Category Archives: Nursing Home Negligence

An Advance Directive for Nursing Home Negligence Cases

Having a properly executed advance directive is absolutely critical in nursing home negligence cases.

What is an advance directive?
An advance directive is a legal document that allows you to explain your decisions about medical care. If you are unable to make decisions or communicate in the future, this makes it easier for your loved ones and health care providers to understand your wishes.

What is the difference between an advance directive and guardianship?
Both of these legal tools help others make decisions regarding your medical care if you are unable to make them. However, an advance directive is appointed by you while you are still fully capable. Guardianship, on the other hand, is appointed by the court, after you have already become incapable of making decisions.

Please know that the medical facility has a right to charge you for accessing the medical records.

Why is it important to have an advance directive in a case of nursing home neglect?
In a nursing home negligence case, you need medical records to show the harm that the negligence caused. You have a right to the medical records; but you need legal authority in order to access them. The advance directive gives you this legal authority.

How do I get a properly executed advance directive?
The term “advance directive” is often used synonymously with the term “living will” or “durable power of attorney for health care.” In Maryland, the advance directive normally contains both the health care agent powers and the living will (i.e. end of life decisions). However, it is also not unusual for there to be a separate durable power of attorney for health care and a living will.

To make things more confusing, sometimes the financial power of attorney will have health care agent rights in it as well. There are strict requirements regarding execution of an advance directive in Maryland. It’s important to know the specific requirements of these legal documents. It is also important to know if the documents you already have will be sufficient to get the necessary legal documents.

Our Attorneys Help with Advance Directives
If you don’t have an advance directive, we can help. As elder law specialists in Maryland, we can navigate your family through whatever crisis you might be experiencing. If you think your family member isn’t being treated well at the nursing home, then let’s sit down and talk about it. Give us a call at (410) 296-8166 x292.

Documenting Nursing Home Neglect

Nursing Home Neglect

At some nursing homes and assisted living facilities, the staff and aides are underpaid, untrained, and overworked. In these situations, there is usually a high turnover rate. Therefore, mistakes might often be repeated and not corrected. The mistakes only come to light when disaster strikes, and a family member is willing to fight back.

Nursing home neglect occurs when the facility fails to properly care for their residents. Neglect can be caused by inaction (such as not assisting a resident who is at risk of falling), or it can be caused by improper action (such as physical abuse). Nursing home negligence can lead to serious medical problems, such as needless falls or bed sores.

If You Suspect Nursing Home Negligence

Suppose your mother has a fall at her nursing home. You suspect it’s the nursing home’s fault. She’s currently recovering, so you don’t know the full extent of the harm yet. What should you do?

You might not be ready to take legal action yet. But here’s what you need to do: document the incident.

Document Nursing Home Neglect Now

If you observe potential negligent behavior, or if any incidents occur, it’s best to document them as they are happening. If you need to take legal action, even if it’s one or two years later, then you will already have these important details recorded. Keep a journal of diligent notes specifically for this purpose.

Document Everything for Your Attorney

Make sure you record:

  • Dates
  • Time of day
  • Names and positions of facility staff who are involved
  • Names of witnesses
  • What happened (negligent behavior could be action or inaction)
  • Any harm that may have ensued

You could also take pictures, if appropriate.

An Example Journal Entry

For example, you could write down:

On September 8, 2019, Mrs. Hannah Jones, an aide at the Happy Days nursing home, told me that my mother had a fall. On that day, around 3:00 pm, my mother wanted to take a walk. Mrs. Jones said she assisted her during the 20-minute walk and then took her back to her room to rest.

About 10 minutes later, my mother apparently tried to leave the room on her own but was too weak and fell. She broke her wrist and was treated at Clarksville County Hospital by Dr. Robert Lam. It was unclear why my mother tried to leave the room without an aide. I talked with my mother’s next-door roommate, Mrs. Kathy Albertson. Mrs. Albertson said she heard my mother calling for an aide a few minutes before her fall, but no aides appeared until after her fall.

Win the Nursing Home Negligence Case

Why should you take the effort to document everything now?

If a judge gets involved, the documentation:

  • Helps establish your case and key witnesses (especially if the facility staff involved with the incident is no longer employed there)
  • Makes it easier for the elder law attorney to help you win
  • Relieves you from the pressure of trying to remember all the pertinent details

Having proper documentation can make the difference between winning and losing a case when legal action is required.

Assisted Living Negligence

There are two key issues to consider for facility negligence:

  1. What is the harm that was caused?
  2. Did the facility breach their standard of care?

A Typical Example

Let’s suppose your mother lives in an assisted living facility. She needs an aide attending to her every time she walks because she’s considered at risk for falling. You’ve had no issues with the facility so far.

