Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse and Negligence

If you have a sick or elderly loved one who needs to be admitted to a Maryland nursing home, it is natural to feel anxious. Not only will you be sending your family member to live with a bunch of strangers and placing his or her medical care and well-being in their hands, but you likely have been hearing and reading a lot about the various incidents of nursing home neglect and abuse that have occurred in assisted living facilities throughout the US.

While there is no guarantee that your loved one won’t become the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, you can decrease the chances that you are placing your elderly or sick loved on in an unsafe environment by actually visiting a number of Maryland facilities before deciding where your family member should live.

You will want to check out not only the living accommodations and recreational areas, but you will want to inspect the dining room and kitchen and quality of food that each assisted living facility provides their residents. You will also need to find out how much attention each patient receives.

Talk to the workers and maybe even some of the residents to get a sense of the place and the people who live and work at the nursing home. Is the atmosphere depressing? Are the facilities clean? What is the interaction like between the nursing home staffers and the patients? Do the residents appear content and relaxed to be at the nursing home? Are nursing home workers trained to deal with your loved one’s particular illness and needs? What is the ratio between the number of nurses and the number of patients?

Have Maryland nursing home negligence lawsuits been filed against a nursing home before? What was the outcome of the cases? Does the facility have a history of nursing home violations? What are they and have they been remedied?

Size Up a Nursing Home by Visiting, US News, March 11, 2009
Nursing home checklist, Medicare
Related Web Resources:
Maryland Nursing Home Guide, Maryland Health Care Commission

Nursing Homes in Maryland

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For the second year, the Maryland Health Care Commission has made available to consumers the ratings of individual nursing home results based on a survey taken by family members and other responsible parties about the care that their loved ones received at a long-term care facility. The 2008 Maryland Nursing Home Family Experience of Care Survey is available on the Commission’s Web site.

The survey is a collaboration between the nursing home industry, consumers, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, advocates, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. 223 Maryland nursing homes were part of the survey. Short-term skilled nursing care and rehabilitation after a hospital stay were not included.

Some 9,645 of the 17,057 responsible parties who were contacted sent in survey responses by the January 13, 2009 due date. For participants to take part, their sick or elderly loved one had to have lived in a Maryland nursing home for at least 90 days. Areas rated for 2008 include the care residents received, administration and staff, food and meals, resident rights, resident autonomy, and physical aspects.

Average scores for overall care was 8.2 out of 10, which is the same as the year prior. 89% of respondents said they would recommend the Maryland nursing home that they were evaluating to others. Health officials are hoping the survey findings will help responsible parties who are trying to determine where to house a patient.

Choosing a Maryland Nursing Home

Choosing a nursing home for your loved one is a big step. It is important that you perform your due diligence about the long-term care facility you eventually select. This will hopefully minimize the chances of your loved one becoming the victim of nursing home abuse or nursing neglect.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid recommends a number of steps when choosing a nursing home, including:

1) Getting a list of nursing homes in your area and asking family, doctors, neighbors or friends for any recommendations.

2) Making sure that you compare the quality of care offered by the different nursing homes that you are considering. You can visit the Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare Web site for a list of homes in Maryland and find out how they are rated for the care they provide.

3) Visit the nursing homes you are considering so you can get a firsthand look at how current patients are taken care of, whether or not they appear happy and secure, and if you like the nurses and other workers and whether they seem attentive to the residents. You can also personally evaluate the facilities and services.

2008 Maryland Nursing Facility Family Survey, Maryland.gov (PDF)

Guide to Choosing a Nursing Home, Medicare.gov
Related Web Resources:
Nursing Home Compare, Medicare.gov
Maryland Nursing Home Guide, Maryland Health Care Commission

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According to the Associated Press, the number of mentally ill patients in US nursing homes increased by 41% between 2002 and 2008. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says these approximately 125,000 long-term care residents make up 9% of the overall nursing home population.

There are a number of reasons for this. A number of state facilities have shut down and there aren’t enough hospital psychiatric beds. There is also more room in US nursing homes because a lot of older residents are healthier and more independent than those from past generations. As a result, there are less of them requiring long-term care.

Unfortunately, this increase of patients with mental illnesses in nursing homes has resulted in crimes being committed by the younger ones against older nursing home residents. The younger residents tend to be stronger than the older ones, and because they aren’t always aware of or can be responsible for their actions, they may hurt older residents that are too sick or frail to defend themselves. For example:

• An elderly patient, 77, died after his roommate, 72, beat him using the towel bar from the bathroom. His attacker did not go to trial for killing him because he was found incompetent.

