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There is an inherent power balance between residents and staff in nursing homes. Staff members are in charge of feeding, treating, and caring for residents, often making residents fully or largely reliant on staff members. That imbalance can result in a hesitation to report or take action when abuses are occurring. Additionally, many residents may have trouble directly or clearly communicating their experiences. As a result, it often falls to visitors and loved ones to advocate for them when things go wrong. It is extremely important to take a resident seriously if they disclose or report instances of nursing home neglect or abuse.

A recent survey by the Long Term Care Community Coalition, a nonprofit organization that advocates for residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, examined 100 complaints by nursing home residents across the country. One of the biggest issues, the report found, was that residents rely so much on staff members, that any perceived issues could be met with retaliation, big or small. For many residents, staff members provide daily basic care, including assistance using the restroom, showering, and getting changed. The power imbalance is extreme, making individuals in nursing homes uniquely vulnerable to abuse. The survey even documented instances of staff members threatening family members of residents if they reported issues to the state or ombudsman association. Residents interviewed for the survey told investigators “they were afraid to voice concerns ‘because it backfires on you,’ as ‘staff became aggressive.’”

Compounding many of the existing issues is the lack of funding for nursing care facilities. The survey acknowledges that many nursing home staff members are “underpaid and undervalued.” The report suggests staff education as one of the methods to combat abuse within nursing homes. The survey stated: “What we already knew but learned again in horrific detail during COVID was that care in nursing homes is unacceptable . . . let’s understand the phenomenon. Let’s name it, let’s teach, how to prevent it, how to anticipate the way it feels to families and older people and the staff.”

It can be an incredibly difficult decision to trust the care of your loved ones in a care facility. Entering into the process is always easier when you know you can trust the staff members at a facility. As people age, it can sometimes be necessary to consider nursing homes and other care facilities as an option. An unfortunate reality in the nursing home business is that understaffing has led to a string of elder abuse throughout the nation.

Who Should You Contact if You Suspect Elder Abuse?

In Maryland, the appropriate program to contact if you suspect your family member or loved one is suffering from abuse is the Maryland Adult Protective Services (APS). APS investigates the exploitation and abuse of adults and elderly individuals throughout the state, including physical, mental, emotional, and financial abuse. Common signs of abuse include unexplained bruising, burning, scarring, depression, confusion, or dramatic changes in spending habits. Simply staying in close contact with your family member or loved one can tip you off to these common symptoms and could potentially save lives. It is important to remember that abuse can be perpetrated by a loved one, caregivers, and staff at a nursing home facility.

A recent news article detailed an elder abuse event.

A recent news report highlights that a New Hampshire nursing home is under investigation after a state report accused the facility of abuse of several residents and of failing to prevent abuse that might have contributed to a resident’s death. According to the report, a resident had unexplained injuries that contributed to their death, and several other residents were allegedly abused by staff. The Department of Health and Human Services conducted an inspection of the facility. The report alleges that the facility failed to ensure that residents were free from abuse and neglect. In one incident, a resident said that a licensed nursing assistant “slapped his buttocks, smacked them with plastic bags and laughed about it.” The report also documented that a resident’s autopsy should that they had a fracture and dislocation to the right shoulder and a dislocation to the left shoulder which contributed to the resident’s death. The case is being further investigated. The report also detailed some changes made by the facility, which included random weekly audits to make sure staff members are following procedures to prevent abuse and neglect.

What to Do to File a Lawsuit After Nursing Home Abuse?

Elder abuse in Maryland is unfortunately not uncommon. In 2020, the Maryland Department of Aging, Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program received a total of 283 abuse allegations. This included 110 physical, 70 gross neglect, 49 psychological, 37 financial, and 17 sexual abuse allegations. This one department in Maryland, although there are multiple departments that received other substantial reports of alleged abuse and neglect in long-term care facilities in that year. When preparing to file a lawsuit due to abuse suffered in a nursing home, it is important to collect the necessary evidence to help prove your case – it can even be helpful to collect evidence that you have available before meeting with your lawyer, although your lawyer can help figure out ways to collect such evidence. Evidence may include medical records from the nursing home, medical records from hospitalizations related to the suspected abuse, an autopsy report and/or death certificate if applicable, funeral expenses if applicable, any documentation of relevant communication with nursing home, photos of injuries, and any other documents you believe may be helpful. In addition to collecting evidence, it can be extremely helpful to find a lawyer who has experience handling these types of personal injury cases to discuss a plan for filing a claim, and a timeline.