One day your mother wants to take a walk and is assisted by an aide. Afterwards, she rests by watching television in the main hall. When she wants to go back to her room, however, the aide that assisted her is not around. The aide’s shift had ended, and instead of waiting for the tardy night shift aide, she simply left.

So your mother decides to walk back to her room on her own. In this attempt, she falls and breaks her leg. She’s admitted to the hospital, suffers complications, and passes.

Key Issues in Negligence Cases

In this case, the facility clearly breached their standard of care. There wasn’t an aide to assist her in moving when she needed it. There was also harm as a result of that breach (assuming the hospital was not at fault).

In other cases, the extent of the damages might not be clear. For example, your parent might still be going through rehabilitation or have an extended hospital stay.

Don’t Be Fooled by Assisted Living Negligence

Don’t let the assisted living facility convince you it’s not their fault. Falling is not to be accepted as just part of the risk of living in that kind of facility.

Take Prompt Action

Assisted living and nursing home negligence matters are complex and time-sensitive. While the example above seems relatively straightforward, there are a number of factors to consider. It’s important to document the possible negligence now, including the issues, events, and names of interested persons.

Give our office a call to discuss your situation. The first half hour of the consultation is free. Our firm can help you hold the facility accountable for their wrongdoing.

Nursing Home Negligence

In many instances of nursing home or assisted living negligence, medication mismanagement is the direct cause of other issues, such as a resident falling down.

It All Starts Well

Consider this example. Your mother is a resident in an assisted living facility. She needs 9 different medications given to her on a daily basis. She can independently move from room to room and is not considered at high risk for falling.

Problematic Signs

However, you eventually notice that your mother’s pill supplies are being exhausted faster than anticipated. So you remind the assisted living facility of the physician’s prescriptions, including the proper dosages and reasons for medication management.

Signs of Nursing Home Negligence: The Fall

One day, a staff member from the assisted living facility calls to inform you that your mother “unexpectedly” fell. She sustained various injuries and is now at the local hospital suffering from a broken hip and a concussion.

The Untold Cause

What they didn’t tell you was that the nurse in charge of medication management over-medicated your mother. Normally your mother would have no difficulty walking, but due to the side effects, she became drowsy and weak. This led to her stumbling, falling, and injuring herself.

Proving the Assisted Living Negligence

It will be up to you to prove the negligence in this matter. The assisted living facility is being paid to take care of your parent. Don’t let them get away with their negligence.

Call our office, and let us fight for you.

Signs of Nursing Home Negligence

The Facility’s Responsibility

When your parent transitions to a nursing home or assisted living facility, a significant agreement is made. The facility agrees to provide care as your parent needs, in exchange for a hefty monthly fee.

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities often categorize their care into 3 levels. Level 1 is a step up from independent living; the resident needs little supervision. Level 3, on the other hand, indicates a resident that needs regular supervision, similar to a nursing home level of care.

Whatever level of care your parent is in, it is the responsibility of the facility to ensure your parent’s safety. Perhaps that means having a rail on the side of the bed to prevent falls. Or maybe it’s putting an alarm under the bed to alert nurses when a resident moves off the bed. Or perhaps there is the need to have constant assistance moving from place to place.

Signs of Negligence

Here are signs that a nursing home or assisted living facility may be liable for negligence:

  1. The facility is aware of a resident’s unique need.
  2. The facility fails to address that unique need.
  3. As a result, the resident is hurt.

Case in Point

Let’s suppose your mother was recently admitted to an assisted living facility under Level 3 care. Weighing about 160 pounds, she needs the assistance of two aides to move her from any location, such as from the bed to the bathroom.

One morning, one of the nurse aides is running late. Your mother pushes the alert button near her bed, signaling that she wishes to use the bathroom. However, only one aide comes to her assistance. He attempts to get her out of bed, and things are fine—until she puts more weight on the unassisted side and suddenly stumbles. They both fall down hard on the cold, unrelenting floor. Your mother’s thigh bone, already in brittle condition, snaps. She is immediately rushed to the hospital, where she undergoes surgery to set her broken hip.

You are told about this incident immediately by the facility director, who assures you they did everything possible and that accidents sometimes happen. Unfortunately for your mother, the broken hip leads to invasive surgery that leaves her in a weakened condition. She never fully recovers, and her health rapidly worsens. Her surgical wound constantly hurts, and moving her leg also causes her pain. She eventually passes in a nursing home three months later.

This is a case of actionable negligence against the assisted living facility. If they hadn’t violated the standard of care of two nurse aides, your mother would not have fallen to the floor. But because of their negligence, your mother had to endure constant pain over the last remaining months of her life, which was dramatically shortened as a direct result of the injury.

Getting Compensation

If you think your family member has been the victim of negligence in a nursing home or assisted living facility, our law office can help. Sometimes it takes assistance from a lawyer to get the assisted living facility to pay for their negligence. Your family deserves to be compensated for the pain and suffering the negligence caused.

