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My Siblings are Concerned that our Elderly Father is not Receiving Proper Care at his Nursing Home. What are a Maryland Nursing Home’s Responsibilities to Resident Care?

Placing the care of a loved one in the hands of strangers, even though they may be professional employed by a well-regarded nursing home or other type of Maryland elder care facility, can be a difficult decision for any family. Even under the best of circumstances, this kind of situation can be stressful on family members, but when suspicions are raised as to the quality of care that your loved one is receiving, it can be especially difficult to know what to do when it becomes clear that things are not as they should be.

Many people are not fully aware of the services that elder care facilities must provide under the law. Here in Maryland, the general requirements for nursing homes and the responsibilities they owe their residents must include the following:

Proper Resident Cleanliness and Hygiene Provisions

The residents of Maryland nursing homes and other elder care facilities must be provided with help bathing no less than once every week. As part of this service, the resident may need assistance shampooing their hair, either when taking a full bath or a shower. In cases where a resident is bedridden due to illness, the care facility must see that the individual receives either a daily sponge bath in bed, or a full bath at least twice per week.

Assistance should be provided to those residents who need to shave when necessary and the individual’s hair should be brushed once a day. Staff members of Maryland nursing homes should also provide assistance prior to and after every meal. Other related help includes the daily washing of hands, face and teeth; as well as help toileting, when required.

Should a resident become wet or soiled due to incontinence or other physical problem, he or she should receive assistance from elder care staff in order to be cleaned up following the incident. Any soiled clothes or bedding should be changed, washed and replaced with clean items, clothing and/or linens.

Correct Nutrition

Proper nutrition is at the core of healthy living, no matter who you are. This is especially important for individuals who live in a Maryland nursing facility or other elder care institution, not only for the usual reasons, but also to prevent or stave off certain medical conditions that can lead to the development of pressure sores (also known as bedsores). In the absence of a proper diet — and most especially the lack of vitamin C and zinc — wounds such as bedsores will not be able to heal properly, despite continuing treatment for those sores.

Because of this, and in order to stay as healthy as possible, nursing home residents should receive the proper amount of calories, protein and other nutrients necessary to maintain good nutrition. Any and all food items and meals should be served at the appropriate temperature. An elder care resident who requires assistance with eating should as a matter of course receive such help from the nursing home staff. Staff members should be expected to help residents open packaged food items when necessary, as well as provide any special utensils should the circumstances require it.

Also, unless a doctor has deemed it necessary for the health of the patient, nursing home residents should never be fed via a feeding tube. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we understand the concerns that many family members can have regarding the comfort, safety and health of an aging parent. The skilled nursing home abuse specialists at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, have the legal training and litigation experience to help residents of elder care facilities throughout the state of Maryland fight for their rights to a safe and healthy nursing home environment.

Appropriate Hydration

One of the more basic, and often the most critical, needs of any person who resides at a Maryland nursing facility is access to proper hydration on a daily basis. The state of Maryland requires that residents of elder care facilities receive hydrating fluids — such as fresh water — when requested, along with drinking cups placed in a convenient location.

Especially for bedridden individuals, cups and fresh water should be located so as to be easily accessible from the resident’s bed (such as on a nightstand next to the head of the bed).

In the warmer months especially, particular attention should be provided to ensure that elderly residents not only have access to a sufficient amount of water, but that they are consuming enough fluid to avoid dehydration.

Monitoring of Vital Signs

At the time of admission, and at least once every month thereafter, the staff at all Maryland nursing homes are required to assess a resident’s health by taking readings of the person’s heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and respiration rate. Additionally, a nursing home staff member should record the weight of the resident upon arrival at the elder care facility and every month thereafter. While doing each of these on a monthly basis is a standard requirement by law, any of the abovementioned tasks may need to be done more frequently based on a physician’s orders.

Assessing and Maintaining Proper Blood Circulation

Those nursing home residents who are bedridden or sit in a wheelchair for extended periods every day are the most at risk for developing pressure sores or bedsores, but more specifically referred to in medical terms as decubitus ulcers. Under such conditions, these at-risk patients should receive assistance to change their position at the very minimum every two hours (or whenever they feel uncomfortable).

It is recommended that support pads, pillows and/or special mattresses be provided for immobile residents in order to relieve pressure on their skin and so that proper blood circulation is maintained in those areas of greatest contact.

As personal injury attorneys and nursing home negligence experts, the legal team at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, know that even when these measures are taken, there is always a chance that a resident of a Maryland elder care facility will develop bedsores. In situations where decubitus ulcers do present themselves, for whatever reason, it is critical that the patient be treated immediately in order to heal the sores and to prevent potentially deadly infection.

In our experience, these sores can be dangerous because once blood circulation is cut off to an area of skin, the victim will likely experience tissue breakdown in a relatively brief period of time, which then often leads to large, painful open wounds susceptible to infection via bacteria that can spread to the rest of the body. In serious cases, amputation of the affected limb or appendage is often required to avoid further loss of healthy tissue.

Pressure sores that do not receive proper and timely medical attention can also lead to sepsis, which causes inflammation to occur throughout the victim’s entire body. The resulting blood clots that often form can act to prevent necessary nutrients and oxygen from reaching other organs, causing in some of the worst cases complete organ failure. Finally, sepsis can lead to what doctors refer to as septic shock, which results in a significant drop in blood pressure and possible death.

The skilled personal injury team at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, can provide you and your family with information and detailed legal consultation regarding cases of nursing home neglect or abuse. The initial no-obligation consultation is free and our experienced attorneys are ready to provide victims and their families with the knowledge necessary to make decisions regarding their legal rights as provided for under Maryland law. We remind you to please act quickly and to understand that any failure to move forward in a timely fashion could result in the lost opportunity to pursue your personal injury case.

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