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Elder Abuse, Neglect and Death – Double Tragedy for One Couple

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Two wrongful death lawsuits were filed recently in Contra Costa Superior Court against Windsor Manor, a nursing home in Concord, California, as a result of the deaths of two elderly women. Surprisingly, the two women who died at Windsor Manor were the elderly Mothers of the married couple – Nancy and Jack Roberts.

And, just so you know this couple is not ‘sue-happy’! Jack and Nancy, married for 42 years, have never filed a lawsuit before in their lives, but when Nancy’s Mom, Doris 91, suffered a fatal fall in early 2006 Nancy had had enough. According to Nancy’s lawsuit, her Mom had a history of multiple falls at Windsor Manor, but their so-called skilled nursing staff neglected to provide a call light that was within her Mother’s reach, and none of the staff assisted her Mom to the bathroom, even though they knew she was prone to falling – leaving her to fend for herself.

Remarkably, Jack Roberts’ Mom, Nellie 93, passed away a year before Nancy’s Mom, at Windsor Manor. Jack’s lawsuit claims that his Mom’s death from aspiration pneumonia was preventable if the skilled nursing staff had been tending to his Mom’s condition. But, how could they when they were seemingly understaffed?

California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform indicate on their website that the last Department of Health Services certification inspection of Windsor Manor, then known as Valley Manor, was done on March 9, 2003, and while they indicate they are up-to-date on citations from Health and Human Services as of April 11, 2007, the deaths of the Mothers of Jack and Nancy Roberts must have been overlooked. Could there be other deaths that have fallen through the cracks?

Consumer Reports has consistently warned the public about placing their elderly parents in Windsor Manor. Unfortunately, Jack and Nancy Roberts were unaware of that warning, and like many others before them and after them their loss weighs heavy on their hearts – especially on Mother’s Day.

Lawsuits are not going to bring back Doris or Nellie but they will allow Nancy and Jack to look deeply into factors contributing to the deaths of their mothers. If they find, as they strongly suspect, that the nursing home did not properly provide for Doris or Nellie, they will be held accountable. Holding nursing homes accountable for their errors, mismanagement and/or understaffing is the most effective way to keep the quality of services at nursing homes up to minimum acceptable standards. The State Department of Health Services does not have the resources and/or the will to do the job for us, so we must take on the task ourselves.

Yes, some nursing homes may be put out of business by lawsuits over their inferior delivery of services. Isn’t that the way it should be. If they can not or will not deliver the minimum levels of care and service, they shouldn’t be in the nursing home business.

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