Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse

With each passing year, more states are enacting laws that allow for the installation of cameras in nursing homes and other similar long-term care facilities. After all, sending our loved ones to nursing homes is never an easy endeavor. When we put our loved one’s care in the hands of strangers, it can often be challenging to feel at ease when abuse or neglect could be taking place behind closed doors. To proponents of allowing cameras in nursing home facilities, allowing cameras ensures increased accountability and safety from abuse and neglect for our loved ones.

According to a recent news report, other states are continuing to consider enacting laws that would allow cameras to be placed in their loved ones’ rooms in nursing homes. Proponents argue that such laws could go a long way in building a record and substantiating claims of abuse or neglect, instead of relying on staff who may fear repercussions as a result of reporting. Cameras could also be beneficial for nursing home staff to refute false claims. Although cameras will likely not solve all existing problems for elderly residents, proponents argue it could be a step in the right direction to increase transparency, accountability, and safety in these long-term care facilities.

In light of COVID-19, many nursing homes have had to close their doors to visitors because of public health and social distancing protocols. Because elderly residents of nursing homes remain a highly at-risk group in the midst of the global pandemic, many suspect that the ongoing pandemic increased the frequency of abuse or neglect taking place behind closed doors as in-person visits became restricted or limited.

For older individuals living with dementia, taking antipsychotic drugs nearly doubles their chance of death from heart problems, infections, and other serious ailments. But for years, nursing homes have used these drugs to control their patients who have dementia. Because of the increased risks to patients treated with antipsychotic medications, the government requires nursing homes to report the number of residents who are taking antipsychotics. However, the government does not keep a public record of residents who are prescribed antipsychotics if they are living with schizophrenia, Tourette’s syndrome, or Hungtington’s disease. As a result, the New York Times reports that some doctors at nursing homes are diagnosing residents with one of these three diseases and then prescribing these patients with antipsychotics in order to avoid the requirement that they include these patients in their reported number of antipsychotic drug use. Nursing homes engaged in this practice have the goal of making their facility look more appealing to the public. Because of this practice, it has become harder to get an accurate portrayal of the rate of antipsychotic drug use on residents in nursing homes

If a nursing home has a high rate of antipsychotic drug use, the government may give the facility a lower “quality of resident care” rating, which in turn would have negative financial consequences for the nursing home. The rating system was designed by Medicare to help patients and families evaluate various facilities. Because antipsychotics have been approved for treating patients with schizophrenia, Tourette’s syndrome, or Huntington’s disease, antipsychotic prescriptions in these instances are not included in a facility’s public tracking. As a result, some nursing home facilities have used this as a loophole to hide the true number of residents who are on antipsychotic medications. According to Medicare data, since 2012 the number of residents diagnosed with schizophrenia has increased 70 percent.

Medicare’s website reports that less than 15 percent of nursing home residents are on antipsychotics, but because of the loophole, this number does not accurately include patients who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. It is suspected that some understaffed nursing homes are using antipsychotic drugs to more easily subdue patients so that these facilities do not have to hire additional staff.

For years, policymakers have known about the pervasive presence and impact of nursing home abuse in America. Recently, a bipartisan federal investigation revealed that lacking care for seniors has been disproportionately clustered within less than five percent of the nation’s nursing home facilities.

According to a recent article, poor nursing home care has been clustered among facilities listed under the Special Focus Facility (SFF) program. Facilities listed under the SFF program include the country’s worst-performing institutions, which “substantially fail” to meet basic care standards required by the federal government. Some commentators have noted that SFF nursing homes are considered “repeat offenders” who have a “pattern of neglecting and harming vulnerable residents.” Until recently, landing on the SFF list was shameful—but without proper enforcement or rehabilitation mechanisms in place, many facilities have not been held accountable.

To combat the issue, however, policymakers are stepping up to the plate. Legislative action from Congress could improve and expand quality care in nursing homes not just in Maryland but across the country. A new bill known as the Nursing Home Reform Modernization Act of 2021 proposes to expand the list of monitored facilities, increase resources for facilities that are underperforming, and establish an independent Advisory Council to inform federal agencies how to provide the best care possible and evaluate nursing home facilities.

