Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing homes have long had a reputation for providing less-than-stellar care to residents. Indeed, every day there are new allegations of Maryland nursing home abuse or neglect. However, according to a recent government study, the total number of instances of nursing home abuse and neglect is actually under-reported.

CNN recently discussed a newly released report issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, concluding that one in five emergency room visits by nursing home patients is the result of abuse. The study analyzed over 37,000 emergency room admissions that were reported to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). Also startling is the fact that “nursing homes frequently failed to report incidents of abuse to either CMS or local law enforcement, as required by federal regulators.”

The Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services told reporters that he fears instances of nursing home abuse are under-reported and that CMS can do a better job preventing abuse and neglect by using available data to target facilities with recurring reports of misconduct.

While most Maryland nursing homes and skilled care facilities are for-profit businesses, some Maryland nursing homes operate as non-profit organizations. The question occasionally arises whether a nursing home’s status as a non-profit organization can affect a resident’s ability to recover for any injuries that were due to the neglect of the facility’s staff members. The answer, as is often the case in legal questions, is “it depends.”

Maryland law offers immunity to both volunteers as well as to charitable organizations. Depending on the specific circumstances of a case, either or both of these immunities may apply. Maryland law defines a charitable organization as one that is tax-exempt under § 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Under the Maryland Volunteer Service Act, those who volunteer at charitable organizations cannot be held liable for amounts in excess of any personal insurance they carry for any injuries caused by the acts or omissions of “an officer, director, employee, trustee, or another volunteer.” When a volunteer’s actions result in injury to another, the volunteer will be afforded the same protection unless their actions constitute “gross negligence, reckless, willful, or wanton misconduct, or intentionally tortious conduct.” Importantly, the Volunteer Service Act does not grant complete immunity to qualifying volunteers and allows for a Maryland nursing home resident to pursue a claim for compensation. However, the resident will only be able to recover up to the limits of the individual’s insurance coverage.

Reports of neglect and abuse are common in nursing homes and skilled care facilities. However, the exact number of Maryland nursing home residents who are neglected or forced to endure physical or sexual abuse is difficult to determine. One reason for this is because many nursing home residents have a very difficult time successfully reporting abuse or neglect.

There are several reasons why a nursing home resident may have a difficult time successfully reporting abuse or neglect. For example, some residents may be ashamed of what they have experienced or fear that their reports or abuse or neglect will be met with skepticism from loved ones. However, the more common reason for a resident’s failure to report nursing home abuse or neglect is their inability to do so.

Those who are inclined to prey upon the aged or disabled often select the most vulnerable individuals of this population as victims. Predators do this knowing that their victims will likely be unable to report what has been done to them and, even if it is reported, the reports may not be taken seriously.

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Over the past several years, there has been a significant increase in the number of reported instances of Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect. In part, this is due to increased awareness of the problem, as social media has allowed for news of these disturbing events to disseminate more easily. However, experts still believe that the majority of nursing home abuse and neglect goes unreported.

Experts believe that there are several causes of nursing home abuse and neglect. Not surprisingly, most of the causes relate to the environment created by nursing home management rather than specific issues with individual nurses or employees. However, some nurses are better suited for the job. Often, this is due to the level of training or experience the nurse has obtained.

Studies have shown that low staffing levels are correlated with increased instances of abuse and neglect. Thus, it is generally agreed that the more stressful the work environment, the more likely employees are to “snap.” According to a recent article, Maryland and Virginia nurses are offered some of the lowest rates to provide in-home care to residents. Apparently, in-home nurses in Virginia and Maryland make only $20 to $35 per hour. This is about 30% lower than nearby states. As a result, qualified nurses are leaving Maryland and Virginia to pursue employment in states where they can earn a better living. Thus, residents are having a difficult time securing in-home nurses, especially during off-peak hours and on weekends.

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For family members who diligently researched the available options and carefully helped place a loved one in a Maryland nursing home, it is incredibly upsetting to hear a loved one disclose that they are being neglected or abused by nursing home staff members. However, this is exactly what many family members experience when their loved ones report back to them about their life in the nursing home.

It is estimated that approximately 500,000 elderly nursing home residents are the victim of abuse and serious neglect each year. However, it is also understood that this figure likely is much lower than it should be due to rampant underreporting by residents. In addition, when residents decide to reach out to nursing home management to disclose abuse, the allegations are too often swept under the rug. In many cases, it is only when family members get involved that allegations of abuse get taken seriously.

Once a nursing home resident discloses abuse, a Maryland nursing home abuse lawsuit can be filed against the responsible parties. If successful, the resident will be able to obtain compensation for their injuries. Importantly, this includes compensation for emotional injuries, as well as physical injuries.

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Nursing home residents in Maryland and throughout the country have the right to live in a safe environment, free from abuse and neglect. Claims against nursing homes can range from physical mistreatment and sexual abuse, to neglect, financial exploitation, and psychological abuse. Cases of Maryland nursing home abuse or neglect may not be obvious, as a resident may have difficulty communicating and may not even be aware of the neglect or abuse.

It is important for families to remain vigilant to identify cases of abuse and neglect, by looking out for warning signs, including poor hygiene and unexplained injuries. Although licensed care facilities are required to follow certain laws and regulations under federal and state law, some individuals are being under-cared for in unregulated, unlicensed homes, increasing the risk of abuse and neglect to those individuals, as one study recently found.

Abusive Unlicensed Care Homes Pose Serious Risks

A year-long study raised concerns about serious risks at unlicensed care homes in the United States, finding that “egregious crimes” are being committed against residents, according to one news source. RTI International, an independent, non-profit research firm, conducted the study for the Office of Disability, Aging, and Long-Term Care Policy and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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Nursing homes have long been fairly scrutinized for the level of care that they provide to residents. Indeed, it is difficult to go more than a day or two without reading a headline discussing a family’s claims that a nursing home employee has abused their family member.

With the advent of affordable and low-profile video-recording technology, more families are considering placing a camera in their loved one’s room in hopes of being able to see how their loved one is being treated. In Maryland nursing homes, families can place cameras in a loved one’s room as long as both the resident as well as the nursing home are made aware and consent to the placement of the camera.

Under Vera’s Law, families can install a camera under certain circumstances. A few of the requirements are:

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The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that is tasked with monitoring and preventing, among other things, nursing home abuse. Periodically, the OIG conducts audits of various HHS programs and their contractors.

Under federal law, nursing homes that are involved in Medicaid and Medicare programs will be audited by the federal government. These audits are intended to reveal any defects in their care or service and ensure that they are corrected. Nursing homes must meet certain standards of safety and care, and if they do not provide the auditing agency with a correction plan, they are at risk for being sanctioned and shut down.

In previous years, issues have arisen because some state agencies failed to ensure that nursing homes actually completed their correction plans. This is very alarming because these nursing facilities are entrusted with many emotionally and physically fragile individuals, who are often unable to advocate on their own behalf or report their abuse.

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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.

For 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.

In 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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