Perhaps no decision is more difficult to make than deciding whether a parent or other elderly loved one needs the professional care of a Maryland nursing home. While all family members would like to be able to care for their aging loved ones in the comfort of their own homes, given the advanced medical needs of many elderly family members, this is not a realistic option.

Hospital BedWhen it comes time to consider sending a loved one to be treated by a Maryland nursing home, there are many considerations. Most important, of course, is the reputation of the nursing home for providing a safe and respectful environment. While nursing homes as a whole may not enjoy a good reputation for the level of care they provide to residents, there are professional and caring Maryland nursing homes, so families should not accept any level of abuse or neglect, and they should report instances of either immediately.

Over the past few years, sexual abuse among nursing home residents has seen a dramatic increase, not just between staff members and residents, but between the residents themselves. According to a recent news report, it may be that the instances of abuse are not necessarily more frequent than they used to be but that family members and authorities have become more adept at spotting the abuse. In part, this is due to the increase of cameras in nursing homes.

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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.

Head in HandsOne 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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Maryland nursing homes have long been viewed with a skeptical eye when it comes to the level of care they provide to residents. For one, nursing home residents are in essence isolated from their loved ones, except for very specific times during a visit from family members. Additionally, family members can never really know what is happening to their loved one when they leave, especially if their loved one suffers from serious physical or mental health issues preventing them from effectively communicating with family members about their care.

WheelchairThat being said, nursing homes have a duty to provide all residents with a certain level of care that comports with the standards imposed by society in general. While the specifics of the duty owed to residents can vary, it always includes maintaining a safe environment that is free of abuse and neglect.

When a nursing home resident suffers from abuse or neglect, family members may be able to pursue a Maryland nursing home abuse or neglect lawsuit to obtain compensation for their loved one’s suffering. These lawsuits rely on general principles of negligence for the most part, but some nursing home cases do involve issues of medical malpractice, especially when the defendant is a licensed or certified nurse. In such cases, additional requirements may be placed upon a plaintiff filing a lawsuit against the nursing home. Anyone considering filing a Maryland nursing home abuse or neglect lawsuit should consult with a dedicated Maryland personal injury attorney prior to doing so.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion in a personal injury case presenting an interesting issue that often arises in Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect cases. The case required the court to determine if an arbitration agreement was valid when it was signed by a resident’s family member who possessed a valid power of attorney at the time the document was executed. Ultimately, the court concluded that the decision of whether to admit someone to a nursing home constitutes a “health care decision,” which was not a right conferred by the power of attorney document.

Signing a ContractThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the surviving loved one of a woman who died shortly after leaving the care of the defendant nursing home. Prior to the resident’s admission, the resident had executed two relevant documents. The first, executed in 2006, was a health-care power of attorney executed in favor of the plaintiff. The second, executed in 2010, was a personal-care power of attorney executed in favor of the plaintiff as well as the resident’s sister.

After the second document was executed, the resident’s sister placed the resident in the defendant nursing home. Prior to admitting the resident, the resident’s sister executed a pre-admission contract that contained an arbitration clause whereby both parties agreed to submit any claim that arose between the two to binding arbitration rather than the court system.

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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 selecting a nursing home for a loved one, there is only so much vetting that can be done. At some point, family members must place trust in a nursing home to provide their loved one with the care they need and deserve. All too often, however, residents of Maryland nursing homes end up suffering abuse or neglect at the hands of their caretakers.

Dark RoomNursing home abuse can take a number of forms. Common instances of abuse involve a frustrated employee who takes their anger out on an innocent resident. However, in some cases, the allegations of abuse are even more disturbing. Indeed, sexual abuse in Maryland nursing homes appears to be far more common than most people understand.

Nursing homes and their employees are responsible to provide all residents with a certain level of care. While nursing home employees cannot be held liable for every adverse health event that occurs at their facility, when a patient is injured due to the negligent or intentional conduct of a nursing home employee, the injured party and their family may be entitled to financial compensation through a Maryland nursing home lawsuit. Sexual abuse certainly falls into this category.

