Articles Posted in Nursing Home Cover-Ups

Nursing homes are a necessity of life for many families. Whether an older person doesn’t have any family members who can care for them, their family are too busy, don’t possess the requisite skills, or don’t have the room; hundreds of thousands of people are admitted to nursing homes each year. While most nursing homes hire caring, diligent staff members to care for residents, that is unfortunately not always the case.

When a family sets out to select a nursing home, there is only so much they can do in terms of due diligence. So much of what goes on in a nursing home is behind closed doors. Perhaps it’s not surprising that many nursing homes take affirmative efforts to hide instances of abuse and neglect. However, what’s more concerning is a recent report from the New York Times indicating that the federal government knew about instances of physical and sexual abuse and failed to inform the public.

Do nursing homes have a legal obligation to report abuse and neglect?

Yes, generally, nursing homes are under a legal duty to report abuse and neglect. For example, if one resident physically assaults another requiring the victim to be hospitalized, the nursing home must file a report with the state. One would assume that once a nursing home let federal authorities know of an incident, the government would then make that information public. Indeed, this is exactly the type of information families need when deciding on a nursing home.

Nursing home residents in Maryland deserve to live in a safe and sanitary environment free from abuse and mistreatment. If abuse or certain other incidents occur at a Maryland nursing home, the nursing home is required to report the incident to the state. Facilities that receive federal funding must abide by federal regulations, and under federal regulations, a facility is required to report all allegations of mistreatment, neglect, or abuse, including injuries of unknown sources, and misappropriations of resident property. Incidents must be reported to the state within 24 hours. Maryland nursing homes are required to investigate all allegations of abuse and reports from investigations must be reported to Maryland’s Office of Health Care Qualify within five working days of the alleged violation.

Do Maryland Nursing Homes Have a Duty to Stop Abusive Staff Members?

Yes, Maryland nursing homes are required to have policies and procedures in place to keep residents safe and free from abuse. Abuse can include physical and mental abuse, exploitation, or neglect. This includes abuse conducted by staff members as well as other residents. Facilities that fail to report abuse are subject to fines and other sanctions. Victims of abuse may be able to receive financial compensation through a Maryland nursing home claim.

Nursing Home Faulted for Failing to Report Suicide Attempt

Recently, a nursing home was cited after it failed to report a suicide attempt as required. According to one news source, the facility reportedly failed to report a suicide attempt in which the resident had attempted to wrap sheets and cords around their neck. No internal investigation was conducted and the facility failed to report the incident to the health department as required. The recent inspection also revealed that a staff member borrowed $200 from a resident, which was also a violation. The staff member was supposed to repay the money in monthly installments and when the staff failed to make a payment, the resident complained to the facility. Yet, the facility failed to report the misappropriation of the resident’s money. The facility was also faulted for failing to report physical abuse among residents and failing to provide enough supervision and assistance to prevent accidents among residents. The facility was placed on a government list of the nation’s worst nursing homes earlier this year which included 86 nursing homes across the U.S.

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As Maryland nursing homes and nursing homes across the country shut their doors to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people worried how it would affect the residents’ care. Without visits, families may not be able to observe their loved ones up close and speak to them in private. In addition, Maryland nursing homes have struggled with staff shortages during the pandemic, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) also suspended certain investigations during the pandemic.

During the pandemic, there have been reports of an increase in reports of neglect in nursing homes. Some families claim that the pandemic has put their loved ones at risk because they cannot monitor their loved one’s care and well being. It can be difficult to detect neglect in some cases, especially without the ability to visit a resident in person. Many residents have underlying health issues and may not understand or express that they are being neglected. Families can still look for signs of neglect such as poor personal hygiene, lack of mobility, unexplained injuries, changes in appearance, and psychological distress. If a resident has been the victim of abuse or neglect, the resident or the resident’s family may be able to file a claim against the nursing home for negligence. After a resident’s death, a family can also file a claim for wrongful death.

Virginia Nursing Home Investigated for Neglect After Police Reports Filed

In the event of the death of a resident at a Maryland nursing home, the resident’s family may be able to recover compensation through a Maryland wrongful death lawsuit.  However, determining fault in a nursing home abuse or neglect case is not always straightforward, and the assistance of a skilled personal injury lawyer can be an invaluable asset to families who are unfamiliar with the process.

