Under Florida law, each judicial district can create an elder abuse fatality review team. This team reviews nursing home deaths, especially those in suspicious circumstances. These non-mandatory teams comprise people with experience in elder law: nurses, judges, attorneys, law enforcement and other elder care advocates. The legislature deemed the teams necessary because between 2013 and 2017, 54 elders in nursing homes died of abuse or neglect.
What happened before?
Before these teams, the Agency for Health Care Administration oversaw nursing homes. However, they failed to take action on many cases and did little to investigate. State’s attorneys brought no charges on nursing home deaths. Many people felt this was not enough protection for seniors. The bill creating the teams had powerful support in the Florida Legislature.
What will the teams do?
State attorneys can form the elder abuse fatality review teams to find patterns, gaps in service and guide more investigation. They do not inspect the nursing homes on site but can determine if the state needs to investigate further for neglect or abuse.
The teams can also recommend policy changes to the government. Each year, the teams work together to summarize their findings in a report that goes to the state government. The hope is that the different circuits can learn from one another and share best (and worst) practices.
What to do if you suspect an elder abuse fatality?
Talk to the state attorney in your region because they oversee the teams. Also, you may want to talk to a lawyer for yourself because they can guide you and may get your case noticed by the team. You also have the right to sue in civil court. The team can get involved even if the case is closed, and the team may give families some closure.