Articles Posted in Resident Safety

Nursing home abuse and neglect have a well-documented history throughout the United States. Sadly, many of the victims of this abuse suffer from serious physical and mental health disorders, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Since the advent and expansion of social media, this unfortunate trend has accelerated. In fact, the problem has become so common that many state legislatures are looking for ways to curb the rampant nursing home abuse and neglect epidemic.

Security CameraAccording to one local news source servicing the Chicago area, Illinois lawmakers have recently passed a bill that will provide funding to install 100,000 cameras in nursing home facilities across the state. The bill, which would not allow for the installation of cameras without a resident’s consent, allocates a $50,000 budget annually to install and service the cameras. It is hoped that the presence of cameras will act not only to provide evidence of abuse after the fact but also to serve as a deterrent to nursing home employees.

Advocates of the bill call it a “win-win for all stakeholders,” explaining that truly innocent nursing home employees who has been wrongfully accused will be able to rely on the video footage to help prove the allegations were unfounded. However, it is expected that the policy will be met with some resistance from the nursing home industry, which is no doubt aware of the fact that the installation of cameras in facilities may result in exposure to additional liability through increased reporting of abuse and neglect.

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Medical and social services and law enforcement authorities throughout our nation are coming to terms with a dangerous epidemic of opiate and opioid abuse that has been affecting Americans of all ages and socioeconomic groups. According to a recently published news report, nursing homes and rehab facilities are not immune from this problem, and a failure to properly monitor both residents and visitors for signs of drug abuse is causing an increase in drug-related overdoses and deaths in several states.

Crushed PillsThe fact that many nursing home residents are highly medicated and isolated from the public view keeps the number of overdoses and drug-related deaths hidden. While nursing facilities cannot and should not be held legally responsible for every instance of drug abuse or overdose that occurs on site, the management and staff of these facilities do have a responsibility to monitor their residents and act reasonably to prevent illegal and dangerous drugs from being sold or illegally consumed by their residents.

Chicago Area Nursing Facility Fined Over $100,000 after Five Residents Suffer Overdoses Within Days

The report explains the case of one nursing facility in Illinois that had five residents hospitalized for heroin overdoses within only days, with two of those patients using the drugs and overdosing again within hours of their return to the facility. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Illinois Department of Health have fined this facility over $100,000 in total for failing to properly monitor and treat their residents with drug addictions.

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A 77-year-old Wyoming nursing home resident and one other person are dead, and three others injured, after a shooting occurred near the nursing home where the perpetrator lived. A local news report was recently published describing the shooting, which began at about 11:00 AM on Wednesday, September 14, outside the nursing facility. The condition and identities of the injured victims have not been released to the public, but the perpetrator, who turned the gun on himself after initially fleeing the scene of the shooting, was identified as a 77-year-old resident of an apartment complex adjacent to the nursing facility.

PistolIt Is Not Clear If Personal or Mental Health Issues Led to the Shooting

According to the news report from the scene of the fatal shooting, there may have been personal issues behind the man’s motivation to commit the shooting, although there were conflicting reports of what happened. It is possible that the perpetrator suffered from a mental health condition and should not have been in possession of a firearm in the days and hours leading up to the shooting.

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While nursing homes are charged with the duty to care for each of their many residents, the reality is that not all nursing homes take that duty to heart. In fact, almost all nursing homes are for-profit enterprises that, at the end of the day, must account for the costs of labor, supplies, and other expenses. Such an influence may incentivize nursing home management to cut corners in relation to the quality of care they provide the residents in their care.

WalkersThis may be nowhere more true than in the case of intellectually disabled nursing home residents, who for one reason or another suffer from nursing home abuse and neglect at higher rates than non-intellectually disabled residents. Indeed, according to one news article reporting on the plight of intellectually disabled nursing home residents, several states are currently facing lawsuits based on the inadequate services provided to these individuals.

Evidently, a federal judge in San Antonio, Texas recently granted class-action status to a group of nearly 4,000 intellectually disabled nursing home residents across the state. The allegations in that case are that the State of Texas has done little if anything to secure a safe place for these individuals, often placing them in homes that are patently unequipped to handle the residents’ needs.

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One of the basic duties of a nursing home is that it cares for people who can no longer care for themselves. While some residents are in nursing homes because they can no longer physically manage their day-to-day routine, many others are in nursing homes due to a wide array of mental health issues and other diseases that affect the brain, such as Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.

doll-1259137These residents are especially susceptible to all kinds of abuse, since they lack a lucid understanding of the events around them as well as an ability to explain to others what they are feeling. Sadly, this susceptibility to abuse is often taken advantage of by cruel or sadistic nursing home staff who torment the residents.

