November 2009 Archives

Nursing home residents may be at risk for digestive disease.  Diverticulitis is a fairly common disease found in the colon (large intestine) which occurs when protruding pouches coming out of the wall of the colon become inflamed or infected.  Patients suffering from diverticulitis may experience the following symptoms:  (1) lower abdominal pain; (2) diarrhea; (3) constipation; (4) fever; (5) bleeding from rectum; and/or (6) nausea/vomiting.

Fortunately, this condition can oftentimes be treated with antibiotics and dietary measures so long as it is timely diagnosed. 

The nursing home staff must alert the patient's treating physician if the resident experiences symptoms of digestive disease including diverticulitis.  The failure to do so can have fatal consequences.  For instance, the patient may develop peritonitis or intestinal obstruction requiring emergency surgery and treatment.  Sadly, under these circumstances, the nursing home's failure to timely alert the physician and/or transfer the patient to the hospital may result in serious medical complications or even death. 

A sample Maryland Wrongful Death/Survivorship Complaint involving claims of negligence relating to nursing home failures to make arrangements for the patient to receive necessary medical evaluations and treatment for diverticulitis follows:

COMPLAINT

Plaintiffs, [insert names of Plaintiffs], by their attorneys, hereby file this Complaint against Defendants, [insert names of Defendants], and in support thereof state as follows:

PARTIES AND JURISDICTION

1.   At all times material to this case, Plaintiffs have been citizens and residents of the State of Maryland.  Plaintiffs [insert names] are the surviving children of the decedent, [insert name].  [Insert name of wrongful death beneficiaries] are wrongful death beneficiaries in this action pursuant to Section 3-904(a) of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article of the Maryland Annotated Code.
2. [Insert name] is the duly appointed Personal Representative of the Estate of [insert name].  The Register of Wills for Baltimore City issued Letters of Administration to [insert name] on [insert date].  The Estate of [insert name] is bringing this survival action pursuant to Section 7-401(x) of the Estates and Trusts Article of the Maryland Code.
3. At all times material to this case, [insert names of Defendants] have been operating nursing homes and engaging in the practice of medicine and rehabilitation services in Baltimore City and throughout Maryland, acting through actual and/or apparent agents, servants and/or employees.
4. The venue for this claim is proper in Baltimore City, Maryland.  The amount in controversy exceeds Thirty Thousand Dollars ($30,000.00).

FACTS COMMON TO ALL COUNTS

5. At all times mentioned and relevant herein, [insert names of Defendants] have been licensed by the State of Maryland to own and operate nursing homes iand assisted living facilities in Maryland and have held itself and its agents, servants and employees out to the general public as experienced, competent and capable providers of nursing home, assisted living, and medical and rehabilitation services, and in such capacity owed a duty to [insert name of Plaintiff] and the Plaintiffs to render that degree of medical care and skill which is ordinarily rendered by those who devote special study and attention to the practice of medicine and rehabilitation services.
6. At all times mentioned and relevant herein, all individuals at [insert name of nursing home] who participated in the care provided to [insert name] were acting on behalf of [insert names of Defendants] and within the scope of their employment and/or agency with [insert names of Defendants].
7. On or about [insert date], [insert name] was admitted to [insert name of nursing home].  
8. According to the medical records, on or about [insert date], [insert name of Plaintiff] complained to the nursing home staff of diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramps, and back pain.  Subsequent care notes failed to document that the staff had assessed [insert name]'s abdomen or monitored her condition for improvement or worsening of the diarrhea.
9. A care note dated [insert date] documented that [insert name] continued to complain of nausea.   Once again, however, the care note failed to document any assessment of [insert name]'s abdomen or bowel function.
10. A care noted dated [insert date] documented that [insert name] was continuing to complain of nausea and diarrhea.  The note further documented that [insert name]'s abdomen was distended and tender to the touch, and that there was a foul BM (bowel movement) odor in [insert name]'s room.   Despite these findings, the nursing home staff failed to obtain necessary medical assistance for [insert name].
11. On [insert date], [insert name] continued to complain of nausea and abdominal pain.   [Insert name]'s physician was finally notified and [inset name] was transported to the emergency room at [insert name of hospital].
12. Doctors at [insert name of hospital] ran preliminary tests and determined that [insert name] was severely dehydrated and anemic.  After admitting [insert name] to the hospital and running additional tests, doctors determined that [insert name] had an acute sigmoid diverticulitis that had produced multiple large pelvic abscesses.  Doctors initially attempted to drain the abscesses but were unsuccessful.   [Insert name] subsequently underwent a major abdominal surgery and colon resection.  By this point, however, [insert name] had developed peritonitis and acute renal failure.  [Insert name] died on [insert date].  The Death Certificate lists the primary cause of death as sepsis related to perforated diverticular disease.

