Articles Posted in Resident Safety

Over the past several decades, there has been a societal shift in the United States toward a household in which both parents work out of the home. Indeed, as of 2016, roughly two-thirds of all families were composed of two income earners. Most often, this means both parents are away from the home during the day.

Legal News GavelUnlike in years past, today’s working families do not have the ability to care for their aging loved ones. This has correspondingly led to an increase in the number of elderly people being admitted to nursing homes. Currently, it is estimated that there are over 3.5 million nursing home residents. And while Maryland nursing homes present a good solution in theory, in reality, nursing homes are rarely “as advertised.”

Too often, nursing homes are understaffed with underqualified employees. This creates a situation in which abuse and neglect are rampant. Indeed, it is estimated that over 40% of nursing home residents will experience some form of abuse during their stay, and nearly 90% of nursing home residents report being neglected. Given the limited interaction between a nursing home resident and the outside world, it is believed that these figures may be an underestimation.

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When a family places a loved one in a Maryland nursing home, the family leaves their loved one in the care of the home and its medical providers. Yet the medical providers may not always be doing what is best for the resident—and could even be putting the resident in danger.

Legal News GavelIf a resident passes away at a nursing home, one question to ask is which medications the resident was being given before the resident’s death. If the resident was given improper medication, the family may be able to bring a claim against the nursing home for the wrongful death of the resident.

Wrongful Death Claims in Maryland

A wrongful death claim is meant to compensate family members for the loss of their family member’s death due to the wrongful act of another person. Maryland’s Wrongful Death Act allows a wrongful death claim to be made “against a person whose wrongful act causes the death of another.” Normally, the claim must be made within three years of the family member’s death.

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When a loved one is placed in a Maryland nursing home, it is assumed that their basic physical and medical needs will be monitored and that they will be treated with dignity and respect. However, history has shown that nursing home employees, for whatever reason, too often engage in abusive or neglectful behavior. When authorities discover that nursing home abuse or neglect has occurred, those responsible can be held accountable for their actions in several ways.

Legal News GavelCriminal Nursing Home Prosecutions

After allegations of abuse have been substantiated, criminal charges may be filed against a nursing home employee or administrator. Such cases are brought by the local prosecuting authority on behalf of the state and are designed to punish the wrongdoer for their actions. If they are found guilty of a criminal offense, the defendant can face fines, probation, and potentially incarceration.

While a criminal court may order some restitution to be paid to the victim, restitution amounts are normally limited in that they include only the amount of actual financial loss incurred by the victim. A criminal court will not award damages based on the victim’s pain and suffering.

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There are a number of potential causes of action that plaintiffs may be able to bring in Maryland nursing home cases. Some potential causes of action include negligence, battery, wrongful death, infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, and violation of consumer protection laws.

Legal News GavelOne of the most common causes of action is negligence. It can be brought against a long-term care facility if the facility is negligent in caring for the resident or if the home is negligent in training or supervising its staff. To establish a negligence cause of action, a plaintiff must show that the defendant had a duty to protect the plaintiff from injury, the defendant breached that duty, the plaintiff suffered an actual injury or loss, and the injury or loss proximately resulted from the defendant’s breach of duty.

Another potential cause of action is the infliction of emotional distress. Although it is a high bar, to prove a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress, the conduct must be intentional or reckless, as well as extreme and outrageous. Additionally, the plaintiff must have suffered severe emotional distress, and there has to be a causal connection between the conduct and the emotional distress. Furthermore, in addition to these claims, facilities may be liable for failing to have adequate policies in place to prevent abuse or for failing to report allegations of abuse.

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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.

Legal News GavelAccording 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.

Legal News GavelThe 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.

Legal News GavelIt 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.

Legal News GavelThese 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.

Legal News GavelBy 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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