Maryland’s Wrongful Death Act allows family members to file a civil claim against parties at fault for the decedent’s untimely death. A wrongful death claim is intended to compensate family members that have suffered a loss due to the loss of the decedent. It also permits the decedent’s family to hold wrongful actors responsible in the same way that the decedent could have if the decedent had lived.

A wrongful death claim is often filed by a spouse, parent, or child of the decedent. Such plaintiffs are considered “primary” plaintiffs under the Act. Only a primary plaintiff can file a wrongful death claim, if one exists. If the decedent does not have a living spouse, parent, or child, the claim can be filed by a “secondary” plaintiff. A secondary plaintiff is another individual who was related to the decedent by blood or by marriage and who was substantially dependent upon the decedent.

Maryland’s confirmed COVID-19 cases among residents in Maryland nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have continued to rise over the past weeks. As of May 16, 2020, there are now 5,329 confirmed resident cases and 984 confirmed resident deaths in the state. As cases grow, stories of neglect and substandard care in facilities have also continued.

In one nursing home in northern New Jersey, at least 53 residents have died from COVID-19. According to one news source, the nursing home, Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center II, had one of the largest outbreaks in the state, one of the hardest hit in the nation. Federal and state inspectors began investigating the 543-bed facility after police found 17 bodies piled in a morgue after receiving an anonymous tip that a corpse was stored in a shed. A federal inspection report was released detailing the state of the nursing home, which shows how the pandemic has overtaken nursing homes across the United States. The report’s findings include that one patient was found dead in bed after suffering from a high fever for days—after staff failed to notify a doctor of the patient’s fever. In addition, sick residents who were tested for coronavirus and waiting for the results were not quarantined away from healthy residents. Also, thermometers that employees used to take their temperatures at the beginning of each shift did not work. The report found that the nursing home put its residents in “immediate jeopardy” and the facility was fined $220,000.

The National Guard was called after the facility failed to adequately staff and protect staff and residents. The National Guard members were called in to clean and disinfect the facility. Residents had complained that clothing and bed sheets had not been washed. The facility is temporarily barred from accepting new patients and the facility will continue to accrue penalties until it addresses the issues in the report.

According to a recent news report, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has directed state officials to provide detailed information on COVID-19 cases in Maryland nursing homes and assisted-living facilities and is adding two additional drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites in the state. As of May 2, there are over 24,000 confirmed cases in the state of Maryland, and 1,156 COVID-19 deaths. Maryland currently has the 12th highest rate of COVID-19 cases per capita and the 10th highest death rate per capita in the country. The highest number of cases are in Prince George’s County (7,041), followed by Montgomery County (4,919).

The state maintains a coronavirus resource webpage and has recently begun to publish data on COVID-19 cases in nursing homes and other assisted-living facilities in individual facilities in each county in Maryland. In nursing homes, assisted living homes, and group homes in the state there are now 3,218 confirmed resident cases, 525 resident deaths, 1,489 staff cases, and 8 staff deaths. Right now, Montgomery County has the highest number of total COVID-19 cases in nursing homes, assisted living homes, and group homes. In Montgomery County, there have been 717 confirmed resident cases, 382 confirmed staff cases, 148 resident deaths, and 1 confirmed staff death.

Examples of case information for certain facilities are as follows:

  • Manor Care Silver Spring: 58 resident cases, 17 staff cases, and 16 resident deaths
  • Regency Care of Silver Spring: 50 resident cases, 30 staff cases, and 10 resident deaths
  • Rockville Nursing Home: 36 resident cases, 15 staff cases, and 13 resident deaths
  • Wilson Health Care Center at Asbury Methodist Village: 47 resident cases, 16 staff cases, and 12 resident deaths
  • Brighton Gardens of Tuckerman Lane: 24 resident cases, 16 staff cases, and 8 resident deaths
  • Montgomery Village Health Care Center had 32 resident cases, 11 staff cases, and 8 resident deaths

In addition to five drive-thru testing sites in Bel Air, Columbia, Glen Burnie, Waldorf, and White Oak, the state is adding two additional sites in Owings Mills and Prince Frederick. However, tests are offered only to people who have symptoms and are at high risk for complications from COVID-19—and only for those with an appointment and with an order from a health care provider.
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Despite the concerning rate of COVID-19 (coronavirus) deaths, a recent news report indicates that officials are refusing to provide the public with a comprehensive and accurate list of Maryland nursing homes and long-term facilities where outbreaks have been confirmed. Many nursing home administrators, staff, and residents at these facilities remain in the dark about the presence of the infection at their facilities. Maryland Department of Health officials advised investigators and reporters that public disclosure was up to the local health department. However, many local health departments declined to release the names of affected facilities, reasoning that they need authorization from the state to share the information. This lack of transparency has added to the public’s fear and confusion about how to protect themselves and their loved ones. Maryland nursing homes that fail to engage in appropriate disease prevention practices and do not provide the public with crucial health and safety information may be liable for the spread of disease at their facilities.