COUNT I (Professional Negligence)

13. The Plaintiffs incorporate all of the allegations contained in the above paragraphs as if those allegations are set forth in this Count.
14. Defendants, individually and through their actual and/or apparent agents, servants and/or employees, owed [insert name] a duty to exercise reasonable care in their treatment of her.
15. Defendants, individually and through their actual and/or apparent agents, servants and/or employees, breached the above-described duty of care to [insert name], thereby deviating from the applicable standards of care, and were otherwise negligent, careless and reckless in that they, among other things:

a. failed to appropriately monitor and evaluate [insert name]'s ongoing medical condition;
b. failed to timely and properly diagnose [insert name]'s diverticulitis;
c. failed to make arrangements for [insert name] to receive necessary medical evaluations and treatment for her diverticulitis, which resulted in [insert name] developing large pelvic abscesses, peritonitis and renal failure, conditions that ultimately caused her death; and
d. were otherwise negligent and violated the applicable standards of care.

16. As a direct and proximate result of the above-described deviations from the applicable standards of care and breaches of duty by Defendants, [insert name] was caused to sustain serious, painful and permanent injuries to her body, including great physical and mental pain and suffering, and, ultimately, death.
17. As a further direct and proximate result of the above-described deviations from the applicable standards of care and breaches of duty by Defendants, [insert name], among other things, was compelled to undergo medical procedures and treatment and, as a result, was obliged to expend sums of money for medical care and was precluded from engaging in her normal pursuits and activities, among other injuries and damages.
18. Had Defendants followed the appropriate and applicable standards of care, [insert name] would not have suffered the above-identified injuries, damages and death.
19. The injuries herein complained of were directly and proximately caused by the negligence and want of care of Defendants, with no negligence on the part of [insert name] contributing thereto.

WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs request that a judgment be entered against the Defendants for compensatory damages in excess of Thirty Thousand Dollars ($30,000.00) and any other relief to which this Court finds them entitled.

COUNT II (Wrongful Death)

20. The Plaintiffs incorporate all of the allegations contained in the above paragraphs as if those allegations are set forth in this Count.

21. As a direct and proximate result of the Defendants' above-described negligence in causing the death of [insert name], [insert names of wrongful death beneficiaries] have sustained, among other things, pecuniary loss, mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of society, loss of companionship, loss of comfort, loss of protection, loss of parental care, loss of filial care, loss of attention, loss of advice, loss of counsel, loss of guidance and loss of education. 

WHEREFORE, the Plaintiffs request that a judgment be entered against the Defendants for compensatory damages in excess of Thirty Thousand Dollars ($30,000.00) and any other relief to which this Court finds them entitled.

*  *  *

Please feel free to contact the nursing home neglect lawyers at Dever & Feldstein, LLC at (888) 825-9119 for a free consultation if you believe that a family member or loved one has sustained serious injury or wrongful death as a result of failure to diagnose and/or treat digestive disease such as diverticulitis, bed sores (also known as pressure sores or decubitus ulcers), nursing home falls, dehydration/malnutrition, medication administration error/prescription mistake, elder abuse or elder neglect.

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A tracheostomy is a surgically created opening in the windpipe (trachea) that may be used (for among other things) for patients who require breathing support with a ventilator (breathing machine). 

Regular tracheostomy care is essential in order to prevent complications including infection, windpipe damage, narrowing or collapsing of the airway and prevention of skin breakdown.  The good news is that tracheostomy care is a fairly benign process and complications may be preventable so long as proper care is provided.  Elderly nursing home patients and their families must attempt to locate nursing home facilities that are able to provide this level of care.  There are certain nursing home facilities that have Ventilator Units and hold themselves out as competent and able to provide the care required for such patients.