Placing a loved one in a Maryland nursing home is not an easy decision. However, it is a choice that thousands of Maryland families must make each year. While most nursing homes truly care about the health and wellbeing of residents, that simply isn’t always the case.

According to a recent news report, a state health department report reveals that one nursing home engaged in repeated physical and verbal abuse of residents. Evidently, the nursing home is believed to have abused at least five residents. One instance cited in the report is based on the facility’s failure to provide medication to an elderly resident. Another incident documents the facility’s failure to follow up on allegations of neglect and abuse, allowing the employee suspected of wrongdoing to remain on the job.

Nursing homes not only have a duty to ensure residents are free from abuse, but also to continuously investigate all claims of wrongdoing. For example, if a staff member is alleged to have neglected or assaulted a resident, nursing home management must investigate the matter. Similarly, if one resident acts aggressively towards other residents, management must take affirmative steps to protect other residents.

The abuse and neglect of older adults and vulnerable individuals in nursing homes is a growing concern for many families whose loved ones require medical care at these facilities. While some types of abuse may be evident to outsiders, Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect goes undiscovered in many situations. In these cases, the victims may suffer long-term abuse resulting in serious consequences such as death.

Maryland has certain mandatory reporting laws in place that require medical providers, police officers, and human service workers to report suspected cases of elder abuse. In cases where the reporter is a staff member of a hospital or public health facility, they must report the situation to the organization’s head. Although the law requires mandatory reporting, others who suspect abuse should also report their concerns. Despite the laws, many people fail to report abuse for fear of retaliation or retribution.

In addition to physical abuse, older adults and vulnerable individuals are more likely to face exploitation and neglect in these facilities. Further, older adults who reside in these institutions may turn to self-neglect and self-harm after experiencing this type of abuse. Staff and family members should look for signs of abuse when interacting with nursing home residents, especially on residents who cannot communicate effectively.

According to recent statistics from the National Institutes of Health, sepsis and septic shock claimed more lives than lung cancer, breast cancer, and heart attacks. Sepsis tends to affect older adults, especially those who are experiencing ulcers and active infections. While some cases of sepsis are unavoidable, many results from Maryland nursing home abuse or negligence.

Sepsis poses a significant threat to nursing home residents, as many residents suffer from the comorbidities associated with this medical condition. This life-threatening condition occurs when the body is fighting off a fungal, bacterial, or viral infection. The body responds by releasing chemicals into the bloodstream. While this natural mechanism can successfully fight off infections, it can also cause vulnerable individuals to experience a sudden chemical imbalance. This imbalance can result in sepsis or septic shock. If medical providers fail to treat sepsis immediately, the condition can cause permanent organ damage and death.

While anyone can experience sepsis, nursing home residents often carry risk factors associated with fatal sepsis. The highest risk individuals include older adults, pregnant women, and infants. Further, those with weakened immune systems, chronic health conditions, and open wounds and sores are at an increased risk of developing sepsis. Older adults, especially those receiving care at a nursing home, often have more than one of these risk factors. In addition, situational factors such as pneumonia, bladder infections, blood infections, intensive care patients, and nursing home residents on antibiotics are often at risk for sepsis.

Making the decision to send your loved ones to a nursing home can often be an incredibly challenging process. Beyond finding the right place, there’s also the fear that they won’t be treated well—or worse, that they could experience abuse or neglect. During the pandemic, when many of us have been separated or unable to visit our loved ones in nursing homes because of health concerns, our worries are only amplified. Thus, when abuse and neglect of our seniors takes place, those who are responsible can be held accountable through a personal injury lawsuit.

According to a recent news report, a jarring case of elder abuse is raising awareness for the frequency of potential neglect taking place during the pandemic. After a local elderly woman fell in her home and broke her femur in late 2020, she was transferred to a nursing facility. Her son, who was unable to visit her for some time because of COVID-19 restrictions, said that his mother was “in deplorable condition” when he finally saw her. In the two months that she was at the facility, she was abused, lost weight, and developed a multitude of health problems. The woman’s tongue was black, she had missing teeth, and her toes were orange. Her bedding, her son recalled, was soiled and still wet. Local authorities report that the incident is an active police investigation.

