Articles Posted in Nursing Home News

Abuse and neglect are serious problems in Maryland nursing homes, and in nursing homes across the country. Earlier this month, prosecutors who initially filed criminal charges against two nurses based on the allegedly negligent care they provided to residents asked the judge to dismiss the case. According to a local news report, despite the nurses’ claims that they had been taking care of a resident, video evidence showed that they did not step foot in her room for 17 hours. The video also showed that the nurses repeatedly left the elderly woman naked in her bed with the door wide open.hospital

Evidently, after the family discovered the nursing home neglect, they reported it to the authorities, and charges were initially filed. However, prosecutors recently asked the judge to dismiss the case in favor of allowing the state board of nursing to handle any disciplinary sanctions. The board would have the power to revoke the nurses’ licenses and place them on the registry of known abusers.

Although the prosecutors did not come right out and say it, what seems to be motivating their decision is the fact that in Iowa, where the abuse occurred, there is no statute allowing nursing home residents to install cameras to monitor staff. Thus, the prosecutors may be fearful that if they brought the case, the video would be inadmissible at trial, and this may create a bad precedent moving forward.

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Nursing homes are not necessarily known for their focus on patient safety. To the contrary, some Maryland nursing homes have lengthy records of fines and other citations for failing to comply with state requirements or, worse yet, instances of patient abuse or neglect. One may expect that it would be an easy task to find the allegations made against a nursing home prior to making the decision to place a loved on in their care; however, this is not necessarily the case.

Using a WalkerNursing homes take every effort to conceal allegations, especially those involving substantiated claims of neglect or abuse. One way nursing homes are able to do this is through settling such claims out of court with the stipulation that the other party will not discuss the terms of the negotiations or make the allegations public. However, nursing homes are not able to legally keep these records from state and federal agencies.

According to a news report, one North Carolina company that operates several nursing homes in the state was fined more than $567,000 over the past three years after hidden cameras revealed that staff members were abusing residents. The company owns 16 nursing homes, six of which were fined. The largest of the fines was over $234,000.

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Despite the increase in attention that Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect have received over the past several years, instances of nursing home abuse continue to occur. Indeed, according to a local news report, one state’s lawmakers have begun a push for stricter reporting requirements for allegations of nursing home sexual abuse.

Nursing Home BedEvidently, lawmakers in Missouri have proposed House Bill 1635, which, if passed, would make reporting sexual abuse to law enforcement mandatory. Currently, state law only requires nursing homes to report the abuse to the state agencies involved in overseeing elder care.

The article discusses the tragic account of a 93-year-old nursing home resident, who was raped by a staff member and then died the following day. After the resident’s death, the nursing home reported the abuse to the state but not to the prosecuting authority. The family, believing the nursing home reported the incident to the police, did not report the abuse either.

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Earlier last year, the current administration rolled back certain regulations that the Obama administration put into place regarding the issuance of Civil Money Penalties (CMPs) to nursing homes that were found to have provided inadequate care to residents. Essentially, the regulations allowed for the federal government to fine nursing homes that were not in compliance, including Maryland nursing homes.

Signed LetterThose in favor of the rollbacks claimed that the additional regulations took caregivers’ attention away from residents, requiring that they focus on meeting the regulatory framework set forth by the lawmakers. However, in reality, it seems as though the rollback of the previous regulations has merely allowed for nursing homes to act with impunity as it relates to the level of care they provide to residents.

According to a recent news article, 17 state attorneys general – including those in Washington, D.C. and Virginia – authored a letter to the Trump administration. The letter discusses the importance of senior care, noting that by 2060, the number of people dependent on skilled nursing facilities is expected to double. This means that one in three people will find themselves in a nursing home at some point in their life. Given the fact that about 35% of all nursing homes were cited for a violation of the quality of care being provided to residents, these figures are alarming to say the least.

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Nursing home residents are one of society’s most vulnerable populations. Often, residents have a reduced ability to advocate for themselves due to their health issues, and they may have little contact with the outside world. Thus, Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect is not often reported, and when it is reported, nursing home administration too often ignore the complaints. Even when nursing home administration reports a complaint, the Maryland government is often slow to respond.

Legal BooksThe State of Maryland Nursing Homes

According to a recent government study, Maryland ranks seventh-worst in the nation for on-time investigation of nursing home complaints. Perhaps because of that fact, Maryland nursing homes are notorious for the level of care they provide. In fact, reports of Maryland nursing home abuse rose 25% between 2016 and 2017. And with about 15% of nursing home residents and their families saying they would not recommend the nursing home that houses their family member, it seems that some instances of abuse and neglect are going unreported or uninvestigated. However, two pending bills hope to improve Maryland’s response time to complaints of nursing home abuse and neglect.

A recent news report discusses two proposed bills. Under proposed Senate Bill 386, the Maryland Department of Health would have 10 days to respond to a report of nursing home abuse or neglect that resulted in actual patient harm. If the report indicates that there is an immediate threat to a resident, the Department must initiate an investigation within 24 hours and begin the investigation within 48 hours. The proposed bill would also add 10 full-time employees to the state’s Office of Health Care Quality.