Unfortunately, we have seen situations where human error involving accidental or inadvertent removal of the tracheostomy tube results in permanent injury to the nursing home resident or even death.  In these circumstances, time is of the essence and the nursing home staff must timely and appropriately respond to the patient's respiratory distress.

A sample Maryland Wrongful Death/Survivorship Complaint involving claims of negligence relating to tracheostomy/ventilator care follows:


COMPLAINT

Plaintiffs, [insert names of Plaintiffs], by their attorneys, hereby file this Complaint against Defendants, [insert names of Defendants], and in support thereof, state as follows:

PARTIES AND JURISDICTION

1.At all times material to this case, Plaintiffs have been citizens and residents of the State of Maryland.  Plaintiffs [insert names] are the surviving children of the decedent, [insert name].  [Insert names of wrongful death beneficiaries] are wrongful death beneficiaries in this action pursuant to Section 3-904(a) of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article of the Maryland Annotated Code.
2.[Insert name] is the duly appointed Personal Representative of the Estate of [insert name].  The Register of Wills for Baltimore City, Maryland issued Letters of Administration to [insert name] on [insert date].  The Estate of [insert name] is bringing this survival action pursuant to Section 7-401(x) of the Estates and Trusts Article of the Maryland Annotated Code.
3.At all times material to this case, [insert names of Defendants] have been corporations engaging in the practice of medicine and rehabilitation services in Baltimore City, Maryland, and acting through actual and/or apparent agents, servants and/or employees.
4.The venue for this claim is proper in Baltimore City, Maryland.  The amount in controversy exceeds Thirty Thousand Dollars ($30,000.00).

FACTS COMMON TO ALL COUNTS

5. At all times mentioned and relevant herein, [insert names of Defendants] have owned and operated the nursing home facility located at [insert address] in Baltimore City, Maryland, and have held themselves and their agents, servants and employees out to the general public as experienced, competent and capable providers of medical, rehabilitation, and nursing home services, and in such capacity owed a duty to [insert name] and the Plaintiffs to render that degree of medical care and skill which is ordinarily rendered by those who devote special study and attention to the practice of medicine, rehabilitation, and nursing home services.
6. At all times mentioned and relevant herein, all of the individuals at [insert names of Defendants] who participated in the care provided to [insert name] were acting on behalf of and within the scope of their employment with [insert names of Defendants].
7. On or about [insert date], [insert name] was admitted to the [insert name of nursing home] nursing home facility.  At the time of his admission, [insert name] suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and required ventilator support via a tracheostomy.  [Insert name] and his family selected [insert name of nursing home] facility because the facility represented that it had the equipment and trained staff necessary for the care of a ventilator-dependent patient.
8. On or about [insert date], [insert name] was evaluated by a nurse at approximately [insert time] and was noted to be awake and alert and in no distress.  Later that evening, [insert name] was found unresponsive in his bed by a respiratory technician. The technician noted that [insert name]'s tracheostomy tube was half way out, and he had no pulse.  The technician called 911, and paramedics arrived on the scene at approximately [insert time].  The paramedics were able to restore [insert name]'s breathing, and they immediately transported him to [insert name of hospital].
9. Upon admission to [insert name of hospital], [insert name] was diagnosed with continuous seizure activity secondary to anoxic encephalopathy.  [Insert name] never recovered neurologically, and life support was withdrawn on [insert date].  [Insert name] was pronounced dead at [insert time] on [insert date].  The Death Certificate lists the cause of death as anoxic brain injury.

COUNT I (Professional Negligence)

10. The Plaintiffs incorporate all of the allegations contained in the above paragraphs as if those allegations are set forth in this Count.
11. Defendants, individually and through their actual and/or apparent agents, servants and/or employees, owed [insert name] a duty to exercise reasonable care in their treatment of him.
12. Defendants, individually and through their actual and/or apparent agents, servants and/or employees, breached the above-described duty of care to [insert name], thereby deviating from the applicable standards of care, and were otherwise negligent, careless and reckless in that they, among other things:

a. failed to properly monitor and manage [insert name]'s tracheostomy;
b. failed to properly monitor and manage [insert name]'s ventilator support;
c. failed to respond in a timely and appropriate manner to [insert name]'s respiratory distress; and
d. were otherwise negligent and violated the applicable standards of care.

