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Coker Law Adds Nursing Home Abuse Expert Attorney Steve Watrel, P.A. to its Elite Team of Trial Lawyers

Posted on Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

Coker Law is proud to announce the addition of attorney Steve Watrel as the newest member of the firm. Mr. Watrel is the only personal injury law attorney fighting nursing home abuse for the past 25 years in Jacksonville. His proven approach to elder law is heralded nationwide for its integrity in court, designating him as one of the leading trial lawyers in the field of nursing home and assisted living facility litigation.

Mr. Watrel’s dedication to helping victims of nursing home abuse and neglect stems from a very personal reason.  “Both my grandmother and father were victims of neglect in a nursing home. Advocating for victims of nursing home abuse is my way of helping ensure we get change in bad facilities,” said Watrel.

How to Pick the Right Nursing Home

Although researching nursing homes on the internet is the easiest and most convenient option, it doesn’t provide the full picture. Watrel advises to take a tour of the facility to see firsthand how it’s being operated, and the level of care being provided to residents. Here are three important things to remember when searching for the right nursing home:

  • Look at prior surveys online: The Agency for Healthcare Administration conducts surveys on each nursing home to determine their level of care. Take time to review the surveys and steer clear of facilities rated poorly for deficiencies.
  • Visit during mealtimes and weekends: Staff is usually short on weekends, so it’s important to see if the residents are still being treated with a sufficient level of care, as they would during regular hours. During mealtimes, observe whether there is staff present to help the residents eat the meals, or if they are left unattended.
  • Pay attention to call lights and odors: If you walk through the halls and see multiple call lights lit, that means residents aren’t being attended to in a timely manner. Odors are common in nursing homes, but if it seems odors are permeating throughout the whole facility, residents aren’t being turned over and changed adequately.

Questions To Ask When Touring

Before touring a nursing home, create a list of questions to ask before you go. Being prepared will help you identify any markers the facility must meet in order to be sufficient for your loved one. When you schedule a tour, ask for one of the key department heads, administrator of care, director of nursing, or director of therapy to be your guide. The people in these positions are in direct contact with the residents and will be the best person to ask these questions. Watrel says there are three questions that are the most important to ask while on a tour:

  • How long have the key department heads been in their positions? Turnover in nursing homes tends to be high, which ultimately creates the turmoil that leads to abuse or neglect cases.
  • How did the facility do on their last state inspection survey? This may be a difficult question, but it’s very important. Follow up by asking how they came up with a plan of correction, if cited for any deficiencies.
  • Do you have enough staff and adequate resources to care for my loved one? If your loved one has a disease such as Alzheimer’s, you need to make sure the facility has a dedicated unit with properly trained staff. By state law, there is an extra level of training that staff must undergo to treat residents with diseases like Alzheimer’s. If the staff says they are “working on it”, move on to a different facility.

If you find yourself in a situation where you believe your loved one is being abused or neglected, first call 1-800-96-ABUSE and the Department of Children and Families will come out within 24 hours to investigate. They will interview multiple residents and staff to create a report and determine whether signs of neglect or abuse are present. However, the nursing home will typically retain a lawyer soon after the investigation begins, which means the staff won’t be able to give much more information. You don’t need to wait until then to call an attorney. Give Coker Law a call at (904) 356-6071 or click here to schedule a free case consultation and find out how we can help protect your loved one’s rights and safety.