Articles Posted in Nursing Home Negligence

For years, policymakers have known about the pervasive presence and impact of nursing home abuse in America. Recently, a bipartisan federal investigation revealed that lacking care for seniors has been disproportionately clustered within less than five percent of the nation’s nursing home facilities.

According to a recent article, poor nursing home care has been clustered among facilities listed under the Special Focus Facility (SFF) program. Facilities listed under the SFF program include the country’s worst-performing institutions, which “substantially fail” to meet basic care standards required by the federal government. Some commentators have noted that SFF nursing homes are considered “repeat offenders” who have a “pattern of neglecting and harming vulnerable residents.” Until recently, landing on the SFF list was shameful—but without proper enforcement or rehabilitation mechanisms in place, many facilities have not been held accountable.

To combat the issue, however, policymakers are stepping up to the plate. Legislative action from Congress could improve and expand quality care in nursing homes not just in Maryland but across the country. A new bill known as the Nursing Home Reform Modernization Act of 2021 proposes to expand the list of monitored facilities, increase resources for facilities that are underperforming, and establish an independent Advisory Council to inform federal agencies how to provide the best care possible and evaluate nursing home facilities.

Placing a loved one in a Maryland nursing home is not an easy decision. However, it is a choice that thousands of Maryland families must make each year. While most nursing homes truly care about the health and wellbeing of residents, that simply isn’t always the case.

According to a recent news report, a state health department report reveals that one nursing home engaged in repeated physical and verbal abuse of residents. Evidently, the nursing home is believed to have abused at least five residents. One instance cited in the report is based on the facility’s failure to provide medication to an elderly resident. Another incident documents the facility’s failure to follow up on allegations of neglect and abuse, allowing the employee suspected of wrongdoing to remain on the job.

Nursing homes not only have a duty to ensure residents are free from abuse, but also to continuously investigate all claims of wrongdoing. For example, if a staff member is alleged to have neglected or assaulted a resident, nursing home management must investigate the matter. Similarly, if one resident acts aggressively towards other residents, management must take affirmative steps to protect other residents.

Instances of nursing home abuse and neglect have been widespread since before 2020 and the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic. The arrival of the novel virus presented many challenges to elder care that have reduced the quality of life of many nursing home residents. Instances of abuse and neglect have also sharply increased since the beginning of 2020. A recent trade publication describes some of the factors and issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic that has put a strain on the nursing home industry and contributed to increased instances of abuse and neglect.

The rise of Covid-19 put a strain on the staffing of nursing homes, assisted living centers, and long-term care facilities. Illness, lockdowns, and travel restrictions made it more difficult for nursing homes to find qualified staff to offer care to their residents. Understaffed nursing homes resulted in residents being neglected as there were simply not enough skilled workers to offer care that met a reasonable standard. In some cases, the needs of residents increased as a result of the lessened social interaction and restrictions on family contact caused by covid-19 restrictions.

Although reduced staff and increased need help explain the uptick in abuse and neglect instances, these explanations do not make a valid justification for substandard care. Nursing home residents who have been victims of abuse or neglect, and their families, are entitled to recourse. Nursing homes often carry malpractice and liability insurance to cover their financial responsibilities in the event of abuse or neglect. The nursing home and long-term care industries contribute billions of dollars in profits to owners and executives, funded by both private payers and the federal government through Medicare and Medicaid. Victims need not shy away from seeking compensation simply because the pandemic made administering nursing homes more difficult for the owners and executives.

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.

Maryland nursing homes and assisted living facilities are tasked with caring for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Families often place their loved ones in the care of these facilities to ensure that their relatives get the critical care they require after a medical event or during the end stages of their lives. These facilities carry a significant amount of responsibility, and the failure to meet appropriate standards can have disastrous consequences on their residents.