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When a nursing home employee engages in abuse of a patient, two different types of lawsuits can follow. First, the local state government can opt to criminally prosecute the individual nursing home employee. If the employee is found guilty, they may face fines, probation, or even incarceration.

Reading the BibleThe other type of Maryland nursing home lawsuit is a civil case for damages. A civil lawsuit, also known as a personal injury lawsuit, is brought by the victim of the abuse or their family member, rather than by the local prosecuting authority. In addition, the focus of the case is not so much on the employee’s violation of the law, but instead on whether the employee violated a duty of care he owed to the nursing home resident. Importantly, even if a criminal lawsuit is not pursued, a nursing home resident or their family member may pursue a civil nursing home abuse lawsuit on their own.

If successful, a nursing home resident or their family may recover compensation for the injuries sustained by the abused resident. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the abuse, compensation may include amounts for past and future medical expenses, loss of enjoyment, decrease in quality of life, and any pain and suffering caused by the abuse. In some cases, punitive damages may also be appropriate.

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While Maryland nursing homes all have a duty to provide a safe place for residents, nursing home management routinely makes decisions that put residents at risk. Last year, in the wake of Hurricane Irma, 12 people died in a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida. According to reports at the time, the nursing home’s management had failed to secure a back-up power source in the days leading up to Hurricane Irma’s arrival. When Hurricane Irma came in as strong as expected and knocked out power in the area, the nursing home residents were left in 90-degree heat with no air conditioning.

ThermometerIn all, 12 nursing home residents died, most from dehydration or heat exhaustion. A subsequent investigation revealed that the temperature in the nursing home exceeded 99 degrees in some areas.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the State of Florida moved to revoke the nursing home’s license. Of course, the nursing home is contesting the revocation of its license. As a part of the process, an attorney for the nursing home recently deposed a lieutenant with the Hollywood Fire Department. According to a recent article, the lieutenant’s answers to many of the questions – including whether she saw other nursing home residents who seemed to be suffering from the heat – were “I don’t recall.”

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When a Maryland nursing home accepts a resident into its care, the home takes on a responsibility to provide a certain level of care to the resident. Of course, this includes ensuring that the resident’s most basic physical and health-care needs are met, but it also requires that the home maintain the facility in a safe and clean manner. When nursing home management fails to live up to this standard, the home may be held liable through a Maryland nursing home negligence lawsuit.

Nursing Home HallwayMany nursing homes accept financial assistance from the federal government, through programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. By doing so, the nursing home also takes on an obligation to provide the type of care to residents that the government expects. A recent news article discusses a federal lawsuit that was recently settled after disturbing discoveries were made regarding the condition of the facilities.

The allegations arose from inspections that occurred back in 2008 and 2009. Inspectors noted that the home was infested with rats, mice, and cockroaches. One resident’s account was truly shocking. Evidently, the bedridden resident was complaining of leg pain to nursing home staff. When the staff member pulled back the blankets covering the resident’s lower body, a snake jumped out at her.

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Given the rash of Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect allegations that have been made over the past decade, it is no surprise that families of nursing home residents are concerned about their loved ones’ safety. In fact, the growing concern has led a number of states – including Maryland – to allow for the families of residents to place hidden video cameras in their loved ones’ rooms. Of course, in order to do so, the family member must obtain their loved one’s permission.

CameraThe use of video recording in nursing homes has greatly increased transparency in an industry that is known for denying liability in the face of all kinds of allegations. In fact, there have been substantiated cases of nursing home abuse in which the employee initially denies the abuse occurred, only to be confronted with a video that shows otherwise.

A recent news article discusses the video evidence captured by the family of one man who died from complications related to stage three pressure ulcers that he developed while in a nursing home. According to the article, a concerned daughter placed a hidden camera in her father’s room. The video showed a nursing attendant forcefully trying to get the elderly man off the bed and pushing him into a wheelchair. Later, the video shows her dousing the man in mouthwash, which contains alcohol and may contribute to pressure ulcers.

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When a Maryland nursing home accepts a resident into its care, the nursing home takes on a responsibility to provide a certain level of care for the resident. In most cases, this duty requires that nursing home staff provide the resident with any care, including medical care, needed by the resident. However, in certain situations, a nursing home’s duty expands, depending on the circumstances.

CaretakerA good example of when a nursing home’s duty can expand is detailed in a recent article discussing a tragic situation in which eight nursing home residents died in the wake of Hurricane Irma, due to a power failure in a nursing home. According to the recent report, despite ample notice of the storm’s severity and the potential for upcoming disaster, the nursing home did not secure any back-up power source.

Thus, when the nursing home lost power a day into the storm, residents were left without the electricity necessary to power medical devices as well as the home’s air conditioning system. By some accounts, temperatures reached up to 106 degrees. Several residents were able to be moved to a hospital that was across the street that had secured back-up generators in anticipation of power loss. However, eight residents died as a result of the power outage in the nursing home.

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