• A 23-year-old woman was also found incompetent to go to trial after she was charged with igniting a fire at a nursing home that killed 16 patients.

• A 21-year-old mentally ill resident raped a 69-year-old woman. The nursing home reportedly failed to supervise him despite knowing about his violent history.

• A 77-year-old nursing home resident was in his bed when his much younger roommate, who was mentally ill, slammed a clock radio into his face. The elderly resident died from his injuries.

It is the responsibility of Maryland nursing homes to make sure that all of their residents are housed in a safe environment. This means making sure that older, sick residents are kept separate from younger, stronger patients with mental or behavioral challenges, as well as making sure that these patients with special needs get the care, attention, and supervision they require so that they don’t become a danger to themselves or others. Failure to exercise this duty of care can be grounds for nursing home neglect or wrongful death.

Housing Mentally Ill in Nursing Homes Sometimes Leads to Violence, NewsInferno.com, March 24, 2009
Nursing Homes Called ‘Dumping Grounds’ for Mentally Ill, MedPage, March 23, 2009
Related Web Resources:

Welcome to the Maryland Nursing Home Guide, Maryland Gov.

Caring for the Mentally Ill, Newsday.gov

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In Maryland, a bill currently up for consideration in the house is proposing that nursing homes in the state be required to give people the option of installing cameras if that is what the resident or family members want. The patient or his or her relatives would pay for the camera. Per the bill, any room that is monitored by a camera would have a sign on the door indicating that it is under video surveillance.

Nursing Home Cameras

There can be value to installing a camera in a nursing home patient’s room. In New York, there have been over 30 nursing home workers arrested for nursing home abuse in the wake of statewide hidden-camera investigations. In Kentucky, family members were appalled to see video footage of their 84-year-old relative being manhandled and verbally abused by workers. They hid the camera in her room because they were concerned about unexplained bruises that were on her body.

Placing a camera in the room of a nursing home resident can allow family members to monitor his or her care. Some patients are too frail or sick to communicate about any possible mistreatment. Other nursing home residents may not even be aware of their surroundings or realize that they have been the victim of abuse. There also may be residents who are afraid for their safety but are unwilling to report any incidents of nursing home abuse and neglect. If a nursing home worker knows he or she is under video surveillance, the employee may be less likely to physically abuse, verbally abuse or emotionally abuse the resident.

There are, however, critics out there who say that placing a camera in a patient’s room is an invasion of privacy for the resident. Regardless, nursing home abuse and neglect must be stopped. Too many elderly and sick people are suffering because the people charged with their care are hurting them or not giving them the medical attention that they need.

MD Bill Addresses Cameras in Nursing Homes, MSNBC, February 23, 2009
Security Cameras in Nursing Homes – Useful or Wasteful?, Ezine Articles
Related Web Resources:
Maryland Nursing Home Guide, Maryland Health Care Commission
Cuomo Announces Undercover Hidden-Camera Investigation into Long Island Nursing Home that Nets Four Healthcare Workers for Endangering Welfare of Patient, Office of the Attorney General, October 7, 2008

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According to ABC 7/NewsChannel, an emergency room doctor who wishes to remain anonymous claims that he regularly sees patients from the Grand Park Care Center who are on the verge of death due to nursing home neglect. The nursing home residence is located in Washington DC’s NE.

The ER doctor says that a number of the DC nursing home’s residents have come to him with acute kidney problems, severe pneumonia, malnutrition, and dehydration. The doctor says these conditions are signs that the patients are being neglected.

Following his nursing home neglect allegations, the ABC 7/NewsChannel looked at the D.C. Department of Health’s inspection reports from February and May 2008 and found that a number of deficiencies were noted at the Grand Park Care Center, including the failure to tell a physician that a resident was suffering from dehydration. There were also residents who were reportedly suffering from anemia and weight changes.

According to DC Long Term Care Ombudsman Jerry Kasunic, his team has filed over 100 complaints against Grant Park and says the DC nursing home is one of the “worst” he has encountered. He says dehydration and unattended wound care have led to malnutrition.

Grant Park Executive Director Sandra Durham says the nursing home staff remains committed to improving the quality of service that it provides residents. The home has also reportedly retained the services of a new compliance officer and nursing home director.

Malnutrition and Dehydration

Nursing home residents suffering from malnutrition and dehydration can be prone to serious side effects and illnesses, including a weakened immune system, memory loss, pneumonia, bedsores, muscle mass loss, infection, organ function impairment, anemia, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and death. Malnutrition and dehydration often occur at care facilities because of nursing home neglect.

