The family of 79-year-old Shirley Marion Renner has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a Yuba City nursing home alleging negligence and abuse. According to this news report in the Appeal Democrat, Renner’s daughter and son – Valeree Espinoza and David Vestal — allege that their mother was horribly neglected at the Yuba Skilled Nursing Center. They say Renner suffered neck and spine injuries, severe bedsores, broken and missing teeth, “physical and emotional pain, desperation, abandonment, feelings of helplessness, anguish, shock, fear of imminent death” and eventually – death.
Although a Placer County death certificate lists heart attack and lung problems as causes of death, the Renner family complains that improperly treated bedsores, malnutrition and dehydration contributed to Renner’s failing health and death in November 2007. Renner has stayed about two years at the Emmanuel Health Care Center, which is now known as the Yuba Skilled Nursing Center and owned by Yuba Care & Rehabilitation Center Inc.
Renner’s son and daughter were also not informed about Renner’s poor condition including the bedsores, missing teeth and bruises on her arms and legs. Renner’s children eventually removed her from the nursing home because their mother thought she would die there. Although medical records have not yet been subpoenaed, Renner was apparently also given inappropriate psychotropic medications to treat dementia and Alzheimer’s. Yuba Skilled Nursing Center gets only a rating of two out of five stars from the Medicare Nursing Home Compare Web site. The nursing home also received eight complaints and two California Department of Public Health deficiencies in 2008.
According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report in 2003, deficiencies in the nation’s nursing homes are increasing at an alarming rate. One in five nursing homes nationwide – about 3,500 facilities – have serious deficiencies that cause residents actual harm or place them in immediate jeopardy, the report said. The report also found significant understatements of the care problems that should have been treated a lot more seriously – pressure sores, severe weight loss and multiple falls resulting in broken bones and other injuries.
I’m glad that Shirley Renner’s family is suing this nursing home for their negligence and callous disregard for a vulnerable, elderly patient. While civil remedies are available to victims of California nursing home negligence and abuse, families that are looking to place loved ones in nursing homes would be well-advised to take proactive steps to prevent such a situation. There are many Web sites that rate nursing homes or give useful pointers on how to pick the right nursing home for your loved one.