When your elderly loved ones need round-the-clock care and you entrust that care to a nursing home that you’ve carefully chosen, you expect your family members to receive the care they need. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, and you’ve chosen to place your trust in a facility that’s charged with taking excellent care of your loved ones. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), however, finds that millions of elderly Americans suffer abuse in long-term care facilities each year. Nursing home abuse happens more than you may think, and if you suspect that your loved one has suffered any of these abuses, contact an experienced Baltimore nursing home abuse attorney immediately.
At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, we understand how emotionally overwhelming these cases can be, and we’re here to fight for your loved one’s right to physical safety and personal dignity, as well financial compensation from the liable nursing home.
Common Negligence of Nursing Home Employees
Negligent or abusive nursing home employees can include nursing home doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, physical therapists, nurse practitioners, and in some cases, nursing home administrators. In some cases, even the nursing home itself may be deemed vicariously liable for the injuries and damages sustained by a patient, if the nursing home was negligent in hiring, retaining, or supervising the abusive or negligent employee. A Baltimore, Maryland nursing home abuse lawyer will be able to ascertain all potentially responsible parties and bring them into your case.
Filing a Maryland Medical Malpractice Lawsuit for a Nursing Home Resident
In order for an injured patient to be able to prove that a Maryland health care provider was negligent or abusive, the injured patient must present independent expert medical opinions and testimony. More specifically, prior to offering medical opinions or testimony in a case, the expert must thoroughly review the patient’s medical treatment records and must be able to establish that the patient’s standard of care fell below that of a reasonable nursing home health care provider.
Under the law, the burden of proving fault (i.e. liability) and damages in a medical malpractice case lies with the injured patient. The injured patient, through his or her independent medical expert, must be able to demonstrate that the health care provider in question and/or the nursing facility violated the “reasonable health care provider” standard of care, which directly resulted in all of the patient’s complaints, injuries, and damages. Thus, the medical expert, on behalf of the injured patient, must be able to causally relate the patient’s injuries and damages to the health care provider or nursing home’s negligence. A Baltimore, Maryland nursing home abuse lawyer will be able to help you prove the necessary elements of medical negligence in your case.
Injuries in Nursing Home Abuse and Negligence Cases
While nursing home abuse and negligence can take many forms, it commonly arises when health care providers are careless or reckless while caring for and treating their patients. Nursing home abuse and negligence can take one or more of the following forms:
- Medication errors
- Improper or inadequate monitoring or supervision of patients (e.g., failing to take a patient’s vitals on a regular basis)
- Improper care and treatment of patients
- Sexual harassment or physical abuse of a patient
- Physical acts or threats of violence directed toward a patient
- Verbal abuse directed toward a patient
- Mishandling a patient
- Deficient record-keeping
- Failing to respond to a patient’s needs, limitations, or complaints in a timely manner
- Failing to consider a patient’s preexisting medical conditions, injuries, and medication allergies
- Failing to report a patient complaint to an on-duty doctor or nurse
- Failing to take into account a patient’s signs or symptoms of stroke, heart attack, or other serious medical condition
What You Can Recover in Elder Abuse Cases in Maryland
Negligence and abuse at the hands of nursing home employees can result in serious injuries and damages to patients. Some of the most serious injuries include bruising, scarring, fractures, broken bones, soft tissue injuries, permanent disfigurement, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)and other closed-head injuries, hemorrhaging, internal bleeding, paralysis, and death. In cases where the nursing home employee’s negligence results in a patient’s death, the personal representative of the decedent patient’s estate may be able to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the decedent patient. In a wrongful death claim, the estate can recover monetary damages – including compensation for loss of spousal companionship and support.
In Baltimore nursing home abuse and negligence cases, the injured patient may be entitled to recover the following types of economic and non-economic damages:
- Payment of all related medical and physical therapy bills
- Lost wage compensation
- Disability income
- Damages for past, present, and future pain and suffering
- Compensation for emotional distress and mental anguish
A Baltimore, Maryland nursing home abuse lawyer may be able to help you recover monetary compensation for all of your related injuries and damages.
In cases where a nursing home employee – or the nursing home itself – acted in a particularly egregious manner, the injured patient may be eligible to recover punitive damages. The purpose of this type of damage is to punish the tortfeasor for recklessness and extremely negligent conduct – and to deter others from engaging in the same or similar conduct. However, these damages are only recoverable in the most serious of cases – often where the negligence amounted to gross negligence.
Types of Abuse Against Elders
Elder abuse is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as “an intentional act, or failure to act, by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult” 60 years or older. The CDC goes on to define separate categories of elder abuse:
- Physical Abuse – Physical abuse involves the use of intentional physical force that causes injury, illness, pain, functional impairment, emotional distress, or death.
