March 14, 2011

U.S. Senate Panel on Elder Abuse : Cases of Senior Citizens Abused by Caregivers on the Rise

Entertainment legend Mickey Rooney, age 90, testified before the U.S. Senate earlier this month that he had suffered abuse for years by family members and other caregivers. Rooney told the Senate that he had been abused in many ways, including emotional and financial abuse.

Rooney was among witnesses who testified before a Senate panel looking at what elder rights advocates describe as a "chronic problem" of senior citizens abused by caregivers at home and in nursing homes. Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) introduced legislation that would create an Office of Elder Justice within the Department of Justice to help coordinate law enforcement's response to cases of elder abuse. Rooney believes that a law should be passed by Congress making elder abuse a specific crime.

A Baltimore County, Maryland nursing home abuse lawyer is familiar with laws and regulations that are supposed to protect senior citizens from abuse and neglect. Maryland nursing homes are entrusted with caring for our senior Americans who deserve to live their golden years in comfort and peace. Sadly, some seniors fall victim to abuse and neglect by family members, caregivers, and nursing home staff -- suffering physical abuse and injuries that can lead to wrongful death in Maryland.

Seniors may also have medication, money, and property stolen or become victims of financial fraud while in nursing home care. (See related blog article about a recent nursing home abuse case in Maryland, where a nursing assistant was prosecuted for stealing medication from a patient.)

CNN reports that according to the GAO (Government Accountability Office), more than 14 percent of non-institutionalized older adults experienced some form of elder abuse in 2009. The situation can be even worse for senior citizens who go into nursing homes: many elder care advocates believe that one-third of U.S. nursing homes have been accused of elder abuse toward residents. Unfortunately, as the Baby Boom population ages -- state-level resources and funding for Adult Protective Service programs are dwindling. It will be interesting to see if the Federal government passes more laws to protect senior citizens in this country.

Sources:

Mickey Rooney tells Senate panel he was a victim of elder abuse
CNN.com March 2, 2001

Justice for All: Ending Elder Abuse, Neglect and Financial Exploitation
(Archived webcast and PDF transcripts of witnesses who testified at Senate hearing)
U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging March 2, 2011

Related Maryland Injury Attorney articles:

Maryland Nursing Home Abuse Case : Judge Sentences Nursing Assistant for Stealing Pain Medication July 21, 2010

Maryland Nursing Home Patients with Alzheimer's Disease Increasing in Number May 14, 2010

Related Web Resources:

Maryland Department of Aging

The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care

U.S. Dept. of Justice: Elder Justice

July 21, 2010

Maryland Nursing Home Abuse Case : Judge Sentences Nursing Assistant for Stealing Pain Medication

The Maryland Attorney General's office issued a press release regarding sentencing in a recent case of nursing home abuse in Northern Maryland. While many nursing home abuse cases involve assault or neglect of a resident, this case involves something we hear less about, but is just as abusive -- theft of pain medication from an elderly patient who needed it.

According to Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, a 34-year-old man from Hagerstown, Md., pled guilty to stealing a Fentanyl pain medication patch from a 94-year-old patient. The perpetrator was employed as a nursing assistant in a Washington County, Maryland nursing home.

Baltimore County nursing home abuse lawyers assist families who believe a loved one may be suffering from abuse or neglect at a Maryland nursing home.

The judge in this Maryland nursing home abuse case handed down a sentence of 3 years
incarceration (suspended) and 3 years supervised probation. The perpetrator is not allowed to engage in employment in any nursing home or health care facility. His crime was discovered by a nurse at the facility, who found the patient to be suffering from pain and his pain patch missing.

Video cameras also assisted investigators in identifying the nursing assistant who stole pain medication from a Maryland nursing home resident. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used in chronic pain management -- in cancer patients, for example. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it is more potent than morphine.

Washington County Nursing Assistant Sentenced for Abuse of a Vulnerable Adult
Attorney General of Maryland Press Release June 29, 2010

Related Web Resource

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): Fentanyl

May 14, 2010

Maryland Nursing Home Patients with Alzheimer's Disease Increasing in Number

A new report by the Alzheimer's Association reveals that Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, is on the rise. Some daunting statistics:

  • Alzheimer's disease affects one in eight people over age 65 (a total of 5.1 million senior citizens).
  • In addition, 200,000 younger people experience early onset of the disease, bringing the total number of Americans with Alzheimer's disease to 5.3 million.
  • Annual costs associated with caring for people with the disease are estimated at $172 billion, with 10.9 million caregivers (such as family members) who are not paid.
  • Alzheimer's disease is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.