Administrators, medical professionals, and other staff members who fail to provide residents with appropriate care may be responsible for the injuries and losses the victim encounters. Many Maryland nursing home abuse and negligence cases stem from the facility’s negligent hiring and retention practices. For example, a state Attorney General’s office recently reached a $90,000 settlement with a nursing home following the facility’s emergency response failures and negligence. According to the announcement, the facility neglected a resident, which resulted in death. Further, the settlement addressed the nursing home’s failure to comply with standard safety regulations and staff competencies. The settlement requires the nursing home company to distribute the funds to a Long-Term Care Facility Quality Improvement Fund. This fund will allow nursing homes to improve the quality of care they provide to residents by ensuring staff competencies and ongoing training.

Negligent hiring claims are relevant when an employer is responsible for failing to engage in a thorough background screening of their employee. Plaintiffs asserting these claims must establish that the employer’s failure to engage in reasonable steps led to the hiring or retaining an incompetent and potentially dangerous employee. Nursing home administrators should conduct a full background check before hiring an employee. These background checks may include reference checks, verification of licenses and educational training, and drug testing.

Most people assume that when they place their loved ones in a Maryland nursing home, they will be well taken care of. But unfortunately, nursing home abuse and neglect is rampant not just in Maryland but across the nation. For instance, one Pennsylvania nursing home recently made headlines when, partially as a result of inadequate staffing, residents were severely neglected and three even died. Recently, the former manager of the home pleaded no contest to recklessly endangering residents, in a shocking story that highlights how sinister nursing home neglect can be.

The misdemeanor charges stem from incidents in 2017, when a state health department inspection, prompted by five complaints, found severe neglect of residents in the home. One patient had “wounds that went down to the bone with exposed tendon.” The facility was severely deficient in caring for wounds, clearly, but also failed to respond to residents who suffered significant weight loss due to not eating, and inadequately responded to acute changes in residents’ medical conditions. One man told reporters that when his brother, who had soft-palate cancer, stayed in the facility, he was repeatedly forced to go eight to sixteen hours without any pain medicine because the facility ran out. The findings of the inspection were so shocking, in fact, that the state health department revoked the facility’s license—a rare step—and installed a temporary manager.

One suspected reason for the neglect? Inadequate staffing. Research has shown that the presence of registered nurses is essential to high-quality care in nursing homes. But, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the former manager of the home cut staffing significantly, which then led to the neglect.

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.

Even if a family has to rely on a nursing home to care for a loved one, the resident still has rights that must be protected by the facility. Maryland nursing home residents have the right to live in a safe environment, free from abuse and neglect. Abuse includes physical and sexual abuse, as well as mental abuse and verbal abuse. Residents also have the right to participate in their health care and treatment to the extent possible. They have the right to consent to or refuse treatment and to be fully informed in advance about treatment and any proposed changes in treatment. They have the right to privacy to make private phone calls and to write and receive mail that will not be opened by anyone else.

In Maryland, the state’s Office of Health Care Quality monitors care in health care facilities across the state. Anyone who suspects abuse or neglect should report it to the Department of Health’s Long Term Care Unit. Federal regulations also require nursing homes to have policies and procedures in place to prevent abuse, neglect, and exploitation and to investigate and report allegations of abuse. But even in cases where no charges are filed against the facility or staff members, injured residents or their families may be able to file a Maryland nursing home lawsuit against the facility. In a negligence case, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the nursing home failed to meet its duty to adequately care for and protect the resident from abuse. Examples of nursing home neglect cases are failing to maintain sanitary living conditions and failing to maintain a resident’s personal hygiene, which can cause serious illness in some residents.

Unfortunately, instances of abuse and neglect are far too common. The state of Massachusetts recently announced a settlement with a nursing home arising from allegations that the nursing home failed to adequately care for residents and failed to ensure that staff members were competent to provide services for residents. A state investigation revealed that between April 2018 and December 2019, the nursing home allegedly failed to adequately train staff members to properly care for certain residents, failed to have the proper equipment to care for certain residents, and failed to prevent the development of pressure ulcers on residents. The state also reached settlements with seven other nursing homes in 2019 after state investigations found that the nursing homes maintained procedures that directly caused the death, injury, or potential injury to residents.

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