While there are some individuals who decide that they’d be better off residing in a nursing home facility, a Maryland Health Care Commission report from 2019 shows that at least 84% of residents likely end up there out of necessity, often after being released from acute hospitals. Why does this matter?
If someone can no longer take care of themself, then they’re vulnerable to being taken advantage of.
This isn’t just a potential risk residents face but an all-too-common reality they’re forced to endure, as each Laurel nursing home abuse lawyer knows firsthand.
How Big of an Issue Is Elder Abuse in Maryland?
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, “elder abuse is an intentional or negligent act by any person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to an older adult.” And, according to a Maryland Department of Aging’s Elder Abuse in Maryland report for the fiscal year 2021 shows that:
- 229 of the 3,711 complaints the Maryland Department of Aging, Long-Term Ombudsman Program investigated in 2021 were abuse cases
- The Adult Protective Services Department of the Maryland Department of Human Services received 7,116 exploitation, abuse, or neglect reports regarding vulnerable adults 18 or over, with 570 of those requiring continued monitoring
- At least 45 abuse and neglect cases were opened by the Medicaid and Fraud Control Unit at the state attorney general’s office after factual investigations and legal reviews were conducted
- A portion of an estimated $3,978,123 administered by the governor’s office went to supporting victims of domestic violence aged 60 and over
- The Long Term Care Unit, which forms part of the Office of Health Care Quality at the Maryland Department of Health, received 1,179 and 1,336 respective reports of neglect abuse
What these statistics tell us is that elder abuse and neglect affect a significant number of our state’s residents and can be costly to combat.
Why Abuse Occurs in Nursing Care Facilities
The reasons why nursing home abuse occurs are endless; however, the most common one has to do with staffing issues.
While certain nursing homes cap the number of residents per worker, it’s plausible that a facility may overload a single worker because they have too few employees or simply because they think no one will find out.
In addition to feeling overworked, staff may feel underpaid or may not feel adequately trained for their role. It’s not uncommon for facility employees to take out their frustrations on vulnerable residents they’re supposed to be taking care of.
Hiring practices may not involve properly vetting prospective employees or supervising them, both of which may mean that the responsibility for negligence not only belongs to a direct caregiver, but also facility administration or management.
Who the Perpetrators of Abuse and Neglect Are
Those with the most exposure to residents in nursing homes, their direct caregivers, are most likely to be abusive or neglectful toward them. Other employees who work there, such as the following, may also take advantage of limited supervision and easy access to individuals with certain vulnerabilities to carry out their acts:
- Maintenance workers
- Kitchen staff
- Facility administrators
- Reception desk personnel
- Activities coordinators
- Cleaning and laundry personnel
In-house employees aren’t the only ones who inflict abuse upon those living in nursing homes, though.
Others who come into the facility, whether on apparent business or for personal reasons, including the following, may also inflict harm:
- Physical or occupational therapists
- Respiratory techs
- Delivery truck drivers
- Utilities workers or tradespeople, like plumbers, HVAC techs, or electricians
- Building services providers, such as carpenters or exterminators
- Members of the clergy
- Other residents’ friends and family members
Virtually anyone may potentially come into a facility where you or a relative reside and potentially do something they shouldn’t. And, if someone has, you shouldn’t let it go unaddressed.
Get in touch with a nursing home abuse attorney in Laurel, MD for a free consultation right away to learn about what your next steps should be.
Long-Term Impacts of Being Mistreated in Extended Care Centers
Abuse and neglect of older individuals and other vulnerable populations, such as those with mental and physical disabilities, can have wide-reaching and lasting impacts on victims and their families. Most notably, the effects of this mistreatment may present itself in these ways:
- Physical abuse may temporarily leave victims with short-term impairments, which, if they don’t properly resolve, may leave them with a permanent disability that affects their mobility
- Sexual abuse is much like emotional abuse in that both can take a psychological toll on a person, meaning it can affect their mental state, including their behaviors, which can, in turn, have physical health implications too
- Financial abuse can cause an elderly individual to become malnourished or dehydrated, leading vital organs to start shutting down, cognitive decline, and other effects that can take time to recover from if they don’t cause irreversible, permanent damage first
- Almost any type of abuse or neglect can lead to a resident becoming distrustful of others and socially withdrawn, leading to behavioral, mood, attachment, and other disorders, which can affect their quality of life but are particularly challenging to treat
Research shows that elderly victims of abuse and neglect tend to require future hospitalization and more costly care than their non-mistreated counterparts. Additionally, a research study published by the American Academy of Family Physicians suggests that elderly individuals who are mistreated have three times the risk of early death compared to other similarly-aged individuals.
How an Attorney Can Help Your Elder Abuse Case
While the police secure the evidence necessary to help prosecutors build strong criminal cases against would-be defendants, when it comes to civil matters, the onus falls on the victim and their attorney to decide what to compile to establish the elements of negligence and prove liability.
One of the reasons why a Laurel nursing home abuse lawyer prefers to discuss allegations of abuse and neglect before reporting it to the facility itself, is because it makes it easier to compile the following evidence without risk of it being tampered with or destroyed:
- Photographs: These may show injuries, unsanitary conditions, dangerous premises, or perpetrators of abusive or neglectful acts
- Video footage: This may have captured the infliction of abuse or neglect in action in the resident’s room, a lack of security measures restricting who gets into the facility, the limited instances in which a caregiver went into a resident’s room to check on them, etc.
- Physical evidence: This may include soiled or bloody bed linens or clothing items, physical restraints used, packaging from medication administered in error or unnecessarily, and more
- Witness accounts: Staff members, other residents, visitors, and others may have witnessed concerns in the environment or mistreatment, and this anecdotal information can prove invaluable to substantiating claims of abuse
- Medical records: Reports documenting the onset of a physical injury or illnesses and showing how they led to shifts in a resident’s physical or mental health can prove invaluable in forwarding an abuse case
Getting Help in Building a Strong Nursing Home Abuse Case
At GDH Law, we encourage you not to hesitate to seek medical or police attention if abuse or neglect could affect your immediate health and endanger your life. Doing so could make it challenging to compile enough evidence needed to hole the perpetrator of such acts criminally or civilly liable for their alleged wrongdoing.
Each Laurel nursing home abuse lawyer on our team is committed to doing our part to help victims seek justice, and to minimize the chances of continued mistreatment, by filing civil suits seeking monetary compensation against negligent parties.
Let’s discuss whether this is a viable option for you in your case by sitting down for a complimentary consultation. Contact our firm to schedule this meeting now.