As Baltimore County, MD personal injury lawyers, we are keenly aware of how vulnerable seniors who suffer from dementia and their families can be. Nursing homes, retirement communities, and skilled nursing centers have a responsibility to care for these special needs patients. Yet sadly, nursing home abuse and neglect can and does occur in Maryland, especially to impaired people who can not speak up for themselves.

Maryland Nursing Homes and Patients with Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer's disease statistics in Maryland reflect the rising trend in the rest of the country, as the Baby Boom generation ages and more people are living longer -- and becoming impaired by this cruel disease. The Alzheimer's Association offers these sobering statistics for the State of Maryland:

  • In 2000, there were 78,000 people with Alzheimer's and other dementias living in Maryland.
  • By 2010, that number had increased to 86,000 people with the disease living in Maryland -- an increase of 10 percent.
  • Of the 65,573 people living in Maryland nursing homes in 2008, more than half had cognitive impairment, and 37% had severe to moderate impairment.
  • If Alzheimer's disease continues to become more prevalent, 15% of people age 65 and older in Maryland will have some form of dementia by 2020, and 28% of Maryland senior citizens (100,000 people) will suffer from dementia by 2025.

Maryland Alzheimer's Patients Who Wander and Become Missing Persons
Another concern among families, elder care professionals, and public safety officials is the risk for Alzheimer's and dementia patients to walk or drive off and become missing persons. Six in 10 people with Alzheimer's disease will wander (Source: ProjectJason.org). Too often we read news stories of a senior citizen who has wandered away from their home or a nursing home and becomes at risk of being injured or killed in a traffic pedestrian accident, or of dying from exposure or injury if they get lost or wander into a remote area. In addition, people with progressing dementia who are still driving are at risk of becoming confused and getting lost on the road, and causing death or injury to themselves and others if they become involved in a serious car accident.

The Alzheimer's Association reports that if the disease continues to progress unchecked, by 2050 an estimated 16 million Americans will have Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's Association: 2010 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures (PDF)

Project Jason: Aging Persons with Alzheimer's and Dementia Increase Missing Person
Statistics
(PDF)

Related Web Resources

National Institutes of Health (NIH): Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's Association (homepage)

December 15, 2009

Nursing Home Abuse and Wrongful Death: Will 98 Year Old Stand Trial for Murder of Roommate?

Maryland injury lawyers who assist families in nursing home abuse and neglect cases hear some sad and maddening stories of harm -- or even murder -- befalling seniors in the care of retirement facilities.

When most people in Maryland think about nursing home abuse, they usually suspect elder care staff as the most likely culprits. But the elderly residents themselves may also abuse their fellow senior citizens -- or worse. A chilling news story reported out of the Boston area last week focuses on the strangulation death of a grandmother who had recently celebrated her 100th birthday with her family.

According to an Associated Press report in The Baltimore Sun, a 98-year-old woman has been indicted for strangling and smothering her 100-year-old roommate by tying a plastic bag around her head because she felt she was "trying to take over the room." The two women's beds were separated by just four feet. The Sun reports that the victim's son had asked the facility to separate the two women due to tensions between them, but he was reassured that they were getting along -- and that his mother did not want to leave the room, where she had lived with her husband until his death in 2007.

The Boston Globe goes on to say that on the evening prior to the murder, the alleged perpetrator placed a table in front of the victim's bed, preventing her from going to the bathroom. When a nursing aide moved the table, the 98-year-old punched her. The 100-year-old was found asphyxiated the following morning, in a room that was just several feet from a nurses' station. When staff moved the woman to another room, she spotted a white shopping bag and was quoted as telling her new roommate, "I hope I don't have to use that." She reportedly had a history of dementia and erratic behavior.

A tragic case like this brings up many troubling questions for Maryland nursing home abuse attorneys, regarding whether or not this nursing home death could have been prevented, had staff and management heeded the warning signs. Massachusetts courts are pushing forward with indicting the 98-year-old, who was being evaluated in a psychiatric hospital. If she is found competent to stand trial, she will be the oldest murder suspect to go on trial in the state.

DA: 98-year-old Mass. woman strangled 100-year-old roommate because she was 'taking over' room
The Baltimore Sun Dec. 11, 2009

Woman, 98, indicted on murder charges
Boston.com Dec. 12, 2009

Related Web Resources

Maryland Department of Aging / Housing Information

Assisted Living in Maryland: What You Need to Know (PDF doc)
University of Maryland Law School 2002