Maryland nursing homes and long-term care facilities must limit the spread of disease and infection by taking precautions and acting quickly when an outbreak emerges. It is especially important because nursing home populations are at the highest risk of being affected by COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides these facilities with guidance on how to keep COVID-19 from entering their facilities, identifying infections, preventing the spread of COVID-19, accessing personal protective equipment, and managing severe illnesses.

The guidelines make it clear that one of the most critical components of disease control is providing residents and staff with information about the disease. Staff and residents should receive education and training about signs, symptoms, and potential outbreaks. Further, residents and families should have information about what the facility is doing to protect their loved ones. Some common ways to limit the spread of disease are restricting visitors, reinforcing adherence to infection prevention, and implementing non-punitive, flexible sick policies for staff. These Maryland facilities must act swiftly to implement all of these recommendations before cases are identified at their locations. Maryland nursing homes that fail to engage in these safe practices and refuse to provide this crucial information may leave their residents and staff vulnerable to exposure and severe illness.

Maryland nursing home plaintiffs must prove that the nursing home staff or management was somehow negligent or involved in some type of wrongdoing before they are able to recover compensation for their loved one’s injuries through a Maryland nursing home case. However, this can be difficult in some cases. For example, residents often have mental incapacities that prevent or restrict them from reporting or testifying about abuse, and it can be hard to uncover evidence corroborating the abuse. That being said, there are a number of ways in which abuse can be corroborated.

For example, a facility may have resident records that make reference to an incident. In fact, federal law requires that nursing facilities maintain clinical records for all residents, and the records must be kept for at least five years. A facility’s failure to keep records may be used against the facility in court. Another potential source of information is other nursing home records apart from the resident’s records, such as employee schedules or training manuals that show whether a facility had adequate staff, training, and procedures in place at the time of the incident.

A resident’s statements about the incidents to others may also be admissible in some situations. Other residents or guests may have observed incidents or other issues within the facility. Expert witnesses can also testify about the facility’s training and procedures or a resident’s injuries, for example. Sometimes, there is video inside the facility or photographs that were taken after the incident.

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Over the past few months, there have been a number of nursing home abuse and neglect cases involving nursing home employees or management attempting to cover up the allegations made against them. Unfortunately, in some cases, this has turned out to be a successful tactic to evade liability, albeit through illegal and immoral means.

As a general rule, parties must preserve all of the evidence, including physical documents, emails, and even text messages, that may be relevant to a case as soon as that party has notice that a case was filed. This is because the opposing party is entitled to review all of the relevant documents through the process of pre-trial discovery.

Pre-Trial Discovery in Nursing Home Cases

In nursing home abuse and neglect cases in particular, pre-trial discovery is an integral process for the plaintiff. This is because there is likely little way for the plaintiff to have any knowledge of what goes on inside the walls of the nursing home, especially when the plaintiff’s loved one suffers from dementia or some other illness that affects their memory or ability to communicate.

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Despite the fact that sexual assaults occur in nursing homes across the country on a routine basis, claims of sexual abuse are consistently too slow to be reported to authorities or investigated by nursing homes when claims are made by residents. According to an in-depth investigation conducted by CNN, most cases of sexual assault in nursing homes do not make it out of the nursing home. This is due in part to the fear of nursing home management that the disclosure of any sexual abuse may result in legal liability.

According to the report, more than 16,000 cases of sexual assault have been reported against nursing home employees since 2000. However, that figure is believed to be much lower than the actual rates of sexual abuse, due to the gap in reporting. It is believed that many victims of nursing home sexual abuse do not report the abuse for several reasons. For example, many nursing home residents fail to report because they are embarrassed of what happened to them. Sadly, those who do report their abuse are often met with skepticism by staff and sometimes even family members.

Another reason why the statistics of abuse may be lower than in reality is that many times nursing homes insist that any out-of-court settlement between a resident and the nursing home be kept confidential and be made without the nursing home needing to admit fault. Notwithstanding that reality, the article discovered over 1,000 cases in which nursing homes were cited for failing to prevent or report instances of sexual assault against a resident.

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