This kind of psychological abuse is troubling for the obvious reason that it is clearly a violation of the nursing home’s duty to protect and care for the resident. However, it is also alarming because abuse rarely stops at the psychological level. In other words, if an abusive nursing home employee is willing to engage in psychological abuse, there is little stopping them from engaging in physical or sexual abuse as well.

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While most of us would rather not think about it, the unfortunate reality is that nursing home abuse and neglect are two very real problems that plague the nursing home industry across the United States. While nursing homes and the employees that work there are required by law to treat those in their care with the utmost dignity and respect, the reality of what goes on behind closed doors often doesn’t match the ideal that the law imposes.

a-morning-at-the-hospital-1-1440095By almost every account, nursing home abuse and neglect figures are not accurately reflected by almost any study. This is because there is a gross lack of reporting when it comes to these problems. This is for several reasons, including:

  • A resident’s inability to effectively communicate what is happening to them, due to a medical condition;
  • A resident’s failure to tell loved ones what is happening to them because they fear for their own safety or are embarrassed to do so;
  • A resident’s complaints of abuse or neglect falling on unsympathetic or skeptical ears; and
  • A lack of hard, physical evidence documenting the abuse or neglect.

However, the fact remains that nursing home abuse occurs every day across the State of Maryland, and often with no one knowing about it besides the resident and the abusive employee.

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When most people hear the phrase “nursing home abuse,” images are often conjured of an elderly patient in a dark room being attended by a physically abusive nursing home employee. To be sure, this behavior does occur in nursing homes across Maryland, but that level of conduct far exceeds the lower boundaries of what is considered nursing home abuse under the law.

video-camera-1507516Nursing homes have a duty to care for and provide adequate care to those whom they accept into their care. When this duty is violated, nursing home management as well as the individual employee or employees engaging in the abuse may be held liable in a civil court of law.

Nursing home abuse can occur any time a nursing home employee violates the rights or dignities of a patient. While this certainly includes physical abuse, it extends far past it. For example, emotional abuse, financial abuse, psychological abuse, and invasion of a resident’s privacy can also be grounds for a nursing home abuse lawsuit.

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Earlier this month, a study was released by the New England Journal of Medicine analyzing the frequency with which nursing home residents have suffered from abuse at the hands of their caretakers. The result was that one in 10 older Americans suffer abuse of one kind or another. According to a national news source that reported on the study, the actual statistics may be significantly higher than those that were reported because of reporting problems inherent in the nursing home context.

wheelchair-1430696The report indicates that the “young old” are the most likely to be abused, since they are the ones who are most often living with a spouse or adult child:  the two groups who are found to engage in abuse most frequently. However, the report also notes that nursing home abuse is much more prevalent than many realize or are willing to acknowledge.

Physical Abuse in Nursing Homes

Perhaps one reason why the instances of in-home abuse are so high is the fact that the abuse statistics include financial abuse. Removing financial abuse from the equation, the ratio of abuse occurring in a loved one’s home and in a nursing home drastically decreases. This is because the most common type of abuse in nursing homes is physical abuse.

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Earlier this week, researchers in Michigan released their discoveries in a recent study seeking out the common causes of nursing home abuse and nursing home neglect. According to the study, the working conditions for the employees of the nursing home have a big effect on the quality of care that residents are provided.

wheelchair-1576246The study concludes that worker safety and happiness are directly related to resident safety and happiness. In fact, the article relies on the premise that, for the most part, individual nursing home employees are not bad people, but they are sometimes left in frustrating situations or those in which it is nearly impossible to provide the proper level of care. Chief among the problems that can lead to an abusive or neglectful situation is understaffing. In fact, it is believed that many of the most skilled and dedicated nurses leave the private nursing home sector due to frustrations related to understaffing.

Another factor, according to the study, is the quality and level of training that the employees receive prior to being allowed to work on their own. The more training that employees receive prior to being let out on their own, the lower the instances of abuse or neglect.

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When a nursing home accepts a patient, they take on certain responsibilities. Indeed, according to the Nursing Home Reform Law that went into effect in 1987, nursing homes are required to provide patients with several rights, many of which may not be known to the general public. Of course, the duties that come to mind first are providing adequate medical care and keeping the resident reasonably safe from abuse. However, nursing homes are required to provide residents additional rights. One recent news article explains a few more of nursing home residents’ rights.

HandsThe Rights of Nursing Home Residents

  • Right to Make Complaints:  Nursing home residents should never feel as though they will be “punished” for making a complaint about the quality of care or about a specific staff member.
  • Right to Dignity and Respect:  Nursing home residents retain their dignity upon admission to a nursing home. This means that staff should respect a resident’s wishes regarding their own schedule, meal plan, and activities.

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