Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse

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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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.

Unlike 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.

When 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.

The 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.

“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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