There are thousands of well-respected and impeccably wonderful nursing homes across the United States. Places where seniors are treated as individuals, there are plenty of staff members to care for residents and a plethora of social activities to keep the seniors active and engaged in the community. Unfortunately, there are also nursing homes in the U.S. that that are only in the business of making money, that cannot or will not hire the number or quality of staff members to make the nursing home run smoothly. In these nursing homes, seniors are put in danger on a regular basis. Many of these homes are guilty of reckless endangerment, which is a crime committed by way of placing another person in a situation where they can be seriously injured or killed.
Nursing homes that are guilty of reckless endangerment don’t fit into just one socioeconomic bracket. Similarly, having the most extensive list of amenities or the posh location doesn’t exempt a nursing home from being found negligent of endangering the safety of its residents.
Shades Of Neglect: Reckless Endangerment Defined
The courts recognize a subtle difference between reckless endangerment and gross negligence; two criminal charges that can entail the same intent. In general, a person who is accused of reckless endangerment knew the potential impact of what he was doing and did it anyway, whereas with negligence the danger is often unstated and inadvertently results in injury or death.
A simple example of the different shades of meaning can be understood by considering two bicyclists going down a steep hill. One goes down fully knowing that a younger bicyclist is behind him and is going to follow him down the hill but goes anyway. The other bicyclist doesn’t know she is being followed at all. Now, let’s say that in each of these cases the younger bicyclist is seriously injured. The second bicyclist would be charged with gross negligence and the first bicyclist, who knew that what he was doing was dangerous and knew the younger bicyclist was following him, would be charged with reckless endangerment.
Neglect And Endangerment Statistics
In a study conducted between 1999-2001, researchers found that one-third of all certified residential care facilities in the U.S. were cited for some infraction that had the potential to result in injury or actually resulted in senior injury or death.
This significant violation record points to a larger issue in nursing homes, that of creating a safe environment for vulnerable seniors to live. For-profit nursing homes are traditionally more likely to allow seniors to live in unsafe conditions, with 32% fewer nurses than non-profit facilities and nearly 50% more reported infractions per year.
Cases Of Endangerment Abuse
Soma Manor House
In this case, a senior fell through the floor of a nursing home and suffered a variety of injuries, including a dislocated hip and many broken bones. The co-owner of the Maryland nursing home was charged with reckless endangerment for failing to lock the door leading to the area, where the floor had been removed for repair leaving only drywall and floor joists.
The assistant state attorney, in this case, stated that this failure to lock the door was considered “abuse by way of neglect”, which was being repaired and the failure to lock the door to the potentially dangerous area constituted “abuse by way of neglect”.
Griffin’s Loving Care Assisted Living Facility
The owner and a worker at this Maryland facility were charged with multiple counts of reckless endangerment and neglect. Not only was the four-bed facility holding three times that many residents, workers kept seniors confined to their rooms and the refrigerator and freezer locked. Seniors complained of being hungry and thirsty as well as being left alone.
Seniors throughout the country are promised protection from physical and emotional abuse through the Resident’s Bill of Rights, which has been adopted by most states in one form or another. However, reckless endangerment charges will continue to prevail in nursing home settings until administrators and regulators work together to create protective orders to combat intentional negligence.