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Maryland nursing home lawsuits are not always results of glaring, intentional abuse. In many cases, lawsuits arise after a nursing home or another long term care facility fails to properly care for a resident. Spotting neglect can be difficult, since many residents are elderly and sick already. However, families must remain vigilant in order to identify instances of neglect. Families should look for certain potential signs, such as poor personal hygiene, including poor dental health; lack of mobility, which may be caused by remaining bedridden for too long; unexplained injuries, such as bruises and broken bones; unsanitary living conditions and inadequate security; physical symptoms from lack of nutrition; and psychological issues, including anger, resentment, and depression.

Hospital BedIn cases of extreme neglect that result in the death of a resident, family members can bring a wrongful death claim against the nursing home. Maryland’s Wrongful Death Act allows a claim to be brought against a person or entity “whose wrongful act causes the death of another.” Generally, the claim must be made within three years of the family member’s death.

Lawsuit Alleges Resident’s Death Caused by Improper Care

A 74-year-old woman died after a nursing home allegedly failed to properly care for the woman. According to a news report covering a recently filed lawsuit filed by the woman’s family, the nursing home failed to properly care for her hygiene, to properly reposition her during bedrest, and to provide her with adequate nutrition and hydration, which caused the woman pressure sores and infections, respiratory failure, swallowing problems, septic shock, and pneumonia, leading to her death.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a wrongful death case involving allegations that a nursing home failed to properly care for a resident. The focus of the court’s analysis was on the issue of an arbitration clause that was contained in a pre-admission contract signed by one of the resident’s daughters on the resident’s behalf. Ultimately, the court held that the arbitration clause should be enforced, resulting in the plaintiff being required to resolve the case through binding arbitration.

GavelThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the daughter of a nursing home resident who died while in the care of the defendant nursing home. Before her death, the resident had fallen six times while a resident of the nursing home. Prior to the resident’s admission into the nursing home, one of the resident’s other daughters executed a pre-admission contract on her mother’s behalf. The contract stated that the parties agreed to submit any case arising out of the resident’s stay at the home to an arbitration panel, rather than resolving the case through the court system. Maryland nursing home residents often sign similar agreements.

At the time the contract was signed by the resident’s daughter, the daughter had power of attorney over her mother’s affairs. Specifically, the power of attorney document gave the daughter control over “all lawful health care decisions” of her mother.

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Nursing homes are responsible for caring for their residents. However, there are countless instances of nursing home abuse or neglect in Maryland and throughout the country. Neglect of a Maryland nursing home resident includes a failure to care for a resident in a way that would avoid harm or pain, or a failure to react to a harmful situation.

Hospital BedUnder the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR), a nursing home must have a licensed nurse on duty 24 hours a day to provide bedside care in order to ensure that the resident:  receives proper treatments, medications, and diet; receives proper care to prevent ulcers and deformities; is well-groomed, comfortable, and clean; is protected from accidents, injuries, and infections; receives rehabilitative nursing; and is assisted in self-care and group activities. In addition, a licensed nurse must be on duty at all times and should be able “to recognize significant changes in the condition of patients and to take necessary action.” That nurse is responsible for making daily rounds to all nursing units. In addition, any nurse who questions the care that is being provided to a patient must report the issue to the supervisor.

Hospital Staff Uncover Serious Concerns After Nursing Home Resident Transported for Fever

Police in Memphis, Tennessee are investigating an incident of alleged elder abuse after a man was found in a dire state after being brought to the hospital for a fever. The police report states that the nursing home resident was brought to the hospital after he ran a high fever. However, at the hospital, staff and a social worker said they found five open wounds on his body, a bruise on a stomach, and severely dry skin that was “flaking off his body.” They also found maggots inside wounds where his left foot and right leg had been amputated. According to the hospital nurses, the staples were never removed from his right leg amputation, and the bandages had not been removed. He was also allegedly found in feces.

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