Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse

Selecting a good nursing home or care facility for loved ones can be a stressful and complicated process. It is important to know that our most vulnerable family members are being placed in a caring, comfortable, and safe environment. Unfortunately, recent events have left many nursing and care homes with a lack of staffing, training deficiencies, and supply shortages. When nursing homes fail to meet the basic requirements of care for residents, they must be held accountable.

According to a recent news report, the attorney general’s office of Vermont has reached a settlement with the operator of four residential care homes in the Rutland area over allegations it failed to properly train staff and adequately document and monitor the delivery of services. The investigation began in December of 2020 and found that the care home operator, Our House, failed to properly supervise the administration of medication, protect residents from abuse, properly supervise and train staff, and ensure that allegations of abuse were timely and properly reported.

In the settlement agreement, Our House did not dispute the facts but instead denied liability. Our House stated that additional information would show a lack of intent and that it didn’t believe it violated any state or federal law. Under the settlement agreement, Our House is required to implement new trainings and compliance practices to prevent further similar issues at their facilities. If they fail to meet the standards of the settlement agreement over the next three years, Our House will be required to pay $40,000 in damages and penalties.

Maryland nursing homes typically include an arbitration agreement requirement amongst hundreds of papers that residents and their families review and sign upon admission. These agreements purport to reduce the likelihood that the parties need to be embroiled in lengthy legal disputes. However, the crux of these documents stands to protect the nursing home in cases of allegations of abuse or neglect. In many cases, Maryland nursing home abuse victims and their families will try and invalidate an arbitration clause in order to proceed with a civil legal claim. However, these cases present two-fold challenges; first, the plaintiff must establish that the arbitration clause is invalid, and then they must still prove negligence in the courts. A skilled nursing home abuse attorney can help families successfully work their way through these daunting claims.

Families of nursing home residents continue to fight against the deceptive admissions process that many nursing and assisted living facilities to engage in. For instance, a recent article described a situation where a woman’s mother passed away following a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. The woman discovered that her mother had suffered a broken shoulder without any x-rays or treatment. Further, medical documentation revealed that her mother fell at least nine times and suffered multiple urinary tract infections. These injuries led to her mother losing nearly 20 pounds. In response, the woman attempted to file a nursing home negligence lawsuit against the facility, but she was met with a pre-dispute binding arbitration agreement document. She is now encouraging families to assert their rights to decline to sign these agreements.

Are Nursing Home Arbitration Agreements Enforceable?

Lawsuits asking the court to compel arbitration are generally viewed as “favored actions.” As such, courts will lean towards enforcing arbitration agreements. Generally, the court will look to whether there is a valid agreement to compel arbitration. If so, the parties are bound by the terms of the agreement. However, despite these challenges, an attorney can help families overcome these inherently unfair and often deceptive agreements.

Trusting the care of our loved ones to a nursing home is always easier when you have faith in the facilities and staff members. As family members and loved ones in Maryland age, they can sometimes require more care than is available at home, making nursing homes a necessary step to allow them to age gracefully. Unfortunately, due to recent events and hiring levels, many nursing homes are understaffed and or under-resourced. Any location that your loved ones go to must be fully prepared to take care of their physical, emotional, and mental health.

According to a recent news article, nearly a third of all nursing homes are rated as below average. Reasons for below-average ratings can range from overcrowding to substandard care or worse. It is important to research and look out for certain common issues that can be found in nursing homes throughout Maryland. Here are three issues to consider before selecting a nursing home for your family member or loved one:

Staff availability. Not only is it vital to verify that the nursing home you select is staffed at an appropriate level, but nursing homes offer a variety of staff availability levels throughout the day, ranging from around-the-clock care to less hands-on shift times. Additionally, good long-term care locations will offer registered nurses on duty and licensed practical nurses available on request.

As Americans age, the instances of mental and psychological illnesses and adverse events tend to increase. Mental health care can be a delicate challenge in any case, but may be even more problematic in nursing homes. Residents with certain psychological or behavioral issues may be diagnosed and treated for a more severe mental illness without medical justification. Although the reasons for these misdiagnoses may vary, the U.S. The Federal Government, through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, recently released guidelines to prevent this misdiagnosis and treatment in facilities that accept federal money.

What Leads to Misdiagnoses in Maryland Nursing Homes?

The reasons that nursing home residents may be misdiagnosed with a severe mental illness vary, but the most concerning reasons are based on behavior control. Anecdotal evidence from nursing home employees has suggested that a difficult resident could be more easily controlled by diagnosing them with schizophrenia and administering them strong antipsychotic medications. This method of behavior management is unethical and illegal, but many nursing home residents and their families are not aware of the misdiagnoses that are occurring. In the past two decades, the diagnosis and treatment of schizophrenia among nursing home residents has drastically increased. This appears to be the result of a pattern of misdiagnosis and overmedication of patients.

