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Case Study – “Suit: Facility let woman ‘waste away’”

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Updated 2-28-13 Suit: Facility let woman ‘waste away’  is the title of a front page article in the Sacramento Bee, my local paper. 

Here is a brief summary of the lawsuit:

  • Joan Boice was suffering from Alzheimer’s and was no longer able to live at home.
  • In September 2008 she was moved into Emeritus at Emerald Hills, in Auburn (a community in the foothills outside of Sacramento)
  • Three months later the community discovered pressure ulcers had formed on both of her feet, her right hip and her right elbow.  Emerald Hills staff immediately began the process of having her transferred to a skilled nursing facility.
  • She died 3 months after being moved the memory care building to a skilled nursing building.

Here are the charges being made by the family:

  • Emeritus is only commitment is to growing their empire and making money.
  • They had inadequate staffing and staff training
  • They should never have admitted her to the community as frail as she was
  • It is unclear if they are suggesting they should have never let the wounds develop or if the primary error was not promptly noticing and addressing them.

Here are the questions/issues (some legal, some operational):

  • Should she have been admitted in the first place?
  • Did she have pressure sores when she was admitted?
  • When were the pressure sores first discovered?  (There is conflicting evidence)
  • Should the community have discovered the pressure sores sooner?
  • Is this a case of being too aggressive about getting one more head in a bed?
  • At what point should care givers have noticed newly formed pressure sores?
  • Is this just a case of greedy lawyers taking advantage of a terrible situation or do they have a righteous cause?
  • Who’s fault was this . . . if anyone’s?
  • Does the family have any responsibility in all of this?

Given that she may very well have died in the same time frame, should the company have any financial obligation here? What do you think? What are the issues? Updates: February 17:  http://www.sacbee.com/2013/02/16/5194796/judge-rejects-mistrial-claim-in... February 26: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/02/26/5217160/doctor-testifies-emeritus-facil...


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