Articles Posted in Nursing Home News

Under the best of circumstances, it can be difficult to select a good nursing home or care facility for your loved ones. Trusting such institutions to help our loved ones and family members following hospitalizations or for long-term care is a stressful and complicated process. That decision can be even more nerve-wracking when widespread practices of elder abuse, medication errors, and financial abuse are uncovered. When nursing homes and care facilities fail to meet the basic requirements of care for residents, they must be held accountable.

To address this issue, President Biden recently announced a new proposed minimum staffing requirement for nursing homes. Under the administration’s proposal, every taxpayer-funded nursing home would be required to meet minimum staffing requirements to prevent gaps in care. The proposed standards call for every qualified nursing facility to provide a registered nurse on site 24/7 and for every nurse and nurse aide to provide routine bedside care, among other tasks. The proposal stated that research shows that increasing staffing levels saves lives and provides residents with a higher quality of life, preventing needless suffering. The proposal further highlights that despite nursing homes receiving nearly $100 billion annually from American taxpayers, they are too often understaffed, resulting in illness and death for patients. Implementing such changes will bolster current staff members who are struggling to meet the demands of an increasingly large nursing home resident population.

During the pandemic, shortages and insufficient levels of staffing were exposed, and over 200,000 nursing home residents and workers passed away from COVID-19. In recent years, private equity firms have been purchasing nursing homes and cutting key staff in order to increase profits, endangering the safety of nursing home residents in the process.

Selecting the right nursing home or care facility for a family member is a stressful and complicated process. It is vital to know that our most vulnerable loved ones are being placed in a caring, comfortable, and safe environment. Unfortunately, recent events have left many nursing and care homes with a lack of staffing, training deficiencies, and supply shortages. When nursing homes fail to meet the basic requirements of care for residents or worse, they must be held accountable.

According to a recent news report, the attorney general’s office of New York has engaged in an enforcement action against the Cold Spring Hills Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation on Long Island. The action alleges that the owners of Cold Spring Hills created shell companies that illegally diverted more than $22 million in Medicare and Medicaid funds while leaving patients in shocking and inhumane conditions. The lack of treatment led to multiple patients being sent to the hospital, with many dying or suffering from malnutrition, unhygienic conditions, and a complete lack of supervision. In one situation, a diabetic patient was given a wheelchair with no footrests, forcing him to use his feet to drag the chair, resulting in part of his toe being amputated. He would later die at the facility. Another man was admitted to Cold Spring Hills to recover from a car accident, and during his time there lost 30 pounds and was admitted to a hospital with malnutrition and dehydration, a stage 4 sacral pressure injury, and right foot osteomyelitis (an infection in his bone).

How Common is Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect?

According to the advocacy organization Nursing Home Abuse Justice, in 2020, over 15,000 complaints filed with nursing home ombudsmen were about abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, Maryland is no exception to this trend. If you have a loved one or family member in a nursing or long-term care facility, it is vital that you recognize the signs of neglect or abuse and report them promptly to the relevant authorities in order to hold the perpetrators accountable. Signs of abuse range from unexplained bruising to the sudden onset of depression and confusion, or dramatic changes in spending habits. It is important to remember that abuse can be perpetrated by a loved one, caregivers, and staff at a nursing home facility.

Most seniors in the United States are not financially independent, and at least partially rely on federal programs to help them to pay for health care, housing, and other expenses. Because the federal government finances so much of the senior care in the U.S through the Medicare and Social Security programs, the Federal Government has control over the quality of care given to seniors who are patients at facilities that accept Medicare payments. The federal government often uses this regulatory power to require nursing homes to provide better care for their patients.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, an administrative branch of the Federal government, recently released guidelines for nursing home care to address two areas of concern that have arisen in the past few years. Specifically, the CMS guidelines address issues with overcrowding in nursing homes and the lack of appropriate infection control measures being taken to protect patients and residents from infection. These new sets of guidelines wil go into force in October 2022.

Our national experience addressing the Covid-19 pandemic brought problems in nursing homes to the forefront of Americans’ attention. Overcrowded rooms, in conjunction with poor infection control measures, resulted in nursing homes becoming a hotbed for infection during the initial phase of the pandemic. These experiences have taught public health experts lessons, which are reflected in the new guidelines. The CMS established that nursing homes are required to have an infection control specialist staffed onsite at the nursing home for at least 8 hours per day. Additionally, the guidelines encourage nursing homes to limit occupancy in rooms to two residents per room. If properly followed, these new guidelines should protect nursing home residents from avoidable infection.

