Placing a family member in the care of a nursing home or an assisted living facility is one of the hardest decisions families make. While there are many great nursing homes in Maryland, there are also far too many cases of neglect and elder abuse at these facilities. If you suspect a loved one is being mistreated, you should contact a nursing home negligence attorney in Maryland.
There are many different forms of what is considered nursing home neglect at facilities for elderly people. These may be nursing homes, assisted care facilities, convalescent homes, rest homes, or other elder care facilities. They include breach of a statutory duty, assault of a resident, overmedication or under medication, falls, bedsores, negligent hiring, wandering and financial abuse.
The problems at Maryland’s nursing homes have been highlighted by the legislature. The Maryland Department of Health’s Office of Healthcare Quality annual report for 2017 revealed there was a 34.4 percent rise in the number of self-reported nursing home complaints over 2016. In 2017, there were 3,342 total complaints in Maryland. Of these, 1,749 related to the quality of care and 941 were resident neglect and abuse allegations in nursing homes.
To make matters worse, a report in 2017 found Maryland lags behind much of the rest of the nation in inspecting high-priority nursing home complaints. A federal inspector general pointed out previous administrations sought to fix the problem but were unsuccessful.
The state failed to investigate nearly 650 allegations of harm, neglect and abuse at Maryland nursing homes within a required 10-day window, reported the Baltimore Sun. Maryland missed the federal deadline 74 percent of the time, the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found.
If you suspect a family member has suffered neglect at Maryland nursing home, it makes sense to hire an injury lawyer.
At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, our Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers will meticulously investigate your claim. We understand the many pressures families face when a loved one is being mistreated, abused or harmed.
Types of Nursing Home Negligence
Falls and Broken Bones
The risk of falling when they are unattended is one of the reasons why elderly people often require nursing home care in the first place. Nursing homes are paid to prevent falls and to provide round-the-clock care to older people.
Falls at nursing homes can be very serious and even fatal. The Mayo Clinic states falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries in older people. A head injury, a broken leg or a hip can prove to be deadly in an older person. Falls are the leading cause of deaths for people over 85. As many as 50 to 75 percent of elderly people suffer a nursing home fall every year in the United States.
Nursing homes have many duties to prevent falls. Caregivers must be aware of a resident’s conditions that might make an injury more likely. Neurological issues, muscle atrophy, vision problems, dizziness and a previous history of falls must be taken into consideration.
Nursing home residents who present an elevated fall risk should be assessed as soon as they arrive at a nursing home. Some residents need at least two people to assist them in and out of bed. Nursing homes often use safety belts, mechanical lifts, and harnesses to mitigate the risk of falling. Some facilities fail to invest in the correct equipment.
Nursing homes may also lack staffing or hire inexperienced people who fail to protect residents from falling and don’t put up bed rails when residents are asleep.
Are you Suing a Nursing Home for a Fall? – What You Should Do
If a nursing assistant or other member of staff is responsible for the fall of an elderly resident, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit. You may sue both the nursing home facility and the individual provider. It often makes sense to sue the individual in case he or she is employed by an agency or a separate entity to the nursing home facility. Our nursing home negligence attorney will advise you or how to proceed.
Are Bed Rails in Maryland Nursing Homes Safe?
In some cases, inexperienced nursing home staff may fail to use bedrails properly, resulting in bedrail entrapment. This can be a matter of life and death. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported more than 720 deaths of hospital patients and nursing home residents who were trapped or asphyxiated by bedrails from 1985 to 2008.
Nursing Home Negligence through Bedsores
Bedsores are caused by nursing home negligence. This is a debilitating and potentially life-threatening condition.
Bedsores are caused by patient immobility. The condition is usually seen in patients who are immobile and experience difficulties moving. Bedsores are also known as pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers. The pressure of being in the same position leads to tissue damage under the upper-epidermal layers in patients. Bedsores are caused by relentless pressure on a certain area of the body.
Nursing homes have a duty to move immobile patients. Bedsores are indicative of nursing home neglect.
Nursing homes should use special mattresses that allow for changes in pressure when a resident is immobile. Staff should also use protective padding while a resident should be positioned so as his or her knees and ankles are not touching.
