Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse

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.

There are many reasons that Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect might go unnoticed for a significant period of time. Often, the victims themselves are vulnerable or even disabled, making it hard for them to report or explain what is happening to them. In some cases, they may not even be able to understand it themselves. Sometimes, their loved ones visiting might suspect that something is wrong, but with some nursing homes limiting and restricting visitation due to the COVID-19 pandemic loved ones may be unable to check-in, and abuse and neglect may continue to fly under the radar. Precisely because this abuse and neglect can fly under the radar for so long, it can be shocking and heartbreaking once family members do discover it. Family members of an abused nursing home resident may find themselves wondering—what do I do now?

For example, take a recent account of a nursing home where multiple residents were found neglected or otherwise harmed. According to a news article, one of the incidents happened in March of 2020. A resident in the home was found to have a bruised face, with a huge gash on her forehead and a lump “the size of a golf ball,” according to her daughter. Police were called to the home to investigate and were concerned about possible abuse happening in the facility. A subsequent investigation found that between 2019 and 2020 there were 272 calls to 911 from the home, with a range of concerning incidents. For example, firefighters once found an injured resident alone lying on the floor and asking for help. When they asked why no one was helping, the woman in charge laughed. In another instance, a patient’s ventilator was not working correctly. Firefighters who responded found that none of the electrical outlets were working in the room. These are just some of the concerning instances that can happen in Maryland nursing homes and sometimes go unnoticed by authorities or loved ones.

When residents’ families discover this abuse or neglect, they often wonder what to do next to protect their loved ones, stop the harm, and hold the nursing home accountable. In the case of the nursing home above, police were called in to investigate. While calling the police can be an important step to take in these circumstances, it is important to remember that criminal charges, while they can hold the nursing home accountable for their harm, do little to actually help those most harmed by the facility’s actions. That’s why many families decide to also file a personal injury lawsuit. These lawsuits have the goal of helping those injured. While they cannot undo the damage that has been done, they can ensure that the victim and their family are given the financial compensation they deserve for their pain and suffering, their medical bills, and other related expenses.

Nursing home residents may feel as though they have lost the ability to make decisions for themselves and that they have no rights when they enter a facility. This may be particularly true during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many nursing homes have limited the movement of residents and while many facilities struggle to meet resident needs. However, all Maryland nursing home residents have rights and legal protections, even during a pandemic.

Maryland’s Office of Health Care Quality monitors the quality of care in the state’s health care facilities. Under Maryland law, suspected abuse of assisted living residents must be reported to the Office of Health Care Quality. Reports of abuse can be made at 877-402-8219. Maryland’s Department of Health Long Term Care Unit investigates complaints of abuse and assists with the prosecution of abusers.

Under the Code of Maryland Regulation 10.07.09.08, Maryland nursing home residents are afforded some of the following basic rights.

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Abuse and neglect can, unfortunately, run rampant in Maryland nursing homes, putting residents in danger of serious injuries, illness, or even death. Oftentimes, incidents of abuse and neglect may go unnoticed or unreported, and residents or families of residents may have no idea of the extent of the problem. If, for example, 20 residents are all being abused or neglected in subtle ways not recognized by their families, family members may think their loved ones are in a safe facility and well taken care of when in reality they are not. Even if individual family members realize that their loved one is being harmed, they may assume that it is an isolated incident, or chalk it up to an accident. This is one of the key reasons that nursing home abuse and neglect in Maryland nursing homes can go on for so long and cause so much harm.

According to a recent news report, a group of about 15 people gathered outside a nursing home decided to speak out against the alleged abuse and neglect that their loved ones suffered during their time at the facility. The group believes that the situation is a crisis. For example, one woman’s father claims he was punched by a nursing home staff member. His family also found multiple bruises going up and down his body, which suggested that he was carelessly slung into a wheelchair. In addition, family members believe that residents are not being fed properly. One woman told reporters that her father lost almost 50 pounds, and that she believed “they are not feeding these people. They are starving them.” Another woman reports that her 76-year-old mother, who uses a wheelchair, has had three major falls in just seven months, including one where she broke her femur.

As explained above, it can be difficult for families to uncover nursing home abuse and neglect. But when they uncover these tragic and alarming instances, state law allows them to hold the nursing home accountable through a Maryland personal injury lawsuit. These lawsuits can be incredibly valuable for victims of abuse and neglect and for their families. If successful, they can result in large monetary amounts awarded to the plaintiffs to cover the harm that was caused, including for medical expenses, pain and suffering, or even funeral and burial costs if the resident dies.

Many Maryland families will one day make the decision to place a loved one into a nursing home, if they have not already. As the population ages, nursing homes are becoming more and more necessary for individuals who can no longer care for themselves and need assistance in their daily activities. While many residents may have pleasant experiences in their nursing homes, the tragic fact is that nursing home abuse and neglect are still common occurrences in Maryland and nationwide. In fact, one survey of nursing home residents showed that up to 44% of them had been abused at some point, and almost 95% had witnessed someone else be neglected. Despite its prevalence, this abuse and neglect might sometimes fly under the radar, especially when the resident victims are ill, confused, and unable to report it themselves.

Thus, unfortunately, the onus may be on family members to identify abuse or neglect in nursing homes. In some situations, the signs will be subtle, or easily written off as something else. Still, family members should, when visiting their loved ones in Maryland nursing homes, pay close attention to some “red flags” that may indicate abuse or neglect.

Some of the signs are situational—what are the living conditions like? Unsanitary conditions in the residence may be a sign of general neglect. Other signs have to do with resident behavior. Does the resident act oddly when staff members are around? Do they have sudden unusual behaviors, such as a fear of being touched or extreme irritability? Lastly, the physical condition of the resident can shed some light on the situation. Unexplained bruises, cuts, or other injuries should definitely raise concern, as should poor hygiene, sudden weight loss, falls, fractures, or infections.

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