Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog

Earlier this month in Ilion, New York, the top management and owners of a nursing home facility were criminally charged for their role in an alleged cover-up involving serious instances of alleged patient abuse. According to one local news source, the charges all stem from alleged errors that occurred back in May 2013.

shredding-day-543148-mThe first incident involved a “serious medical error” that went unnoticed and untreated for several days. The second incident involved a resident who suffers from dementia engaging in unlawful sexual contact with another nursing home resident in the home’s cafeteria.

After the Attorney General’s office was notified of the alleged lapses in care, it initiated an investigation into the home. During the investigation, it is alleged that one of the part-owners of the company was eavesdropping on a conversation between investigators and a nursing home employee. It is also alleged that other management-level employees destroyed digital evidence in violation of the law.

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Earlier this month, a lawsuit was filed by the son of a woman who passed away while in the care of a skilled nursing facility, alleging that the care provided to his mother in her final hours contributed to his mother’s early death. According to one local news source, the 82-year-old woman was admitted to the nursing facility with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, type-2 diabetes, hypertension, aspiration pneumonia, and dysphagia.

hospital-walkway-688103-mAccording to the woman’s son, his mother was admitted to the facility on June 5, 2013. Upon admission, the facility was given orders to make sure that the woman had her scheduled feedings through a gastrostomy tube and that the tube was to be routinely checked for residual amounts of formula in her stomach. However, according to the lawsuit, “there is no indication in the initial care plan that respiration precautions were specifically addressed or that prevention guidelines were established.”

According to court documents, the day after her admission to the facility, a nurse documented that the woman was pale, wheezing, and in bed with her eyes closed. Two hours later, that same nurse came back to check on the woman and noticed that she had elevated blood pressure. The nurse provided the woman with oxygen, elevated her head, and stopped the woman’s feeding tube. A few moments later, the elderly woman became unresponsive. The primary nurse was told to call for an ambulance. After a few minutes passed by, another nurse inquired as to where the ambulance was, and it turned out that the primary nurse had not called 911 but instead called the non-emergency line and been given an approximate wait time of one hour.

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Earlier this year in Washington State, a nursing home was fined after it was discovered that the home failed to report resident-on-resident sexual abuse that was occurring in the facility. According to one local news report, the allegations are that one resident in particular sexually abused several other residents on more than one occasion. However, despite mandatory reporting laws, the employees failed to notify the authorities.

door-and-door-knob-1149600-mEvidently, one of the abused residents is a bed-bound dementia patient who has a difficult time speaking, standing, and communicating with others. On one of the days in question, investigators discovered that another resident had snuck into her room, dropped his pants around his ankles, and forced the woman to touch his genitals. When an employee caught the man in the act, she yelled out for him to stop, but no one outside of the nursing home walls knew of the abuse.

The woman’s sister summed up what she believed the nursing home’s duty was to their patients: “You are responsible for this adult. People are paying and they expect you to take good care of their family.”

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Earlier this month in nearby West Virginia, a woman filed suit against the nursing home that was in charge of caring for her sister after she discovered evidence that led her to believe the nursing home was negligent in her sister’s care. According to a report by one local news source, the woman is seeking compensatory damages for the injuries her sister sustained, including compensation for her sister’s pain and suffering, mental anguish, inconvenience, physical impairment, and loss of capacity to enjoy life, as well as the aggravation of existing diseases and physical defects. She is also seeking compensation for the medical expenses her sister incurred as well as for her sister’s premature death.

disabled-friendly-978533-mAccording to the article, the woman’s sister was admitted to the nursing home in November 2012, and she stayed there almost a year before passing away. During that time, the woman claims, the nursing home exhibited several lapses in care, including:

  • Failure to monitor her sister’s worsening skin condition;
  • Failure to implement a treatment plan for the breakdown of her sister’s skin;
  • Failure to turn and reposition her sister while she was in bed;
  • Failure to implement measures to prevent her sister from falling; and
  • Failure to keep her family informed of her sister’s worsening overall condition.

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Nursing homes traditionally cater to two types of residents:  short-term residents entering the facility after being treated for a disease or illness at a hospital, and long-term residents needing end-of-life care. Often, as one may expect, the needs of each of these groups are different. For example, a resident expecting only a short stay in a home may be more interested in additional features, such as putting greens and hot baths on demand. However, those needing end-of-life care are less concerned with these “extras” and are more concerned with the basic necessities.

old-folks-116318-mIn a recent article by the New York Times, it is noted that there is a current trend showing that nursing homes are focusing on catering to the short-term residents, potentially at the expense of the safety and benefits of longer-term residents. The article cites a 2014 study conducted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, showing that 22% of short-term residents suffer some kind of harm during their stay. Another 11% suffer temporary injury. The incidents of injury to long-term residents have historically been much higher.

