Articles Posted in Nursing Home Negligence

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.

There are many reasons that Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect might go unnoticed for a significant period of time. Often, the victims themselves are vulnerable or even disabled, making it hard for them to report or explain what is happening to them. In some cases, they may not even be able to understand it themselves. Sometimes, their loved ones visiting might suspect that something is wrong, but with some nursing homes limiting and restricting visitation due to the COVID-19 pandemic loved ones may be unable to check-in, and abuse and neglect may continue to fly under the radar. Precisely because this abuse and neglect can fly under the radar for so long, it can be shocking and heartbreaking once family members do discover it. Family members of an abused nursing home resident may find themselves wondering—what do I do now?

For example, take a recent account of a nursing home where multiple residents were found neglected or otherwise harmed. According to a news article, one of the incidents happened in March of 2020. A resident in the home was found to have a bruised face, with a huge gash on her forehead and a lump “the size of a golf ball,” according to her daughter. Police were called to the home to investigate and were concerned about possible abuse happening in the facility. A subsequent investigation found that between 2019 and 2020 there were 272 calls to 911 from the home, with a range of concerning incidents. For example, firefighters once found an injured resident alone lying on the floor and asking for help. When they asked why no one was helping, the woman in charge laughed. In another instance, a patient’s ventilator was not working correctly. Firefighters who responded found that none of the electrical outlets were working in the room. These are just some of the concerning instances that can happen in Maryland nursing homes and sometimes go unnoticed by authorities or loved ones.

When residents’ families discover this abuse or neglect, they often wonder what to do next to protect their loved ones, stop the harm, and hold the nursing home accountable. In the case of the nursing home above, police were called in to investigate. While calling the police can be an important step to take in these circumstances, it is important to remember that criminal charges, while they can hold the nursing home accountable for their harm, do little to actually help those most harmed by the facility’s actions. That’s why many families decide to also file a personal injury lawsuit. These lawsuits have the goal of helping those injured. While they cannot undo the damage that has been done, they can ensure that the victim and their family are given the financial compensation they deserve for their pain and suffering, their medical bills, and other related expenses.

Establishing causation in a Maryland nursing home case can be difficult, particularly because residents are often sick when they enter the home. With residents that were already sick, it can be difficult to prove that the nursing home’s neglect or abuse caused the resident’s injuries or death or accelerated them. Additionally, residents also may be unable to testify because they lack competency or have already passed.

A plaintiff in a nursing home negligence case in Maryland must prove that the nursing home’s negligent act or failure to act was both a cause-in-fact of the resident’s injuries and a legally cognizable cause. Proving the cause-in-fact means showing that but-for the nursing home’s negligent conduct, the resident’s injuries would not have resulted. In cases where more than one factor may have caused the resident’s injuries or death, Maryland courts use the substantial factor test. Under this test, a court will consider whether the nursing home’s conduct was a substantial factor causing the plaintiff’s injuries.

Proving that the defendant’s conduct was a legally cognizable cause means demonstrating that the defendant’s conduct was sufficiently related to the injuries that the defendant should be held liable. Courts may consider whether the resulting injuries were a foreseeable consequence of the defendant’s conduct and whether holding the defendant liable would be fair under the circumstances. A plaintiff must prove causation (and other elements of the claim) under the preponderance of the evidence standard, which requires showing that it is more probable than not that the defendant’s negligent act caused the plaintiff’s injuries. It is insufficient that it is a mere possibility that the defendant’s conduct caused the resident’s injuries.

After the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many families were prevented from visiting their loved ones living in Maryland nursing homes. Visits often serve as a time when families can spend time with their loved ones, and also observe their loved one’s condition in-person. Some advocates claim that there has been a surge in reports of neglect among nursing home residents. Federal data reflects that almost 30 percent of nursing homes report staff shortages now across the United States. Nineteen percent of nursing homes in Maryland report a shortage of nurses and/or aides.

Federal regulations established through the creation of Medicare and Medicaid allow federal oversight of many nursing homes. Even before the pandemic, in surveys conducted from January 2019 through March 2020, 39% of facilities had incidents with suspected or alleged reports of abuse, neglect, or misappropriation of property. Yet, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) actually suspended survey activities last March except in some circumstances. More recent guidance allows for survey activities to resume if the state has progressed in its reopening plan or at the state’s discretion. Nursing homes have a responsibility to care for their residents, keep residents safe from harm, and prevent abuse and neglect. Claims can be filed against facilities in cases where nursing homes or staff members have abused or neglected a resident.

Local Group Calls for Reform of Nursing Homes

It’s hard to believe that Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect occurs. When individuals place their families in a nursing home, they expect that the home and the staff will take care of them, look after them, and keep them safe. Families place loved ones in a facility to be cared for because their aging family member can no longer care for themselves. That is one of the reasons the reality of Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect is so tragic, and it can be difficult for individuals to wrap their minds around.

A recent tragic example of nursing home abuse was reported last month, concerning a 91-year-old disabled woman. According to a local news report, the incident occurred late at night and into the early morning, when one staff member put the resident on the toilet inside of her apartment at 8:20 PM. The staff member instructed another caregiver to put the resident to bed once she was finished. But the caregiver never did. Instead, the resident was left on the toilet. She was not found until more than six hours had passed, around 2:45 AM, at which point she was on the floor. The whole ordeal was captured on video by a camera that her daughter had placed in her room. In the video, the woman could be heard moaning, crying, and repeatedly saying, “help me.” To add insult to injury, the two employees were caught on video surveillance cameras in a dining room, taking selfies for over an hour, according to an arrest report.

In addition, the resident’s daughter told investigators that this was not the first time her mother was left on the floor of her apartment. Once before, her mother had been left for five hours—a concerning pattern.

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