- Sexual Abuse – Abusive sexual contact covers an array of forced or unwanted sexual interactions of any kind. If committed against an incapacitated person who is incapable of consenting, the interaction qualifies as sexual abuse.
- Emotional or Psychological Abuse – Emotional or psychological abuse can involve verbal or nonverbal behaviors that inflict mental anguish or pain, fear, or emotional distress. This behavior can include humiliation, threats, isolation, or the exertion of control.
- Neglect – Neglect refers to the failure by caregivers to protect elders in their care from harm or to fail to meet their essential medical care, shelter, activities of daily living, nutrition, hydration, or hygiene needs.
- Financial Abuse or Exploitation – Financial abuse or exploitation is a caregiver’s unauthorized, improper, or illegal use of a nursing home resident’s resources for the benefit of someone other than the resident.
The statistics regarding nursing home abuse are fuzzy for many reasons, including underreporting by both victims and nursing homes. The NCEA, nevertheless, has compiled important statistics that point to the prevalence of nursing home abuse in the United States:
In a 2001 U.S. House of Representatives report, nearly one in three nursing homes—in the two-year period from 1999 through 2001—was cited for federal standards violations that either caused harm to residents or had the potential to cause harm. Furthermore, almost one out of 10 nursing homes was cited for violations that caused residents harm, serious injuries, or jeopardy of death.
- In a 2000 study of 2,000, 44 percent of nursing home residents said that they’d been abused, and 95 percent said that they’d been neglected or that they’d seen another resident be neglected.
- In a 2010 study of nursing home staff, more than 50 percent admitted to mistreating elderly residents within the year before the study. Most of these mistreatment incidents involved neglect.
As you can see, nursing home abuse is serious and widespread, so you should always be aware of signs that your loved one has been a victim.
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
When you entrust loved ones to nursing home care, you expect that they’ll receive excellent care and satisfying social interactions when you can’t be together, and often this is exactly what happens. Sometimes, however, nursing home residents are abused or neglected, and it’s important to protect your loved ones by remaining alert to this possibility and understanding the warning signs:
- Marked emotional or physical change – If your loved one exhibits a marked emotional or physical change, it could be a sign of abuse or neglect. The natural aging process, however, can also cause such changes, and it’s important to distinguish between aging (and associated diseases) and poor care. Stay in close contact with your loved one, visit often and at irregular times, and question staff when you’re concerned.
- Unanswered questions – If the nursing home staff continually deflects your questions, is evasive, is consistently unable to answer your questions, or won’t discuss your loved one’s care, consider this a warning sign that the care may be less than optimal. The answer, “This is how we do things here,” should be a red flag. High staff turnover rates that never level out is another bad sign.
- Fear and agitation – If your loved one asks not to receive care from a specific staff member (or appears frightened when a specific staff member is near), take this seriously (even if your loved one has cognitive issues). Address this issue with nursing home leadership immediately—mistreatment or neglect may be the cause.
- Chaos reigns – A busy staff that’s sometimes stretched too thin is probably unavoidable, but the nursing home shouldn’t be in constant chaos. If the staff is friendly, open, warm, and works well together while interacting with the residents, that’s a great sign—as is effective leadership in the form of an active and engaged director. Bad staff attitudes and poor information chains that span shift changes, however, can indicate trouble. If call buttons and ringing phones seem to constantly go unanswered, ask yourself why the staff doesn’t have time to pick up the phone.
- Physical signs – If your loved one exhibits physical signs such as dehydration or malnourishment, take these indicators very seriously. Dehydration is a frequent and dangerous symptom of negligent care.
If Your Loved One Has Suffered Nursing Home Abuse, Call Today
Nursing home abuse and negligence are over-arching terms that can range from administering incorrect medication to physically or verbally abusing a nursing home patient. If you or a loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse or negligence, you need an attorney who can fight for your right to recover monetary compensation. Baltimore attorney Randolph Rice understands that nursing home abuse cases can be difficult to litigate and is committed to representing persons who have been injured as a result of others’ negligence. Insurance companies vigorously defend nursing home abuse and negligence cases and have experienced attorneys on their side representing them. You should too.
If you suspect that your loved one has suffered nursing home abuse, you no doubt feel both betrayed and overwhelmed. At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice Jr., we recognize how difficult this experience is, and we’re here to help you fight for the justice your loved one has been denied. Our experienced Baltimore nursing home abuse attorneys have the skill, knowledge, and compassion to help guide your loved one’s claim toward its most favorable resolution. Please don’t hesitate to contact or call us at (410) 694-7291 for a consultation today.