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Earlier this month, a Michigan man was arrested and charged with Abuse of a Vulnerable Adult for the alleged abuse of a nursing home resident at the home where he worked. According to a local Michigan news report, the resident suffered from dementia and had only been at the nursing home facility for six days before the abuse occurred.

im-still-mobile-1114180-mEvidently, the abusive employee became frustrated with the Alzheimer’s patient and began to get violent. In fact, the employee recently confessed to “punching, pushing, [and] sitting on [the resident] five times during his shift of March 11, 2015 when he was agitated with [the resident].” The abuse resulted in deep purplish-blue bruises on the resident’s back, chest, chin and torso. The abusive employee faces up to two years in prison as a maximum sentence.

According to the article mentioned above, the very same nursing home was fined almost $15,000 just two years ago for several incidents, including the death of one patient who allegedly didn’t receive CPR when he should have.

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A 26-year-old Ellicott City assisted-living caretaker has been charged with abusing a 93-year-old Alzheimer’s patient who was under her care. According to a prominent Baltimore newspaper, the woman was arrested for abuse of a vulnerable adult and second-degree assault. Evidently, the victim’s family had certain suspicions regarding the care that their family member was receiving and  set up a hidden camera in his room to verify their concerns.

The video footage shows the caretaker hitting the man several times by striking him across his arms and torso. The disturbing footage also shows the caretaker pushing him several times. This abuse resulted in several bruises. After viewing the footage, the family immediately contacted Howard County police. The officers arrested the woman at her home, and she is currently released on bail.

hospital-1031747-mCommon Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

In the above case, it was fortunate that the man had family members who were concerned about his well-being and were able to notice the signs of abuse. Unfortunately, in many of these cases the victim is so ill and frail that they are often unable to notify anyone of the abuse they are suffering. This can result in serious injuries and even in the death of a patient. There are some signs that families can look for that may indicate that their loved one is being abused.

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A recent online article by the Huffington Post explains that elder abuse is everyone’s problem because the people who are directly affected by it don’t have the means or ability to create any meaningful reform of the system that perpetuates the abuse. Throughout the article, several interesting and startling points are made about nursing-home abuse. Perhaps most startling is that fact that, although rare elsewhere, sexual abuse of the elderly is most common at nursing home facilities.

waiting-room-583561-mSome one in ten elderly people are suspected to have at one time suffered some kind of abuse. The most common type of abuse is financial in nature, and it is most commonly committed by a loved one who is close to the victim. However, sexual abuse of elders is a frightening occurrence that may not be as rare as we think—or hope.

Due to several factors, those who are inclined to prey on the helpless are often drawn toward the elderly. One reason is that many elderly victims have no one they can report the abuse to, assuming they are even physically well enough to communicate with others at all. Another reason is that caring for the elderly can be an especially stressful task. Job frustration undoubtedly plays a role in many cases of elder abuse. None of these reasons, however, are a valid excuse for the kinds of abuse that occur each day in nursing homes across Maryland.

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Earlier this month, a West Virginia resident filed a lawsuit on behalf of his female client against a nursing home at which his client had recently resided. According to one local West Virginia news source, the man is pursuing claims against the nursing home based on the home’s alleged negligence in caring for his client as well as purported physical abuse she endured while in the home’s care.old-folks-116318-m Evidently, the lawsuit was filed at the end of 2014, for events that occurred earlier that year. While there are no specifics about what is alleged to have happened, the court paperwork suggests that the plaintiff’s claims are based on the nursing home’s alleged failure to live up to the duty which it assumed when it accepted the woman as a resident.

Specifically, the lawsuit claims that the home “failed to properly hire, train, retain, manage, supervise and otherwise oversee the staff to ensure compliance with applicable care and staffing standards and failed to provide [her] with a safe environment.”

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Earlier this year, the legal guardian for a 19-year-old boy who died while a resident at a Maryland group home for foster children in need of constant care filed suit against the group home, asserting that their negligence resulted in the boy’s premature death. According to one local Maryland news source, the patient died after spending several weeks in the group home for a bed sore that had spread to his bones.

hospital-room-449234-mEvidently, the lawsuit, which was filed early in February, claims that the group home was inadequately staffed when the 19-year-old patient was a resident in the home. The lawsuit notes that the group home specializes in the care of foster children who require constant or near-constant care, and that the home failed to provide an adequate number of nurses and other staff members to create a safe environment.

In addition to the lawsuit filed by the boy’s guardian, the Maryland Attorney General’s Medicaid fraud control team has also opened up an investigation into the propriety of the home as a safe and healing environment. While those participating in the investigation are not at liberty to discuss it, those familiar with the investigation have told reporters that it is centered on inadequate staff levels as well as the overall cleanliness of the facility.

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