13. As a direct and proximate result of the above-described deviations from the applicable standards of care and breaches of duty by Defendants, [insert name] was caused to sustain serious, painful and permanent injuries to his body, including great physical and mental pain and suffering, and, ultimately, death.
14. As a further direct and proximate result of the above-described deviations from the applicable standards of care and breaches of duty by Defendants, [insert name], among other things, was forced to undergo medical treatment, and, as a result, was obliged to expend sums of money for medical, hospital and other care and treatment and was precluded from engaging in his normal and usual pursuits and activities, among other injuries and damages.
15. Had Defendants followed the appropriate and applicable standards of care, [insert name] would not have suffered the above-identified injuries, damages and death.
16. The injuries and damages herein complained of were directly and proximately caused by the negligence and want of care of Defendants, with no negligence on the part of [insert name] contributing thereto.

 WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs request that a judgment be entered against the Defendants for compensatory damages in excess of Thirty Thousand Dollars ($30,000.00) and any other relief to which this Court finds them entitled.

COUNT II (Wrongful Death)

17. The Plaintiffs incorporate all of the allegations contained in the above paragraphs as if those allegations are set forth in this Count.
18. As a direct and proximate result of the Defendants' above-described negligence in causing the death of [insert name], [insert names of wrongful death beneficiaries] have sustained, among other things, pecuniary loss, mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of society, loss of companionship, loss of comfort, loss of protection, loss of parental care, loss of filial care, loss of attention, loss of advice, loss of counsel, loss of guidance and loss of education. 

 WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs request that a judgment be entered against the Defendants for compensatory damages in excess of Thirty Thousand Dollars ($30,000.00) and any other relief to which this Court finds them entitled.

* * *

Please feel free to contact the nursing home neglect lawyers at Dever & Feldstein, LLC at (888) 825-9119 for a free consultation if you believe that a family member or loved one has sustained serious injury or wrongful death as a result of substandard tracheostomy/ventilator care, bed sores (also known as pressure sores or decubitus ulcers), nursing home falls, dehydration/malnutrition, medication administration error/prescription mistake, elder abuse or elder neglect.

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Family members who wish to complain regarding the care and treatment provided to their family member or loved at nursing homes in Maryland have several potential options.

First, the family can complain to the nurse in charge of the unit, and then to the Director of Nursing, Administration or Medical Director of the nursing home.  Under Maryland law, the Nursing Home Administrator is required to investigate complaints within thirty days.

If there is a concern that such complaints to the nursing home could negatively impact the patient's safety or well-being, it may be advisable to contact the Maryland Office of Health Care Quality/ Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.  To make a complaint, call the Maryland Office of Health Care Quality at (410) 402-8000.

The State's nursing home inspection results are considered public information and can be obtained from the Maryland Office of Health Care Quality.  Requests for such results should be forwarded to:

Office of Health Care Quality
Spring Grove Hospital Center
Bland Bryant Building
55 Wade Avenue
Catonsville, Maryland 21228
Attn: Public Information Request
(410) 402-8000

Finally, families can make complaints to their local county nursing home ombudsman.  
Under the Maryland Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, each county in Maryland is served by a local nursing home ombudsman.  An ombudsman is a government official  who helps people resolve problems with nursing homes and assisted living facilities. 

The Maryland State Ombudsman's Office can provide the contact information for the local county Ombudsman office.  The contact information for the Maryland State Ombudsman's Office and several local county offices follow:

Maryland Department of Aging
State Long Term Care Ombudsman
Patricia Bayliss--Chief Ombudsman
301 West Preston Street, Room 1007
Baltimore, Maryland 21201
(410) 767-1100
(800) 243-3425, ext. 71108 (toll free)

Baltimore City   (410) 396-2273
Baltimore County  (410) 887-2594
Prince George's County (301) 265-8450
Anne Arundel County  (410) 222-4527
Howard County  (410) 313-5980
Montgomery County  (240) 777-3000
Harford County  (410) 638-3025


Please feel free to contact the lawyers at Dever & Feldstein, LLC at (888) 825-9119 for a free consultation if you believe that a family member or loved one has sustained serious injury or wrongful death as a result of elder neglect or abuse.