To truly play a proactive role in understanding, preventing, and addressing elder abuse and neglect, knowing common signs or clues of abuse and neglect is crucial. Abuse can take various forms, including physical abuse, physical neglect, psychological abuse, or financial neglect and exploitation.

When we send our loved ones to nursing homes, we expect to be able to trust that the facility is taking good care of them. Abuse and neglect in Maryland nursing homes, however, is more common than you may think. For many elders, suffering in silence is common because they may require 24-hour care or are afraid to speak up. When such abuse takes place, those who are responsible must be held accountable.

According to a recent news report, a local state Attorney General announced her plans to assemble a team of agents who will make unannounced visits to local nursing homes to investigate potential cases of abuse and neglect. Based on complaints, performance metrics, and other data on nursing homes, the team will decide which nursing homes to visit. By proactively taking a deeper dive into this area, the initiative could address criminal activity that stemming from abuse and neglect of elders that often takes place in nursing homes undetected. Unlike the state’s licensing and regulatory affairs branch—which already oversees nursing homes for licensing violations—this task force will focus on abuse and neglect violations. The goal, according to state officials, is to ensure that substandard care is eliminated in long-term health care facilities like nursing homes and that potential abuse is addressed.

In Maryland, elder abuse and neglect in nursing homes is all too common. With more than 24,500 nursing homes in the state and a growing aging population, the issue will only become more amplified in the future. Nursing home residents, who often need round-the-clock care and support, rely on staff at these facilities to ensure that they can continue to have the best quality of life possible. When abuse takes place, it is crucial that you know what steps to take to protect your loved ones.

In cases where a Maryland nursing home resident has been the victim of abuse or neglect, victims may be able to file a lawsuit against the facility for the negligent hiring of the abuser. The facility may be liable for negligently hiring a staff member or an independent contractor in some circumstances.

In a Maryland negligent hiring claim, a plaintiff must show that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty, that the defendant breached that duty, that the defendant’s breach caused the harm suffered, and that the plaintiff suffered damages. More specifically, in a negligent hiring claim, to show causation, the plaintiff must establish that the employer’s failure to undertake a reasonable inquiry resulted in the hiring of the employee or contractor and that the defendant’s hiring was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury. This means that the quality that makes the employee or contractor incompetent or unfit must be the cause of the plaintiff’s harm.

In general, an employer has a duty to exercise reasonable care in selecting an employee or contractor that is competent and suitable for the work assigned to them. The defendant’s duty to do so is extended to people who one would reasonably expect to come into contact with the employee or contractor. For example, a nursing home might be liable for negligent hiring if the facility fails to do a background check that would have revealed that an applicant had criminal convictions for sexual abuse if the applicant then goes on to sexually abuse a resident. The same might be true for an applicant with a history of theft if the applicant would have un-monitored access to residents’ belongings. Unfortunately, circumstances such as these do occur. One case recently settled after a disabled resident was sexually abused by a staff member.

Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect is a pervasive problem, affecting many residents and their families each year. In some cases, the abuse and neglect, once discovered, is so severe that law enforcement gets involved, potentially filing criminal charges against the bad actors. This is especially likely to happen when an individual living in a nursing home dies as a result of the abuse or neglect they experienced.

Take, for example, a case where a 69-year-old woman died at her assisted living facility. According to a local news article, the woman developed an ulcer on her right heel in 2017. Her case manager at the facility, a registered nurse, failed to properly assess the ulcer. As a result, a plan of care was never developed and the ulcer worsened into a wound. The woman had to undergo emergency surgery on her right foot, which had become septic and gangrenous. She eventually died, a tragic loss for her family and loved ones. Her case manager has since been charged with elder abuse by neglect and could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

While some may think a criminal charge is a sign of justice in the aftermath of these incidents, and that the wrongs caused will be righted, families who have experienced the loss of a loved one this way often note that the criminal charges do nothing to actually help them recover. That is why many consider filing a civil negligence lawsuit, even when criminal charges are pending, to help them recover for their losses and begin to move on.

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