Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse

While all Maryland nursing homes have a duty to ensure the safety of their residents, the fact remains that instances of nursing home abuse and neglect have risen to record levels. The causes for the increase in the numbers of reported instances of abuse and neglect are believed to be related to both societal and business factors.

Using a WalkerFor one, more elderly Americans are in need of the services that a nursing home can provide. With the percentage of dual-income households on the rise, there are fewer families who have someone able to stay home and provide care to aging loved ones.

At the same time, the nursing home industry has gone through a consolidation over the past several decades, with several major players running a large number of the nursing homes across the state. This has led to an increased focus on cost-cutting and preserving the profits of the nursing home. Of course, one of the first places where management looks to save money is in the cost of labor. However, as the number of skilled nurses decreases, the nurses on duty are left with an unmanageable number of patients to assist.

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Maryland nursing homes have an unwavering duty to provide a safe and secure facility for their residents. However, over the decades since nursing homes have become more and more popular, it has been made clear that not all nursing homes take that responsibility as seriously as they should. Indeed, it seems that most nursing homes prioritize keeping expenses to a minimum over providing a safe home for their residents.

PillsIn a frightening new trend, nursing home staff members have begun to drug residents rather than provide them with the intensive care they need. According to a recent news report discussing one instance of over-drugging that occurred in a Texas nursing home, employees engaged in what has come to be known as “drug diversion,” whereby a nursing home employee takes the prescription medication from one patient and administers it to another patient for whom the medication has not been approved.

Aside from violating the basic principles of humanity, the practice of drug diversion presents clear risks to the safety of nursing home residents. For one, the medications that are most often the subject of over-drugging are powerful anti-psychotic medications that can cause serious adverse reactions with other medications. The report mentioned above explains that employees will often administer anti-psychotic drugs to residents whom they believe to be difficult.

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Over the past several decades, there has been a societal shift in the United States toward a household in which both parents work out of the home. Indeed, as of 2016, roughly two-thirds of all families were composed of two income earners. Most often, this means both parents are away from the home during the day.

Weathered HandsUnlike in years past, today’s working families do not have the ability to care for their aging loved ones. This has correspondingly led to an increase in the number of elderly people being admitted to nursing homes. Currently, it is estimated that there are over 3.5 million nursing home residents. And while Maryland nursing homes present a good solution in theory, in reality, nursing homes are rarely “as advertised.”

Too often, nursing homes are understaffed with underqualified employees. This creates a situation in which abuse and neglect are rampant. Indeed, it is estimated that over 40% of nursing home residents will experience some form of abuse during their stay, and nearly 90% of nursing home residents report being neglected. Given the limited interaction between a nursing home resident and the outside world, it is believed that these figures may be an underestimation.

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Maryland nursing homes have never enjoyed a sterling reputation for the care they provide to residents. While there are many quality facilities staffed with caring individuals, unfortunately, they seem to be in the minority. More often than not, nursing homes are operated with their for-profit motive placed above all else. This means staffing homes with as few employees as possible, among other things.

SurveillanceWhen nursing home management tries to cut corners by reducing the number of nurses, the chance increases that those nurses who are on duty will be overworked. And while there is never an excuse for abusing a patient, research has shown that overworked nursing home employees are more likely to commit abuse or neglect than those who feel their workload is manageable.

For years, Maryland nursing home abuse went largely unnoticed. Certainly it was occurring behind closed doors, but since residents rarely have contact with the outside world, reports were rarely made. And when reports were made, they were too often brushed aside by family members. However, with the increased availability of video cameras, more families are able to place hidden cameras in their loved ones’ rooms. In many cases, the footage from these cameras is admissible in a lawsuit against a nursing home or employee.

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When a nursing home employee engages in abuse of a patient, two different types of lawsuits can follow. First, the local state government can opt to criminally prosecute the individual nursing home employee. If the employee is found guilty, they may face fines, probation, or even incarceration.

Reading the BibleThe other type of Maryland nursing home lawsuit is a civil case for damages. A civil lawsuit, also known as a personal injury lawsuit, is brought by the victim of the abuse or their family member, rather than by the local prosecuting authority. In addition, the focus of the case is not so much on the employee’s violation of the law, but instead on whether the employee violated a duty of care he owed to the nursing home resident. Importantly, even if a criminal lawsuit is not pursued, a nursing home resident or their family member may pursue a civil nursing home abuse lawsuit on their own.

If successful, a nursing home resident or their family may recover compensation for the injuries sustained by the abused resident. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the abuse, compensation may include amounts for past and future medical expenses, loss of enjoyment, decrease in quality of life, and any pain and suffering caused by the abuse. In some cases, punitive damages may also be appropriate.

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Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, or vicarious liability, an employer is generally responsible for the acts of its employees if they are acting in the scope of their employment. Therefore, if a Maryland nursing home staff member abuses a nursing home resident, the nursing home may be responsible for the employee’s actions as long as the staff member was acting within the scope of their employment.