When we send our loved ones to a nursing home or they choose to head to one on their own, we trust that the staff at these facilities will take care of them as we would. This, however, is not always the case. Unfortunately, some nursing home facilities can often be abusive toward its residents—and create situations dangerous for the physical, mental, emotional, and financial health our loved ones.

According to a recent news report, more than a dozen residents had to be relocated amid allegations of abuse at an assisted living facility. Based on an investigation, reports from as far back as 2018 showed previous rule violations such as strong urine odors at the facility, a failure of the facility’s staff to store perishable foods properly, and a failure to properly supervise a resident with dementia. Following recent allegations of elder abuse at the facility, state regulators shut the nursing home down. According to local authorities, criminal charges are possible, but nothing has been filed yet. Details into the allegations and the health of the residents who had to be transferred to other facilities remains under investigation.

What Are the Signs of Elder Abuse?

Because abuse takes many different forms, the signs of abuse can also vary. Some things to look out for include your loved one suddenly becoming isolated from friends and family, unexplained burns, scars, or bruises, new signs of depression and confusion, preventable conditions such as bed sores, or recent changes in spending patterns.

With the holidays fully upon us, many families are making plans to gather to celebrate the season. For those of us with loved ones in nursing homes, it also is likely you are planning a visit for the holidays. These visits are important both for family bonding and catching up, but also as an opportunity to ensure that our seniors are remaining safe, well taken care of, and looked after by the staff in nursing homes.

Unfortunately, even during a joyous and cheery holiday period, nursing home abuse continues to be a major issue—and Maryland residents are no stranger to these challenges. Regardless of the season, nursing home abuse affects thousands of families in each year. With as many as five million seniors affected by elder abuse every year, it is crucial that holiday visits are rich in family time, but also in ensuring that your loved ones are not experiencing any type of abuse at the hands of other residents, family members, or nursing home staff.

Being proactive during nursing home visits can sometimes be challenging, especially if you do not know what exactly to look for. It is crucial to understand who is at risk and who the common perpetrators of abuse are.

Under Maryland, law nurses may be liable for medical malpractice if they fail to do what a reasonable nurse would do in a similarly situated circumstance, and a patient suffers harm as a result of that negligence. Many people think of medical malpractice claims in the context of a physician error; however, nursing is a critical part of a patient’s care, and deviance from appropriate care can have disastrous and deadly consequences. In most cases, these claims would fall under the nurses’ medical insurance coverage, the physician’s insurance, or the hospital’s medical malpractice coverage.

What Can Lead to A Medical Malpractice Case Against a Nursing Home?

There are many different errors or a combination of mistakes that can result in a patient’s injuries. However, the leading causes involve medication errors and failure to monitor. While a physician holds the primary responsibility for prescribing a medication, nurses must ensure that they properly administer medications. This is critically important in hospital settings where nurses often use a dispensing cabinet to retrieve the medication. While these cabinets have many safeguards, the nature of a busy hospital often leads to nurses bypassing some of these protections. In these cases, nurses may run the risk of retrieving the wrong medication or dosage. Administering the wrong medication, too much medication, or the failure to administer medication can have deadly consequences on vulnerable patients. Furthermore, nurses may be liable if they fail to assess, monitor, and communicate a patient’s medical condition. Appropriate documentation and communication to the health team are critical to a patient’s well-being.

When we send our loved ones to a nursing home, we expect them to be given the attention and quality care they deserve. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, however, many nursing homes have had to shut their doors to visitors as elderly residents have presented as high-risk for catching the virus, leaving abuse and neglect often concealed behind closed doors. As a result of outbreaks and quarantines, many facilities also became short-staffed—and many elderly residents suffered as a result.

According to a recent news report, a nursing home was fined $27,739 after elderly residents were neglected following staffing shortages. Based on a report released by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the nursing home left residents with bedsores in their waste for up to eight hours at a time. In addition, the nursing home failed to protect residents from emotional and physical harm, abuse, and mental anguish. With more than 100 cases of COVID-19—including 37 staffers—reported at the nursing home during an outbreak earlier this year, the facility became even more short-staffed than ever before, with no registered nurses or supervising staff available to keep an eye on residents. At one point, there was only one certified nursing assistant per 53 residents, which prevented vital sign monitoring every few hours for significantly ill residents.

Unfortunately, Maryland is no stranger to similar elder abuse and neglect and staffing challenges in its nursing homes. In addition, many elderly Maryland nursing home residents have been subject to different kinds of physical, emotional, and sexual 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.

Do Nursing Homes Unnecessarily Medicate Residents?

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. This is considered nursing home abuse.

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