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Florida rates low in protections against elder abuse

Florida has the nation's largest number and proportion of senior citizens, as well as one of the highest concentrations of nursing homes and other assisted living facilities. At the same time, concerns about the safety and health of elder residents of the Sunshine State are also at an all-time high.

The state ranks below average in protections against elder abuse, as well as last in the United States for resources per senior citizen. This indicates that there is limited funding for services, watchdog organizations and vital personnel for nursing home offerings and monitoring.

Florida instituted some new protections in the wake of natural disasters in 2017, which convinced lawmakers of the need to guarantee working electrics for climate control and other basic needs. This came after more than a dozen nursing home residents died in sweltering heat, although a national study concluded nearly 96 percent of elder abuse instances are unreported or unresolved.

State records of Florida's 67 counties show that only 12 percent of nearly 35,000 cases of elder abuse and neglect in nursing homes were verified. Local officials accentuate the need for public awareness and the training of nursing home administrators and staff to stem this trend as the senior population of Florida continues to rise.

Residents of assisted living facilities who have suffered instances of abuse or neglect at the hands of staff and other residents have the right to seek restitution in civil court proceedings or mediation. An attorney may help residents and their families determine the best way to approach a incident or pattern of abuse.

Source: WFTV, "Florida fails seniors," Kayla Gleason, Feb. 18, 2018

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