Call our office, and let us fight for you.

Bed Sores

Paying Attention: Nursing Home Staff

Bed sores are often the result of nursing home staff not paying a resident any or very little attention. A parent is left on their bed, unable to care for themselves, fecal matter accumulates, and there is a rapid break down of their skin. Serious infection follows. This is negligence at its most avoidable because the cause is simply lack of attention. Nursing homes are paid lots of money to take care of your loved one. Under no circumstances should a bed sore develop.

Awareness of Bed Sore Issues

In many cases, the family only becomes aware of the bed sore issue upon admission from the nursing home to a hospital after a loved one’s health seriously deteriorates.

Taking Legal Action

No one wants to have a bed sore that leads to more complications. How do you know if it is severe enough to warrant legal action? There is no bright line test for the severity of the bed sore to make it actionable. But the general rule is this: the worse the bed sore is and the more complications that result, the stronger the case.

The unfortunate issue with bed sores is that yours will probably not be an isolated occurrence. If your parent or loved one suffers from a bed sore at this nursing home, there is almost a guarantee that this is a chronic issue at this facility. Make sure it does not happen again to your loved one or anyone else at this facility.

Taking Responsibility for Nursing Home Negligence

Very rarely will a nursing home freely admit they are at fault. Often the nursing home will blame a previous nursing home, assisted living facility or hospital. Do not let them get away with it.

Action against a nursing home for this violation of trust can force them to hire the right staff, and your action may protect not only your loved one but also future residents. You are also holding the nursing home accountable for the trust you have given them for the privilege of taking care of your parent or loved one.

The Grand Bargain

Bed sores are often the result of a severe breakdown in the grand bargain—that in return for significant payment, a loved one is guaranteed a safe and secure environment. Please note that even if a loved one is on Medical Assistance, the nursing home is still being paid a very large sum for their care.

Once that bargain is violated and the bed sore issues are severe, you may have a case against that nursing home. Do not let them get away with it.

The Importance of Documentation

Always document the action or inaction by the nursing home staff (i.e. names, witnesses, pictures, dates, times, etc.). This is often the difference between a winning and losing case when legal action is required.

Feel free to give our office a call for a consultation.

Falls at a Nursing Home

Standard of Care to Prevent Falls

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are under a duty to care for their residents.

This includes a standard of care when it comes to their residents who are at risk of falling. When a nursing home or assisted living facility breaches that standard of care and a resident is harmed, there may be a legal case against that facility.

Often the fall was completely avoidable and should have been prevented. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are being paid lots of money to take care of loved ones. It is their responsibility to mitigate falls. It is their job. A single fall can be a life altering event, affecting a person’s quality of life for the rest of his or her life.

The Grand Bargain

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are supposed to be safe havens for our parents and loved ones when living in the community is no longer viable. In essence you are trusting the facility to take care of your parent at a time when you cannot take care of them yourself. It is a grand bargain: the facility is paid handsomely for their care in return for taking every precaution to make the living arrangements safe. In some case, unfortunately, that trust is blatantly violated.

Nursing Staff Negligence

At some nursing homes and assisted living facilities, the nursing staff and aides are underpaid, untrained, overworked, and have high turnover. Mistakes are often repeated and not corrected. Their mistakes only comes to light when disaster strikes and a family member is willing to fight back and say that is not right.

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities want to limit their exposure to “accidents” and will want the resident to sign an arbitration clause to avoid a court trial. Do not sign the arbitration agreement. Signing an arbitration clause is akin to insuring less of a recovery and less accountability for the facility. Often times the facility will ignore the problem, pretend the issue does not exist, or blame the resident. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities know that their residents often suffer from dementia, are weak or physically unstable. These are not unknowns to nursing home or assisted living management, and they are obligated to take measures to address these risks.

Taking Legal Action for Nursing Home Neglect

How do you know when it is time to get an attorney involved?  The nursing home or assisted living facility has to have breached their standard of care to the resident (i.e., it was their fault, their staff was negligent in their action or inaction, etc.). Next, the resident has to be harmed to a significant extent. How much harm is enough? The harm at issue does not have to be permanent but must be significant.

Nursing home and assisted living facilities are big business in Maryland with the average cost of assisted living facilities at $4,000–$6,000 per month and nursing home costs at $8,000–$11,000 per month on average. Sometimes the facility does not hold up their end of the deal. Do not let the nursing home or assisted living facility get away with their behavior. For the sake of your loved one and countless others at their facility, someone needs to take a stand.

Recommendation #1: Document Everything

Take diligent notes of the negligent behavior (dates, names of those involved, witnesses, etc.). Unfortunately, not everyone has a photographic memory. Always document the issue. This helps establish your case when a judge gets involved.

Feel free to give our office a call for a consultation.