A VALUABLE LESSON REGARDING ELDER ABUSE AND NEGLECT – Michele, the daughter of 76-year-old Irene, diligently researched several local care facilities when her mother’s health declined to a point where she needed living assistance. In an effort to find the right place, Michele looked into several different care facilities, taking tours of the facilities and meeting with their directors and staff. When she found a place that looked nice, a facility that stated it could meet all of her mother’s needs, she even agreed to pay additional fees for her mother to receive top level “enhanced services” to ensure that her mother would be properly cared for in her elder years. After such extensive research, how then is it possible that Irene was neglected to the point of suffering at least six falls, a severely broken hip, and several decubitus ulcers while residing at the facility?
This is what Michele asked the director and staff of a Southern California Residential Care Facility for the Elderly (“RCFE”) when her mother was severely neglected after top level administration had assured her that her mother would receive “great enhanced care” by its “team of nurses” who provided “24-hour care.” Unbeknownst to Michele, the facility did not even employ the services of licensed nurses at its RCFE.
Key administration of the Southern California RCFE falsely led Michele to believe that the facility would provide her mother the best possible care money could buy. Unfortunately, this false sense of security lead Michele to place her trust in the facility’s administration and staff.
During a pre-admission tour of the facility, the Executive Director assured Michelle that the facility could meet her mother’s needs because they had a “great team of nurses” who would provide “great enhanced care” to residents with special needs, such as Irene. Because the facility appeared professional and reputable, Michele authorized the facility to assess her mother’s needs in order to determine whether they could be met appropriately.
During the assessment, the RCFE specifically learned of all the ailments affecting Irene, including her total blindness, her need to be fed through a G-tube, and her potential as a high fall risk resident. After learning these needs, the facility’s administration informed Michele that her mother was appropriate for placement and residency at the facility. Two days after the evaluation and following several persuading discussions with the facility’s Executive Director and Director of Resident Services, Michele admitted her mother into the RCFE.
Irene was not only totally dependent on the facility’s staff for daily activities, but she was also completely dependent on staff for her health, safety, and well-being, a fact that the administrative staff assured Michele they were capable of satisfying, given their in-depth evaluation of Irene before admission. Based upon their own assessment, Irene was deemed to require the top level of care and Michele agreed to pay significant additional fees for the facility’s “enhanced services.”
Despite the fact that the facility had identified Irene as being at high risk for falling, just days after her admission to the facility she fell from her bed. In all, during the six months she resided at the facility, Irene fell at least six times. In a direct effort to cover up their neglect, the facility failed to give notice to Michele or Irene’s primary care physician each and every time she fell. The facility also failed to take appropriate measures to devise and implement a care plan to prevent further fall incidents from occurring. On the sixth fall, she severely broke her hip, a fracture that required reparative surgery.
After undergoing emergency surgery to repair her broken hip – which Michele believed was the result of an isolated fall incident – the Executive Director of the facility assured Michele that Irene would be well-cared for upon her return to the facility, and Michele believed that her mother was indeed receiving the best possible care money could buy. Unbeknownst to her, Irene was not even receiving proper “basic care.” Unaware that this was a pattern of problems within the facility, Michele returned her mother to the facility.
After Irene’s return to the facility, the under-staffing situation continued to degrade to the point that she was even further neglected, being left in her bed for unknown amounts of time without being moved or re-positioned. As a result, she suffered numerous decubitus ulcers (bed sores), all of which caused severe pain and required specialized medical care. However, the staff did not follow Irene’s physicians’ instructions in caring for the ulcers, causing them to worsen and they ultimately progressed to Stage III classification. It was at this point that Michele removed her mother from the facility, thereafter retaining legal counsel.
During litigation, it was uncovered that the facility’s lack of care for Irene was not an isolated event, but rather the inevitable result of defendants’ fraudulent misrepresentations and conscious disregard for the health, safety, and welfare of its residents. The problem was systemic in that the facility was not only understaffed, but the minimal staff that was on duty was entirely untrained and unqualified to provide proper wound care. In addition, the acting ownership and administration failed to properly train its staff to ensure compliance with Title XXII of the California Code of Regulations in a direct effort to minimize expenses and increase profits. As such, the care and attention rendered to the residents of the facility was secondary to the overall goal of defendants to maximize their profits. Despite express representations that had been made by the facility, the RCFE failed to provide Irene the promised level of care she not only needed, but more importantly paid to receive.
Over the period of nine months, attorney William M. Berman aggressively litigated Irene’s case against the Southern California based RCFE and its managing agents. After uncovering many acts of wrongdoing, Mr. Berman, on behalf of his clients, was successful in obtaining a settlement for the full limits of the defendants’ insurance policy in the amount of $1,000,000.00.
While Irene eventually made a full recovery, an important lesson can be learned from the wrongful acts that were committed against Irene and Michelle. The lesson: Regardless of how attractive a facility may look, it is extremely important to ask the right questions of a facility in which you intend to place a loved one at, and just as important to monitor the actions of the facility staff in which you place a loved one to ensure that they are providing the proper care and attention that your loved one rightfully deserves.