Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse

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.

Over 1.5 million older adults reside in nursing homes in the United States. Unfortunately, many nursing home residents suffer serious injury or even fatal injuries because of the treatment they experience at these facilities. However, nursing home injury victims may hold the facility or its staff liable for negligence. Mayland nursing home abuse cases often raise many challenges and may involve various federal and state laws. As such, victims and their loved ones should contact an attorney to discuss their rights and remedies.

The Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA) protects residents of nursing homes that receive certain federal funds. The majority of Maryland nursing homes fall into this category, and as such, the law applies to many facilities. The law provides the minimum standard of care that these nursing homes must comply with to maintain their residents’ physical, mental, and psychological health. Further, the NHRA, outlines parameters that the facilities must abide by to prevent nursing home abuse.

In addition to requiring that the facilities retain adequate staff, develop care plans, assist with daily activities, and provide skilled nursing services, the residents have the right to be free from “physical or mental abuse, corporal punishment, seclusion, and restraints for discipline or convenience.” Many nursing home abuse lawsuits arise after a resident falls, suffers malnutrition or dehydration, experiences a medication error, or is assaulted by a staff member or other resident.

Nursing home abuse, while unfortunately common, is often difficult to catch or prove. Often, the victims are seriously disabled and vulnerable, and they may be unable to tell someone about the incident or even remember the incident at all. If they do manage to tell someone, their credibility may be undermined by the nursing home itself, denying that the incident happened and blaming the victim’s disability for causing them to lie or imagine things. Because of this, more and more nursing home residents and their families are installing cameras in nursing homes to monitor interactions between staff and the resident and look for instances of abuse.

Sometimes, these cameras can be the sole reason why a negligent nursing home is held responsible for the abuse that occurs in their facility. For example, a recent Minnesota nursing home recently discovered a video of a caregiver physically and verbally abusing a severely disabled resident. According to a local news report covering the incident, the staff member taunted the resident with derogatory and humiliating language, calling them vulgar names and asking them “do you think you have a hole in your brain?” The video also shows the caregiver tapping the resident’s face “in a slapping-type motion.” Without the video, the incident may never have been uncovered; the resident is partially paralyzed and has lost the ability to understand or express speech, and it is highly unlikely that they ever would have reported it themselves.

Fortunately for Maryland residents, the state’s laws allow a resident, or their family with the resident’s permission, to place hidden video cameras in the resident’s room. These video cameras can increase transparency in nursing homes and make it easier to catch incidents of abuse when they happen. They can also make it easier to pursue a resulting personal injury claim against the nursing home. Many personal injury cases against nursing homes likely would not have been won without video evidence, since the nursing home generally denies that any abuse occurred, and it can be difficult without hard evidence for plaintiffs to prove otherwise. Maryland is one of only a handful of states that allow video camera installation in nursing homes, and the nursing home industry actively fights against similar laws in other states.

When it comes time to place a loved one into a Maryland nursing home, families should be aware of the danger of abuse and neglect in nursing homes across the state. Choosing a nursing home is an incredibly important decision, and, unfortunately, failure to research homes carefully can result in placing a loved one in a substandard institution.

To make this process easier on families, Medicare.com offers information on every Medicaid and Medicare certified nursing home in Maryland. Maryland nursing homes must comply with state and federal regulations, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services make sure that facilities are following these standards. On their Nursing Home Compare website, families searching for a safe institution for their loved one can search for nursing homes by state, zip code, or city. For each certified nursing home, the website offers detailed information, including ratings ranging from zero to five stars on how the nursing home does on health inspections, taking care of their residents, staffing, and more. This information can be crucial in deciding between two local nursing homes, for example.

Importantly, this website will also notify you if there has been a recent incident of abuse or neglect in the nursing home where the resident was either injured or could have been injured. Unfortunately, nursing home abuse is far too common, and residents placed in substandard institutions are at risk of being neglected, abused verbally, physically, or sexually, or harmed from inferior safety protocols. When incidents such as these come to the attention of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, however, the nursing homes involved are “flagged”. For example, according to a recent report, five nursing homes in San Antonio, Texas were flagged earlier this month for several instances of abuse and neglect, alerting potential customers to these problems. While it is tragic that these instances occur, it is important that families considering placing their loved one in a nursing home research institutions carefully so they are aware of the potential problems.

When a family member places their loved one in a Maryland nursing home, they are doing so to protect and care for their family member. However, unfortunately, each year thousands of nursing home residents report abuse or neglect in their institutions. There may even be more incidents than we are aware of, because many victims are unable to report their injuries, or are not believed when they do report. Unfortunately, there has been an increase in the rate of Maryland nursing home abuse. This is due in part to the aging population and an increase in life expectancy across the country.

Nursing home abuse can cause severe physical and psychological injury to the victims and their families. For instance, an 86-year-old woman was recently severely injured while staying in a nursing home. According to a local news report covering the incident, it is unknown exactly what happened to the resident, who suffered severe injuries to her face, including a broken nose, double fractures in her face, and stitches. Her son claims that his mother was assaulted, although the nursing home insists that she fell and there was no abuse.

Tragically, this is not the first time that the victim was injured from alleged nursing home abuse. Reportedly, she has told her son multiple times that her aides in the nursing home have been rough with her and hit her, causing noticeable bruising. Her son is heartbroken, having had to place his mother in the facility after she broke her hip and become totally disabled. An investigation is in progress.

Maryland nursing home abuse takes a significant physical and psychological toll on the victims and their families. Recently, a national news outlet reported on a disturbing nursing home abuse case. Evidently, nursing home aides were accused of abusing a resident, recording the incident, and posting it on SnapChat. Maryland nursing home residents may face these situations, and families must be aware of this type of abuse.

Historically, people thought nursing home abuse to be mostly physical in nature. However, verbal abuse and public shaming through social media is a very real form of abuse in today’s society. Some common signs that a loved one is suffering from abuse or neglect are weight loss, changes in temperament, and unexplained injuries. However, sadly, many elderly victims suffer from severe memory loss or dementia and may not be able to recall the abuse. If a family suspects abuse and emergency medical treatment is needed, the family should contact police officials.

Additionally, the family should gather information to substantiate their claim of abuse or neglect. Loved ones should take photos, speak with other residents, and save anything that may contain evidence. Evidence gathering includes taking screenshots of any internet posts and keeping videos posted on social media platforms. Loved ones must be removed from an unsafe living arrangement. Finally, families should contact a Maryland nursing home abuse attorney to discuss their rights and remedies.

Arbitration clauses are very popular in the nursing home industry. Arbitration is a way to resolve a legal dispute without using the court system. Generally, arbitration is quicker and less expensive than a traditional lawsuit. At first glance, this may seem like a good alternative for many Maryland nursing home residents who want to bring a case against a negligent or abusive nursing home employee. However, arbitration typically favors the nursing home and should be avoided whenever possible.

Often, the paperwork presented to a prospective resident or the loved one in charge of their care contains an arbitration clause. These clauses essentially waive a resident’s right to pursue a case against the nursing home in court for any claim brought against the nursing home. However, nursing home residents are not provided anything waiving this right, and should carefully consider whether it is a right they want to waive.

Arbitration involves an independent arbitrator who hears the claim and renders a decision. The arbitrator that will hear the case is determined by the nursing home, and is typically included in the arbitration clause. Arbitration hearings often have strict time frames and relaxed rules of evidence, allowing savvy nursing homes who are familiar with the process and its rules to effectively defend against cases brought by residents. In a way, this gives nursing homes the “home-field advantage.”

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.

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