civil and religious liberties and to make personal decisions
- The right to be free from mental and physical abuse, abandonment, seclusion, restraints, and all forms of bodily harm
- The right to be notified at least 30 days in advance of a discharge or relocation, and the right to be discharged or relocated only for medical reasons, the welfare of other residents or nonpayment of a bill
5. As Guardian of the Property, You Can Hire a Lawyer on Your Parent’s Behalf.
In order to enforce your parent’s legal rights, as a guardian of the property, you may be able to hire a lawyer and pay for his or her services using your parent’s assets. Your specific authority as a guardian of the property will be determined by the terms of your guardianship order, but it is fairly common for a guardian of the person to have the discretion to seek (and pay for) legal representation on their parent’s behalf when necessary.
6. You Should Not Defer to the Nursing Home’s Judgment or Interpretation of the Law.
If you have concerns about your parent’s care, the nursing home’s billing practices, or anything else related to your parent’s residency in a Florida nursing home, you should not defer to the nursing home’s judgment or interpretation of the law. At best, any information you receive is likely to be inaccurate; at worst, it could be intentionally deceitful.
Florida’s nursing home laws exist for one simple reason: to help protect nursing home residents. Your parent deserves to live a comfortable life in a compassionate and supportive environment. If this is not presently the case then, as your parent’s guardian, you have the legal right (and the legal obligation) to do what is necessary – and you should not let the nursing home stand in your way.
7. Situations Involving Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse Rarely Resolve Themselves.
Finally, it is important to acknowledge that situations involving nursing home neglect and abuse rarely resolve themselves. This is true with regard to negligent care, physical and psychological abuse, and financial abuse. As your parent’s guardian, you can take legal action and you should trust your instincts to do what is right in order to protect your parent’s wellbeing.
Speak with a Proven Guardianship Lawyer in Confidence
Do you have questions about what you can and should do as the guardian of an aging parent who lives in a Florida nursing home? If so, we encourage you to contact us promptly for an initial consultation. To speak with one of our highly-skilled guardianship lawyers in confidence, please call us directly or inquire online today.