Doctor Gives D.C. Nursing Home Failing Grade, WJLA.com, November 26, 2008

Related Web Resources:

Grand Park Care Center, Hospital-Data.com
Washington DC Department of Health

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This week, in Washington DC, a US Senate committee is scheduled to hear about a case involving the family of William Kurth, who sustained a number of pressure ulcers and fractured his leg and up while staying at a nursing home. Kurth’s family, however, was unable to sue for nursing home negligence because Kurth’s wife, Elaine, had agreed, when admitting her husband to the home, that all complaints would go through an arbitrator.

Elaine was reportedly on medication and under extreme duress when she signed papers giving Kurth, a stroke victim, permission to stay at a nursing home. Family members say that Kurth died because urine and excrement had not been cleaned off his bedsores for several days.

Kindred Healthcare says that the Kurth family says that the arbitration agreement was offered as an option and not a condition for admission into the nursing home.

The Senate panel is investigating the nursing homes’ use of binding arbitration agreements that gets patients to sign away their right to file a nursing home abuse or negligence lawsuit. Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl, who is the chairman of the Senate Aging Committee expressed concern that many residents are not in the proper state to realize that they are signing away their right to sue.

Over the past five years, over 100 lawsuits have been filed to challenge these kinds of agreements.

While some lawmakers, trial lawyers, and consumer advocacy groups want to put in place legislation that makes these agreements unenforceable, others say that the lower costs for arbitration make it easier for patients with smaller cases to receive compensation.

In Maryland and Washington DC, our nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers represent families with whose loved ones have suffered because of abuse or neglect at a nursing home or residential care facility.

Patients signing away right to sue nursing homes, AP, June 17, 2008
Nursing homes prefer arbitration over courts, Azcentral.com, June 17, 2008

Related Web Resource:

Arbitration Agreements: Why They Should Be Prohibited In Admission Agreement, California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform

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Rosewood Center, a Maryland facility for the developmentally disabled located in Baltimore County, will close in the next year and a half. The decision by the state to shut down the facility comes in the wake of reports of serious cases of abuse and neglect over the past several years. The decision to shut down Rosewood was announced by Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley on January 15.

In December, Maryland’s Office of Health Care Quality reported 130 cases of neglect, abuse, mistreatment, and injuries at the center over an 8-week period. Unnecessary restraints, wrong medication doses, missed feedings of residents that were intubated, and assaults between residents are some of the abusive and neglectful incidents that reportedly occurred.

About 150 people live at Rosewood, which opened in 1888 as the Asylum and Training School for the Feeble Minded. At one point, the center had 3,700 residents.

Last year, however, new admissions were banned at Rosewood three times. Poor conditions at the center have placed it at risk of losing its federal funding.

In February 2007, the Maryland Disability Law Center issued a report about Rosewood that included information about injuries, neglect, and the unnecessary and lengthy isolation of some of its residents.

Workers at Rosewood claim the abuse reports are exaggerated. They worry that residents will be traumatized because they have to leave the facility. Patients will be placed in group homes or released to guardians over the next 18 months.

Nursing home abuse and Neglect

State residential homes are supposed to provide its residents with proper medical and residential care. A failure to do so violates the law and can also be grounds for a nursing home abuse lawsuit.

If you believe that someone you love has been abused or neglected while staying at a residential care facility, you should talk to a Washington D.C. or Maryland nursing home abuse law firm right away. Physical and emotional injuries and even death can result because of the abuse or neglect and the law entitles your injured loved one to nursing abuse compensation.

State to Shutter Home for Disabled, Baltimore Sun.com, January 15, 2008

Related Web Resources:

Rosewood Center: A Demand for Closure, Maryland Disability Law Center, February 1, 2007 (PDF)

Rosewood Center, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

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A Baltimore woman says she has video footage of the caretaker she hired to care for her 90-year-old father abusing him on at least four different occasions.

Jaki Taylor says she hired Anastasia Olouch to take care of her father John Taylor at home after he had suffered a number of strokes. Taylor says that security cameras recorded Olouch, 54, striking her father on the arm, chest, head, and stomach. John is not able to communicate or defend himself.

Police in Maryland arrested Olouch and she was indicted on multiple counts of assault, reckless endangerment, and abuse of a vulnerable adult.

Her trial was scheduled to begin on August 8 but she did not appear in court. The State Attorney’s office requested that a warrant be issued against her.

John Taylor has experienced a number of brain seizures since the arrest. Doctors say they cannot confirm whether the seizures were caused by the beatings. Jaki Taylor, however, claims that her father’s health has gotten worse since the incidents of elder abuse.