A healthy nutritional diet is also a factor to consider in bedsore negligence cases. Adequate protein in a resident’s diet will help prevent a breakdown in the skin associated with bedsores.
There are four phases in the development of bedsores. When nursing home staff fail to identify and treat bedsores in the early stages, this condition can become extremely serious. The four phases of bedsore neglect are as follows:
- A persistent redness of the affected area that is indicative of a more serious problem;
- Blisters and abrasions and a thinning of the skin;
- Loss of skin and large abscesses;
- Serious skin damage causing the exposure of underlying bones and muscles.
Medical Neglect at Nursing Homes
Bedsores are indicative or medical neglect at nursing homes but this can take many different forms. Most elderly people who are admitted to nursing homes or assisted care facilities have a wide range of specific medical needs.
The nursing home has a duty to meet their individual medical needs. A failure to provide medication to a patient with diabetes or to treat cognitive difficulties or infections amounts to medical neglect. Residents at nursing homes should have round-the-clock access to medical professionals.
Overmedication or Under Medication at Nursing Homes
Nursing homes in Maryland and elsewhere are highly regulated. However, in the past, these facilities habitually used medications to sedate their residents. Staff found calm residents were easier to deal with and required less attention.
Anti-psychotics and sedative drugs were frequently prescribed to calm down elderly residents, states AgingCare.
These medications were routinely used for elderly people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Overmedicating nursing home residents can have serious health implications. Many of these drugs carry black box warnings, indicating that adverse reactions to them may cause injury or death.
Despite stricter rules, overmedication still occurs at nursing homes. Many of these facilities do not have enough staff to adequately take care of all of their residents. The caregivers at short-staffed nursing homes in Maryland are more likely to make mistakes when administering medications due to exhaustion, stress and inexperience but excessive over medicating may be intentional.
Under medication can also be devastating for nursing home residents. Under medication occurs when they are given less than their prescribed doses or do not receive their medication as often as prescribed.
Under medication can happen for a variety of reasons. Negligence may be one of them. Care assistants may fail to properly look at a resident’s medical notes. On occasions, a caregiver may be confused about the correct dosage. Pressures of understaffing at a Maryland nursing home may be a factor. In extreme cases, it is also possible that a care assistant is intentionally depriving a senior of drugs to use them or sell them.
A nursing home that intentionally under medicates residents is violating its duty to its patients and can be sued for elder abuse if a resident suffers as a result. However, nursing home negligence due to under medication is also grounds for a lawsuit.
Under medication can have the following serious health effects:
- A patient fails to recover from a condition the medication is prescribed for;
- A resident unnecessarily suffers pain and discomfort due to an insufficient dose of medication;
- Depriving a resident of medication can lead to other serious, potentially life-threatening complications.
Failure to Keep a Nursing Home Free of Hazards and Clean
We sometimes read stories in the media about terrible and unsanitary conditions at Maryland nursing homes. On occasions, lapses can lead to terrible tragedies. A care facility must be kept in a safe condition. Elderly residents are more susceptible for slip and fall injuries so public areas must be uncluttered.
Potentially dangerous equipment must not be left lying around to pose a trip or an electric shock hazard and sharp implements like knives must be kept away from residents.
A nursing home also has a duty to its residents to keep its facilities clean. Infections and diseases can easily claim the lives of frail and elderly people.
Depriving Residents of Food and Drink at Maryland Nursing Homes
Malnourishment is a significant problem at nursing homes in Maryland and elsewhere. This is a less obvious form of elder abuse than falls and assaults. Elderly residents are often frail. It’s not always clear if an elderly resident is being deprived of food or drinks.
Elderly malnutrition takes place when an older person is either not being given enough food or is not receiving the correct type of food. If a nursing home deprives a resident of the type of diet he or she needs for health reasons, this constitutes elder neglect. If food lacks sufficient vitamins and minerals to meet the recommended daily value for elderly people, malnutrition may result. Tragically, malnutrition is a serious and widespread problem in nursing homes in Maryland and elsewhere.
Negligent Hiring of Nursing Home Staff
It’s important for Maryland nursing homes to hire the right people. This can be a challenge in a buoyant job market. Nursing homes have a reputation for poor pay and difficult conditions.