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.

A recent news report detailed a concerning pattern at a local Washington D.C. rehabilitation and nursing home facility. According to the report, The D.C. Department of Health has launched an investigation into Capitol City Rehab nursing home following a near-deadly medication error episode on site. The report states that Rosezena Jackson’s family checked her into the nursing home in December of 2022 to recover from a hospitalization for a blood clot. They trusted the facility to take care of Rosezena fully, including administering prescription medications. However, issues quickly arose, and doctors had to put the 74-year-old Rosezena into a medically induced coma for over a week to help her survive. At the nursing home, Rosezena was given medications that were not intended for her, including a blood pressure drug that she is severely allergic to. The drugs had a different person’s name and were not meant for Rosezena.

Further review of federal inspection reports revealed that Capitol City Rehab had similar episodes in 2020 and 2021. In both years, the facility’s pharmacist failed to properly identify a medication error and on several occasions, staff members failed to administer prescription medication. In one instance, the staff failed to administer a physician-ordered drug for 19 days. The D.C. Health Regulation and Licensing Administration is currently investigating Capitol City Rehab and declined to comment on the ongoing case.

When sending a loved one to a nursing home or a long-term care facility, we expect and hope that the facility team members will do their job and do it well. Putting the care of a loved one in the hands of others is an act of trust, but when facilities fail to effectively care for patients, this goes against federal and state laws that serve to protect patients. In a recent case from Florida, a Florida jury awarded $12.5 million in damages after a wrongful death lawsuit involving an assisted living facility. The deceased’s family brought the suit against the facility, alleging that the facility’s negligent care resulted in their family member developing a fatal bloodstream infection from a bedsore. The deceased, an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s, was alleged to be physically healthy when she entered the facility, according to the lawsuit. However, two months after moving to the facility, the elderly woman developed severe bedsores and pneumonia, which required emergency medical care.

The lawsuit alleged that the woman developed a severe bedsore on her back, which caused an open wound deep enough to expose the bone. The wrongful death lawsuit claimed that the facility was understaffed and negligent, which caused the deceased to develop a severe and fatal stage of pressure ulcer. In the end, the jury sided with the plaintiff, and the family was awarded a $12.5 million verdict.

What Are the Risks of Bedsores?

Bed sores, which may also be referred to as pressure sores or decubitus ulcers, are skin lesions that can develop in a hospital, nursing home, or long-term care facility due to a lack of blood flow to an area of skin that is exposed to prolonged pressure. In long-term care facilities, it is standard protocol to pay close attention to those who have a higher risk of bedsores, either by changing the patient’s position every two hours or using pillows, for example. In cases involving bed sores due to neglect of the nursing home provider, the neglect may be that they failed to monitor or reposition patients who have limited mobility.

Unfortunately, nursing home neglect is all too common. In many cases of neglect, the nursing home fails to hire and train sufficient numbers of staff to care for its residents. Too often, nursing homes focus on profit, accepting more residents without increasing staff to provide adequate care to each resident. Even the most dedicated nursing home staff may be overwhelmed by the number of residents they are tasked with assisting.

According to a recent news article, a nursing home is under investigation by the Connecticut Department of Public Health for severe neglect and staffing shortages. In its inspection report, the Department found that residents were left in their beds for hours at a time without trips to the bathroom or diaper changes, and they received food late. As a result, several residents suffered from skin ulcers and urine-soaked diapers. Other residents reported that they often did not receive care at all. The lack of adequate care stemmed, in part, from significant nurse’s aide shortages. For example, one nurse’s aide told inspectors she only saw 12 of her 18 patients nearly four hours into her shift. The Department’s report identified the ratio of residents to nurse’s aides as 18:1. As a result of the investigation, the health department recommend civil monetary penalties and ordered the nursing home to correct its various issues.

What Are the Consequences of Nursing Home Staffing Shortages?