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Your Name: Email Address: Phone Number:
We have received many inquiries from families requesting investigation of potential nursing home neglect/abuse cases while their loved one or family member simultaneously continues to reside in the target nursing home.  For instance, the nursing home resident may develop bedsores (also known as decubitus ulcers or pressure sores) during their stay at the nursing home.  The family eventually learns of the bedsores and become frustrated as they continually find that their loved one: (1) has soiled themselves, and is dirty and not receiving adequate hygiene care; (2) has not been turned or repositioned; (3) is not receiving adequate nutrition and/or hydration; (3) is being placed in a wheelchair or a Geri-chair without being repositioned for long periods of time; and/or (4) is not receiving regular wound care or medical attention.  The family's complaints to the nursing home staff are ignored.  The resident's bedsores continue to get worse, become infected and progress to stage 3 and then stage 4.  The resident is in and out of the hospital for wound care, wound debridement and treatment of sepsis (blood infection) and osteomyelitis (bone infection), and then transferred back to the nursing home.
 
In these circumstances, the family's focus should be on the health and immediate well-being and safety of their loved one.  Putting aside the merits of any potential lawsuit, a family considering suing a nursing home has obviously lost complete confidence in the nursing home's ability to care for their loved one.  The family should therefore attempt to locate alternative care arrangements and have the resident transferred as soon as possible.  This may, however, be easier said than done.  It can, in practice, be extremely difficult to locate alternative care for many reasons including the level of care required, health insurance coverage issues, Medicare or Medicaid coverage issues, and/or the location of the facility. 
 
There are public resources available that can provide assistance to families in this regard. 
Under the Maryland Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, each county in Maryland is served by a local nursing home ombudsman.  An ombudsman is a government official  who helps people resolve problems with nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  Among other things, the Ombudsman Program can assist with the following:
1. provide up-to-date information to the public about local nursing homes;
2. provide assistance with useful advice on finding a good alternative nursing home that can meet the needs of the patient and satisfy the patient's insurance, Medicare or Medicaid eligibility; and
3. answer inquiries regarding nursing home alternatives. 
The Ombudsman program is required to keep any information provided confidential.  There is no charge for this program.
 
The Maryland State Ombudsman's Office can provide the contact information for the local county Ombudsman office.  The contact information for the Maryland State Ombudsman's Office and several local county offices follows:
 
Maryland Department of Aging
State Long Term Care Ombudsman
Patricia Bayliss--Chief Ombudsman
301 West Preston Street, Room 1007
Baltimore, Maryland 21201
(410) 767-1100
(800) 243-3425, ext. 71108 (toll free)
 
Baltimore City                          (410) 396-2273
Baltimore County                      (410) 887-2594
Prince George's County            (301) 265-8450
Anne Arundel County               (410) 222-4527
Howard County                        (410) 313-5980
Montgomery County                 (240) 777-3000
Harford County                        (410) 638-3025
  
In those circumstances where it is not feasible to move the patient, the family should take steps to ensure that the nursing home does not become aware that a potential lawsuit is being investigated so that the patient's care is not compromised.  In the appropriate circumstances, our law firm may request medical records from outside hospitals and wound care centers in order to obtain additional information regarding the patient's condition and prognosis.  Based upon the information contained in the medical records, our firm's attorneys can help further counsel the family through this difficult situation in a manner that appropriately considers the patient's safety and well-being.  Under certain circumstances, the family may also be directed to request medical records from the nursing home in order to help further facilitate the investigation. 
 
Ultimately, these are very difficult issues and each situation must be evaluated and handled on a case-by-case basis.  The first concern must always be the health, safety and well-being of the nursing home resident.    
 
Please feel free to contact the nursing home negligence lawyers at Dever & Feldstein, LLC at (888) 825-9119 for a free consultation if you believe that a family member or loved one has sustained serious injury or wrongful death as a result of bed sores (also known as pressure sores or decubitus ulcers), nursing home falls, dehydration/malnutrition, medication administration error/prescription mistake, elder abuse or elder neglect.
Contact Our Firm
Your Name: Email Address: Phone Number:

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This page is an archive of entries from November 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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