Last year, Adult Protective Services investigated close to 5,000 elder abuse cases in Maryland. More than 1,000 of the cases took place in Baltimore.

Dr. Dan Sheridan, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing and a forensic nurse, says that elder abuse perpetrators tend to hit their elderly victims as a means of controlling them and that they choose older victims because they are easily confused and vulnerable.

The Senate Committee on Aging says that about 5 million incidents of elder neglect and abuse are taking place in the U.S. right now but that many of these incidents are not reported.

Professor Linda M. Woolf, from Webster University, cites a number of signs of physical abuse of the elderly:

• Overt signs of physical trauma (e.g. scratches, bruises, cuts, burns, punctures, choke marks)
• Signs of restraint trauma (e.g. rope burns, gag marks, welts)
• Injury – particularly if repeated (e.g. sprains, fractures, detached retina, dislocation, paralysis)
• Additional physical indicators – hypothermia, abnormal chemistry values, pain upon being touched
• Repeated “unexplained” injuries
• Inconsistent explanations of the injuries
• A physical examination reveals that the older person has injuries which the caregiver has failed to disclose
• A history of doctor or emergency room “shopping”
• Repeated time lags between the time of any “injury or fall” and medical treatment

Elder abuse is a crime.

A person who is the victim of elder abuse has a right to seek personal injury compensation for the injuries that they have sustained because a doctor, nurse, or caregiver acted negligently.

Woman Says Caregiver Beat Her 90-year-old Father, WLTX.com, August 16, 2007
Caught On Tape: Alleged Abuse Of 90-Year-Old, NBC10.com, August 15, 2007
Finding the Red Flags for Elder Abuse, ABC2news.com, August 24, 2007
Elder Abuse and Neglect, Webster.edu

Related Web Resources:

National Center on Elder Abuse

Elder Rights & Resources, Administration on Aging

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A Maryland woman is suing the Guardian Elder Care at the Peterson Rehabilitation Hospital and Geriatric Center in Wheeling, West Virginia for nursing home negligence. Emily Kay Goddard Young filed the lawsuit in Ohio County on behalf of her father, the late Elwood M. Goddard.

In December 2004, Goddard had been living on property run that was owned by Peterson. According to the lawsuit, Goddard suffered from a number of illnesses that left him in a wheelchair and physically weak. Young says that her father was left without an attendant in a wheelchair that had a broken strap. He then proceeded to fall violently as a result.The fall caused internal and external injuries that he later died from.

Young says that it was Peterson’s responsibility to maintain, inspect, and repair the wheelchair. In the lawsuit, she claims negligence that “Peterson owed a duty to its patients … to provide a wheelchair that was reasonable safe for its intended use and not unreasonable dangerous when put to its reasonable anticipated use.” She is seeking compensatory damages to cover funeral expenses, burial costs, court fees, medical expenses, and other damages.

Two major problem in managed-care facilities that can lead to abuse in a nursing home are overcrowding and an overworked staff that is not trained properly. It is the facility’s responsibility to eliminate the opportunity for nursing home negligence by hiring professional care providers and medical workers that are trained correctly. It is also up to the facility to create a safe, caring, and sanitary environment for its residents.

The United States Congress has passed laws demanding that every state create regulations to protect nursing home residents. Nursing homes are required to follow these regulations. Nursing home negligence is a criminal and civil offense.

If a person has been a victim of nursing home negligence but they are unable to report the abuse for any reason, loved ones and family members may file the claim for them.

Indications that a person may be experiencing abuse in a nursing home:

· Ulcers
· Bed sores
· Dehydration
· Emaciation
· Injuries from falls

· Change in the resident’s personality.

If you suspect a case of negligence, it is important that you report the incident immediately. You may also want to consider moving your loved one to another facility.

Each year, thousands of senior citizens are abused, neglected and exploited in nursing homes and other elder care facilities. Many victims are frail and vulnerable and cannot help themselves, and they depend on others to meet their most basic needs.

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Interrogatories are written questions sent to the opposing party in a personal injury lawsuit. Like a deposition, an interrogatory gives each side the opportunity to pose questions to the opposing party. Although the party who is served the interrogatory does not have to appear in court to respond, they are required to respond to the questions in writing as if they were under oath and under penalty of perjury.

In the state of Maryland, each party in a personal injury lawsuit can serve up to thirty interrogatories to the opposing side.

Below is a sample of an interrogatory that we, the personal injury law firm of Lebowitz and Mzhen, filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County on behalf of our client, the plaintiff, who fell down a stairwell while staying at a nursing home facility. We have redacted the names of those involved for purposes of confidentiality.

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