Unfortunately, shortages of trained staff in nursing homes can have especially poor effects on residents’ well-being. For example, according to the same news article above, another facility within the same parent company admitted patients struggling with substance abuse without hiring the proper staff to care for them. As a result, at least twelve residents overdosed. This egregious wrong led the Massachusetts Attorney General to fine the nursing home’s parent company $1.75 million for neglect. In other cases, staffing shortages can lead to delays in care that carry serious consequences. For example, if a nursing home lacks sufficient staff to move residents from their beds every few hours, the residents may suffer from bed sores or ulcers. Similarly, a delay in bathing schedules or trips to the bathroom could leave residents with unclean diapers for hours at a time. As the news article reported, these delays could lead to urinary tract infections and other health conditions. If you suspect a nursing home is not providing adequate care to your loved one, you may decide to sue the nursing home for negligence.

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.

Many individuals and families must make the difficult decision to send their aging loved ones to nursing homes or assisted living facilities to aid in their care. While this is a perfectly valid decision that can often ensure your family members will get the care they need in their last stages of life, trusting nursing homes can be difficult. Maryland has requirements for mandatory reporting of abuse, provides quality reports on nursing homes, and conducts regular inspections of facilities to help ensure your experience with nursing homes will be safe and positive.

Unfortunately, people who perpetuate abuse and neglect in nursing homes are all too often able to continue caring for your loved ones. A recent article reports that a nurse who allegedly tied an elderly woman to her wheelchair with a bed sheet was able to keep her nursing license. The nurse will undergo 30 hours of patient management education and the care facility involved was fined $41,605. According to reports, the nurse used a sheet to restrain a resident in a way the state nursing board described as potentially adversely affecting the health of the patient. The woman who experienced the abuse was suffering from dementia and cognitive problems when she was restrained, and there is no evidence that this was to protect the staff or others in an emergency situation.

What Are the Different Types of Elder Abuse?

To rectify issues of elder abuse, it is important to be able to identify what it could look like. According to Maryland’s Department of Aging, elder abuse can take many forms, but most fall into one of six categories. However, the Department notes that is common for aging individuals to experience more than one type of abuse at once.

The decision to place a family member in a nursing home is usually not an easy one. Everyone wants their elderly loved ones to be comfortable and receive the best possible care. As a result, it can be particularly devastating when a loved one suffers from abuse at the hands of nursing home staff. After such an egregious wrong, nursing homes should not escape responsibility for their actions—or their failure to act.

According to a recent news article, a woman in Rochester, NY has alleged that a nursing home staff member attacked her 87-year-old mother. The victim’s family members received a call from the nursing home informing them that she fell out of bed. However, after speaking to the victim, her family members learned that her injuries were no accident. Instead, the victim’s daughter claims that a staffer dragged the victim out of bed and threw her to the ground. He then allegedly tried to assault her. Following the attack, the victim required hospitalization for a broken rib, a fractured arm, and several bruises. The family has filed a complaint of elder abuse with the New York State Attorney General’s Office.

What Steps Can You Take After Nursing Home Neglect?

Maryland provides several avenues for victims of nursing home abuse or neglect to seek legal redress. First, a victim’s family can file a formal complaint with the Maryland Office of Health Care Quality. Families can file a complaint by calling the Office, sending an email, or using the Office’s online form. If the initial investigator finds a potential violation of Maryland law, he or she may forward the complaint to a health occupations investigator to gather more evidence and report any additional findings to the Office for review.

State standards and federal regulations are set to help protect and keep nursing home patients safe, to keep the families and loved ones of the patients informed, and to help prospective patients look for a place to call home to make informed decisions. Allegations of abuse or neglect must be reported to the facility administrator, and nursing home facilities must notify the proper individuals within a designated time frame.

In a recent news report, a video captured the moment where two employees of a Texas city nursing home dragged an 87-year-old-man across the floor. The employees can be seen hitting and kicking the elderly man, and tossing him onto the bed. According to his family, facility staff told them that the man fell and had to go to the hospital as a result. The family decided to install a camera after the 87-year-old complained of staff members mistreating him. The patient is currently in the hospital suffering from bruised eyes and wearing a neck brace. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission records revealed that inspectors found 11 violations of state standards at the nursing home during the most recent check-in in July 2021. The nursing home was fined $19,800.

Are Most Nursing Homes Transparent About What’s Going On Inside the Facility?

Transparency in nursing home reports is extremely important because it allows patients and their loved ones, and prospective patients to have more knowledge regarding a facility’s history of care, including any violations of state standards set to protect patients. In February 2022, the White House released a fact sheet detailing information regarding protecting seniors by improving safety and quality of care in our nation’s nursing homes.

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