Federal law restricts who can provide direct care to elderly people. Staff must be licensed as a registered nurse (RN), a certified nursing assistant (CNA) a licensed practical nurse or a physical therapist. Nevertheless, people with improper training sometimes slip through the cracks. On occasions, unethical nursing home operators hire people with criminal records or drug abuse histories.
A nursing home can be sued in a negligent hiring lawsuit. These claims are most often made when an employer fails to find out about or ignores something in the employee’s past that could have predicted they would later engage in elder abuse, such as a history of violent crime or sexual assault.
Failure to Follow Federal Regulations Relating to the Standard of Care
When a nursing home accepts Medicare, it must follow Federal Regulations which set out the acceptable standard of care. An important regulation is 42 CFR sec. 483.25 (h) which provides:
- The environment residents live in remains as free of accident hazards as possible; and;
- Each resident receives adequate supervision and helpful devices to prevent accidents.
If the nursing home fails to comply with these federal regulations and a resident is injured, the nursing home may be held liable in a neglect lawsuit.
Nursing homes and other residential care facilities must comply with state fire codes and be up to date with inspections. In 2016, two people died and four people were injured in a fire in an assisted living home in west Baltimore.
Wandering and Elopement as a Form of Nursing Home Neglect
We often hear reports of residents with dementia wandering away from nursing homes. A recent study suggests at least 30 percent of all nursing home residents and up to 70 percent of older adults with dementia wander at least once from assisted living facilities.
It is extremely dangerous for an elderly adult with dementia to wander. The liability on a nursing home to prevent a resident wandering is analogous to that of a daycare allowing an infant to escape from the premises. Elderly residents who walk away from nursing homes can quickly become confused. They may suffer adverse reactions by not taking medication and end up in dangerous places like in waterways and on highways.
When nursing home residents go missing they can quickly lose their lives in hot or cold conditions. In some cases, nursing homes fail to immediately alert the emergency services for fear of bad publicity.
Nursing homes must be safe and controlled environments. The need to secure facilities should go beyond locking doors. Alarms and closed-circuit cameras are vital to ensure resident safety in nursing and assisted living facilities. Members of staff should be monitoring the cameras at all times.
Ignoring Financial Abuse at a Maryland Nursing Home
When Can I Sue a Nursing Home for Neglect?
The above scenarios and others outline when a nursing home can be sued for neglect. These are seldom straightforward or easy cases for a nursing home negligence attorney.
Nursing home negligence cases require the resident or his or her family to show that a nursing home or a member of staff deviated so far from an acceptable standard of care and treatment that the law considers them to have been negligent.
The plaintiff who brings a nursing home neglect case must also prove that the nursing home’s negligence was a primary cause of the injury that the elderly resident suffered. If a fall caused by negligence at the nursing home was not the cause of the resident’s injury, it will be difficult to show negligence.
Your case must be proven by expert testimony. It’s not enough to show a nursing home merely made a mistake, Often nursing homes escape liability for negligence because an injury is minor in nature.
When you go online to find a ‘nursing home neglect lawyers near me’ you should look carefully at the credentials of the attorneys in the search. Nursing home neglect cases are often complex and require in-depth investigations You should read the reviews of the lawyers who appear in your search.
What Are the Nursing Home Lawsuit Statistics?
Not all cases of alleged nursing home neglect and abuse result in lawsuits. It is estimated that just 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse are reported to authorities. The National Council of Aging states as many as one in 10 elderly people in the United States suffer neglect or abuse.
Nursing homes are often not what they seem. A nursing home may seem like a welcoming place when you first visit with an elderly relative to talk about admission. However, a friendly veneer often hides a staffing shortage and lax hiring practices that can lead to nursing home neglect.
Contact a Nursing Home Negligence Attorney in Maryland
If you believe a family member has or is a victim of neglect or abuse at a nursing home, it’s important to talk to a nursing home negligence lawyer as soon as possible. At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, we offer free initial consultations and we only get paid if you win your case.
Older people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect in their twilight years. Sadly, the standard of care in too many nursing homes falls short of what they have a right to expect. Please call us today at (410) 694-7291