Articles Posted in Nursing Home News

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.

The 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.

The 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.

In 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.

Many 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.

The 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.

A 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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The residents of Maryland nursing homes are a vulnerable population. While most nursing home residents have family somewhere in the state, the reality is that family cannot always be present to witness how staff is treating their loved one. On top of that, many residents suffer from some kind of mental illness or incapacitation that can affect their ability to accurately and credibly relay information about the way they are being treated. Given this landscape, it does not require much of an imagination to see why nursing home abuse is underreported.

Under the law, any instances of abuse or neglect of a Medicare beneficiary must be reported to the authorities. However, according to a recent report, a newly released government study issued by the Department of Health and Human Services found approximately 130 instances of unreported abuse of Medicare beneficiaries, dating back to 2015.

The abuse discussed in the report is extremely serious, including rape, seduction, sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, abandonment, maltreatment, and sadism. The article details the abuse sustained by an elderly woman that was documented not in nursing home records but in the woman’s medical records after she was admitted into the emergency room. Evidently, a nursing aide entered the woman’s room to find a male nurse on top of the elderly woman, grabbing her breasts and ejaculating on her.

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Placing a loved one in the care of a Maryland nursing home is never an easy choice. While nursing homes are not known for providing residents with a stellar level of care, in some cases they are necessary when families are unable to care for their loved ones on their own.

Unfortunately, the instances of Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect have recently been on the rise over the past several years. While the law allows for families of abused or neglected nursing home residents to seek compensation for their loved one’s injuries in some cases, the ability of family members to pursue these cases may be limited if the current administration reverses a rule implemented last year.

Arbitration Clauses and Nursing Home Litigation

Before a resident is admitted into a nursing home, a family member must sign a pre-admission form. Hidden among other clauses in these forms is often an arbitration clause, which prevents the family of the resident from filing any case against the nursing home in a court of law. Instead, the clause requires the family to pursue any claim through binding arbitration.

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Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect have been serious issues confronting families and residents for decades. However, with the increasing popularity of social media outlets over the past decades, incidents of nursing home abuse seem to have skyrocketed. Not only has the number of claims increased, but also they have become more and more disturbing.

A recent trend in nursing homes across the country is the posting of nude, partially nude, or otherwise humiliating photographs of nursing home residents by those who are supposed to be caring for them. Nursing home employees may be motivated by frustration or a twisted idea of humor, but those who engage in this type of abuse are violating the duty of care they owe to the resident, and they are also likely violating criminal laws.

When this type of abuse occurs, it is important for family members to act quikcly. Social media posts can often be removed, leaving little or no evidence of abuse. An experienced nursing home abuse attorney can assist the family members of an abused or neglected nursing home resident in holding the responsible parties accountable through a Maryland nursing home abuse lawsuit. In many cases, the nursing home facility itself will be liable for the conduct of its employees.

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Tens of thousands of cases are filed in Maryland courts each year. To help the court system handle the large number of cases, procedural rules have been implemented to streamline the process and to ensure that only diligent plaintiffs with legally sound cases are permitted to have their cases heard by a judge or jury.

One of the major procedural rules that courts require plaintiffs to follow is that a case must be filed within a certain amount of time, as outlined in the jurisdiction’s statute of limitations. If a plaintiff fails to file a case before the applicable statute of limitations expires, the court will be left with little choice but to dismiss the case, leaving the plaintiff with no avenue of recovery.

Over the past decade, states have begun to enact stricter requirements for many personal injury cases, especially medical malpractice cases and nursing home abuse and neglect cases. Indeed, according to a recent news article, West Virginia lawmakers have recently drafted and passed a bill that makes filing lawsuits against nursing homes much more difficult. Under the new law, the state’s statute of limitations was reduced from two years to one year. In addition, cases against nursing home facilities can only be filed in the county in which the nursing home is physically located.

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