Life Care Centers of America, a nursing home chain based in Tennessee that operates 13 nursing homes here in California, was recently indicted by a Middlesex, Mass. grand jury on charges of manslaughter, abuse and neglect of a long-term facility resident. According to the Boston Globe, this is the first time in Massachusetts that a national corporation has faced criminal manslaughter charges, said Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.
The charges stemmed from the death of Julia McCauley, a patient at the home who was prone to wandering the facility in her wheelchair. So her worried doctors had McCauley fitted with a tan plastic bracelet, called WanderGuard, that would set off an alarm and lock the doors if she wandered too close to the exits. So, how is it that McCauley was found in her overturned wheelchair dead at the bottom of the nursing home’s front stairs with a 3-inch gash in her forehead?
And where was the Wanderguard bracelet mandated by her doctor? McCauley’s WanderGuard was nowhere to be found! Her doctor’s orders required that the WanderGuard be checked once a day to ensure that it was on the patient and fully operating, but strangely those orders were not ever entered into her chart and she had not been wearing the bracelet for 2 ½ months prior to the fall that led to her death.
What I find even more obnoxious, if that’s possible, is that a state inspection put Life Care Center in the bottom 11 percent of facilities in terms of quality of care. And in spite of all that has happened and their obvious disregard for quality of patient care, they will only face a fine of up to $1,000 if convicted on the manslaughter charge, $5,000 on the abuse and neglect charge and $10,000 on making a false Medicaid claim.
The company was allegedly collecting Medicaid payments for McCauley’s care, which was supposed to include making sure she wore the safety bracelet. These thousands of dollars are peanuts for a nursing home that charges families obscene amounts of money each month to care for their loved ones. What a tragic shock this must have been for the woman’s family members who trusted this facility to care for their loved one! It is no doubt, a horrible breach of that trust.
For more information about patient rights, visit Medicare’s Web site. Also visit this Web site to see details on how to choose a nursing home.
If you or a loved one needs to consult with a California nursing home abuse attorney, please call Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys. Our consultations are always free and completely confidential.
Byline: Carol J. Gibbons, J.D.