When we send our loved ones to nursing homes, we expect them to be taken care of by properly licensed, professionally trained, and caring staff members. After all, many of our elders and loved ones have complex health needs that require regular attention and care that nursing home staff members are specifically trained and equipped to address. When these facilities fail to conduct reasonable diligence into ensuring the quality of their staff, however, this lack of care can potentially result in injury to our loved ones.

According to a recent news report, a recent government investigation into issues surrounding nursing homes uncovered a registered nurse working while her license was suspended. The woman was arraigned recently on felony charges after the investigation found that she tampered with vials and syringes containing substances she knew were intended for patients who required pain relief in the critical care unit. She removed the original substances from the vials and syringes, replaced them with another liquid, and returned the containers. The incident remains under investigation, but officials noted that the woman had a previous criminal history while working as a nurse as well.

Unfortunately, Maryland is no stranger to similar incidents, especially in nursing homes. Long-term care facilities have a responsibility both to their residents and to the community to exercise reasonable diligence when hiring professional staff to care for vulnerable and elderly residents. When a facility fails to do so, its lack of care could constitute negligence. When the nursing home fails to protect its residents as the first line of defense when hiring staff, it could be held responsible for any subsequent injury that takes place.

Under Maryland, law nurses may be liable for medical malpractice if they fail to do what a reasonable nurse would do in a similarly situated circumstance, and a patient suffers harm as a result of that negligence. Many people think of medical malpractice claims in the context of a physician error; however, nursing is a critical part of a patient’s care, and deviance from appropriate care can have disastrous and deadly consequences. In most cases, these claims would fall under the nurses’ medical insurance coverage, the physician’s insurance, or the hospital’s medical malpractice coverage.

What Can Lead to A Medical Malpractice Case Against a Nursing Home?

There are many different errors or a combination of mistakes that can result in a patient’s injuries. However, the leading causes involve medication errors and failure to monitor. While a physician holds the primary responsibility for prescribing a medication, nurses must ensure that they properly administer medications. This is critically important in hospital settings where nurses often use a dispensing cabinet to retrieve the medication. While these cabinets have many safeguards, the nature of a busy hospital often leads to nurses bypassing some of these protections. In these cases, nurses may run the risk of retrieving the wrong medication or dosage. Administering the wrong medication, too much medication, or the failure to administer medication can have deadly consequences on vulnerable patients. Furthermore, nurses may be liable if they fail to assess, monitor, and communicate a patient’s medical condition. Appropriate documentation and communication to the health team are critical to a patient’s well-being.

With each passing year, more states are enacting laws that allow for the installation of cameras in nursing homes and other similar long-term care facilities. After all, sending our loved ones to nursing homes is never an easy endeavor. When we put our loved one’s care in the hands of strangers, it can often be challenging to feel at ease when abuse or neglect could be taking place behind closed doors. To proponents of allowing cameras in nursing home facilities, allowing cameras ensures increased accountability and safety from abuse and neglect for our loved ones.

According to a recent news report, other states are continuing to consider enacting laws that would allow cameras to be placed in their loved ones’ rooms in nursing homes. Proponents argue that such laws could go a long way in building a record and substantiating claims of abuse or neglect, instead of relying on staff who may fear repercussions as a result of reporting. Cameras could also be beneficial for nursing home staff to refute false claims. Although cameras will likely not solve all existing problems for elderly residents, proponents argue it could be a step in the right direction to increase transparency, accountability, and safety in these long-term care facilities.

In light of COVID-19, many nursing homes have had to close their doors to visitors because of public health and social distancing protocols. Because elderly residents of nursing homes remain a highly at-risk group in the midst of the global pandemic, many suspect that the ongoing pandemic increased the frequency of abuse or neglect taking place behind closed doors as in-person visits became restricted or limited.

When we send our loved ones to a nursing home, it can often be a nerve-wracking process. Ensuring that our family members are taken care of, receiving quality care, and comfortable can shape up to be quite the challenging endeavor when it comes to finding the right facility and staff. Sometimes, however, our elders end up in nursing homes that may not be as great—and may not uphold the expected standard of care. When this happens, our seniors experience low-quality care and sometimes even abuse or neglect.

How Common Is Nursing Home Abuse in Maryland?

Unfortunately, Maryland is no stranger to elder abuse and neglect. In 2019, the Maryland Department of Aging reported that of 4,948 complaints that were investigated by the agency, 350 were alleged resident abuse cases. Separately, the Maryland Department of Health, Office of Health Care Quality received 1,427 reports of alleged abuse and 693 allegations of neglect in 2019.

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.

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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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.

Which Government Entity Oversees Maryland Nursing Homes?

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.

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