Articles Posted in Nursing Home Negligence

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.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) works to investigate, expose, and change human rights violations throughout various parts of the world. Although many people mistakenly believe that the most egregious cases of abuse happen in distant parts of the world, some of the most disturbing abuse cases occur in the United States. Many of these human rights violations involve Maryland nursing homes and assisted living centers for older adults and those with disabilities. A recent report by the HRW revealed that neglect and prolonged isolation of those in nursing homes might have resulted in severe harm to residents.

Reports from independent monitors and interviews from more than 60 people revealed that many nursing home residents suffered dehydration, acute weight loss, bedsores, mental and physical decline, poor hygiene, and inappropriate use of psychotropic medications during this last year. HRW attributes these conditions to inadequate staffing during the pandemic and lack of family oversight because of visitor restrictions. In many cases, family members alert authorities to neglect and abuse occurring at these facilities. Without this additional safeguard, many residents suffered long-term abuse and neglect over the past year.

A researcher at HRW explained that before the pandemic, the government failed to ensure the safety of nursing home residents adequately. The pandemic reflects that these long-standing failures came at a high cost to families. Reports indicate that nearly 40% of COVID-19 deaths occurred at nursing homes. However, these numbers reflect only a portion of the toll that the pandemic took on nursing home residents. Despite the concerns regarding Maryland nursing home residents’ treatment, many laws shield nursing homes from liability for their negligence.

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

Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect is a pervasive problem, affecting many residents and their families each year. In some cases, the abuse and neglect, once discovered, is so severe that law enforcement gets involved, potentially filing criminal charges against the bad actors. This is especially likely to happen when an individual living in a nursing home dies as a result of the abuse or neglect they experienced.

Take, for example, a case where a 69-year-old woman died at her assisted living facility. According to a local news article, the woman developed an ulcer on her right heel in 2017. Her case manager at the facility, a registered nurse, failed to properly assess the ulcer. As a result, a plan of care was never developed and the ulcer worsened into a wound. The woman had to undergo emergency surgery on her right foot, which had become septic and gangrenous. She eventually died, a tragic loss for her family and loved ones. Her case manager has since been charged with elder abuse by neglect and could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

While some may think a criminal charge is a sign of justice in the aftermath of these incidents, and that the wrongs caused will be righted, families who have experienced the loss of a loved one this way often note that the criminal charges do nothing to actually help them recover. That is why many consider filing a civil negligence lawsuit, even when criminal charges are pending, to help them recover for their losses and begin to move on.

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