Our society’s traditional image of a nursing home was a place where elder people went toward the end of their lives to be treated respectfully by staff who valued and respected the elders and, in fact, probably knew them from living in the community. In the US, we spend a remarkable amount of money—through government programs like Medicare and Medicaid, through private insurance, and in the form of out of-pocket payments—in pursuit of that vision.
The endless stream of media stories about nursing home abuse and neglect, however, clearly indicates that this is too often not the reality for nursing home residents. In fact, report after report from federal and various state agencies indicates serious problems in the way that nursing home residents are treated by the staff of the home and, often, other residents of the home. Juries and judges understandably tend to be sympathetic to nursing home residents who have been abused, even killed, by those who are charged with caring for them; but this sympathy and compensation are all after the fact and cannot truly make up for the experiences of the victims or the horror of their families.
Unfortunately, the term “nursing home industry” is an accurate description of what awaits far too many people who go into nursing homes today. Many nursing homes are part of large corporations that pay devoted attention to their bottom line. The bottom line approach may be even more extreme if the corporation has expanded by going into debt to fund its purchases of competing homes.
The rights of nursing home residents from elder abuse in Maryland are laid out in section 10.07.09.08 of the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR). They are extensive and include the right to be free of these abusive practices:
The federal government has a very large club with which to influence nursing homes: certification to receive Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement. The Nursing Home Reform Act is the way the club is used. That law details a series of rights for the residents of nursing homes that receive federal funds. It also prescribes the standards for the care of residents in important areas including prevention and treatment of bedsores, nutrition, and the use of physical restraints.
Staffing policies and practices almost always cause or contribute to abuse. The most obvious staffing failing is simply having too few staff members. That can lead to everything from neglecting residents to failure to prevent abuse by other residents to causing staff frustration that is taken out on residents.
Another common staffing action that leads to abuse is the failure to adequately investigate the background of applicants before hiring them. Putting someone with a history of violence, especially toward residents in other facilities, is unforgivable.
Other common practices that contribute to the abuse of residents include:
The nursing facility is the most likely defendant for obvious reasons; that may include a parent corporation of the nursing home. But modern nursing homes often have other people on their premises, employed by other entities, who may well be responsible for the abuse of a resident. Examples include medical personnel employed by others, physical therapists, wound care specialists, and employees of companies that maintain medical equipment.
Nursing home abuse cases are unique in the amount of emotional upset that families experience, in the impact that abuse has on residents, and in the difficulty of proving that abuse occurred, who committed it, and why the nursing home is responsible. Without a doubt, you should contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney as soon as you suspect that abuse is occurring. The abuse needs to be stopped as soon as possible and the resident placed in a safe and secure environment.
It is also very important to begin collecting the evidence needed to establish liability. Nursing home cases require time and careful preparation. Nursing homes and their lawyers and insurers rarely just admit liability; there are numerous defenses that can be used to avoid, or at least delay, responsibility. And the longer they succeed in delaying the case, the harder it becomes for the family to see it through.
If you suspect that a relative or friend is suffering abuse in a nursing home, call the Baltimore personal injury attorney at the Law Offices of Randolph Rice today to arrange a time to discuss what’s going on. We have the experience to know what to look for and how to avoid the pitfalls that are likely to arise. Our elders deserve to be treated with respect and kindness in their later years. We are here to help, so call now! 410.288.2900