Nurse with Resident“Nanny Cam” Leads to Arrests of Two Nursing Home Staff

A hidden camera recently led to the arrest of two Georgia women on elder abuse charges, according to one news source. An 89-year-old resident was living at a nursing home in Georgia when his family installed a “nanny cam” in his room to monitor his well-being because they were concerned about him. According to the news report, the video showed staff physically and mentally abusing the resident.

The resident was recovering from pneumonia and needed extra help with feeding and personal hygiene. According to police, two staff members in the room were frustrated with him and “were treating him pretty roughly.” The sheriff said that at one point, the resident was having a hard time keeping his dentures in while he was eating, and one of the staff members hit him to get the dentures back in. The staff also hit him in the face after he spit some food out of his mouth, cussed at him, and threatened to hit him. One of the staff members, who was 37 years old, was arrested on four counts of elder abuse, and the other staff member, who was 45 years old, was charged with one count of elder abuse.

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When a loved one is placed in a Maryland nursing home, it is assumed that their basic physical and medical needs will be monitored and that they will be treated with dignity and respect. However, history has shown that nursing home employees, for whatever reason, too often engage in abusive or neglectful behavior. When authorities discover that nursing home abuse or neglect has occurred, those responsible can be held accountable for their actions in several ways.

HandcuffsCriminal Nursing Home Prosecutions

After allegations of abuse have been substantiated, criminal charges may be filed against a nursing home employee or administrator. Such cases are brought by the local prosecuting authority on behalf of the state and are designed to punish the wrongdoer for their actions. If they are found guilty of a criminal offense, the defendant can face fines, probation, and potentially incarceration.

While a criminal court may order some restitution to be paid to the victim, restitution amounts are normally limited in that they include only the amount of actual financial loss incurred by the victim. A criminal court will not award damages based on the victim’s pain and suffering.

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Nursing homes are required to provide residents with a safe environment, free from abuse and neglect. However, whether a nursing facility violated the “standard of care” is often disputed in Maryland nursing home negligence cases.

Nursing Home HallwayDetermining the standard of care is important in a nursing home case, particularly in cases alleging that a nursing home was negligent in caring for a resident. To show that a nursing facility was negligent, a plaintiff has to demonstrate that the defendant had a duty to protect the plaintiff, the defendant breached its duty, the plaintiff suffered an injury or loss, and the injury or loss was caused by the defendant’s breach. In order to demonstrate that a nursing home breached its duty, the plaintiff has to show that the home’s conduct failed to meet the applicable standard of care under the circumstances.

The standard of care may be set forth in a statute or regulation, which can serve as the standard by which the court can measure the nursing home’s conduct. For example, a nursing home’s violation of a law or regulation may allow a court to presume a nursing home was negligent. Some courts have also found that the federal Nursing Home Reform Law provides the standard of care for nursing homes. In many cases, an expert is required to explain how the facility’s conduct failed to meet the standard of care.

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Maryland nursing homes have long been viewed with a skeptical eye when it comes to the level of care they provide to residents. For one, nursing home residents are in essence isolated from their loved ones, except for very specific times during a visit from family members. Additionally, family members can never really know what is happening to their loved one when they leave, especially if their loved one suffers from serious physical or mental health issues preventing them from effectively communicating with family members about their care.

WheelchairThat being said, nursing homes have a duty to provide all residents with a certain level of care that comports with the standards imposed by society in general. While the specifics of the duty owed to residents can vary, it always includes maintaining a safe environment that is free of abuse and neglect.

When a nursing home resident suffers from abuse or neglect, family members may be able to pursue a Maryland nursing home abuse or neglect lawsuit to obtain compensation for their loved one’s suffering. These lawsuits rely on general principles of negligence for the most part, but some nursing home cases do involve issues of medical malpractice, especially when the defendant is a licensed or certified nurse. In such cases, additional requirements may be placed upon a plaintiff filing a lawsuit against the nursing home. Anyone considering filing a Maryland nursing home abuse or neglect lawsuit should consult with a dedicated Maryland personal injury attorney prior to doing so.

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In most cases alleging Maryland nursing home abuse or neglect, if successful, the plaintiff will receive compensation for the injuries sustained by their loved one. This normally includes the costs of medical expenses, and it may also include an amount for the emotional pain and suffering their loved one endured as a result of the abuse or neglect. In some rare cases, punitive damages may also be appropriate.

CourtroomMost of the various types of damages available to a plaintiff in a Maryland personal injury case are focused on the plaintiff. However, the focus of punitive damages is on the especially egregious behavior of the defendant. Indeed, the purpose of punitive damages is to deter the very kind of behavior the defendant exhibited that led to the case being filed.

Punitive damages in Maryland are rare and require a showing of actual malice. This means that a plaintiff must show that the defendant possessed some kind of ill-will or spite. Thus, punitive damages are usually only appropriate when the defendant is found to have engaged in intentional wrongdoing, rather than merely negligent conduct. A recent case is an example of a situation in which punitive damages were found to be appropriate by a court.

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