February 21, 2013

Elder Abuse Manslaughter Charges Pursued Against Facility Operator

by Levin & Perconti

One of the signs that elder abuse is being taken more seriously are the increases in penalties faced by those who are caught engaging in this conduct. It is well understood that the vast majority of mistreatment of senior community members never ends up in a police report or complaint charges with regulatory agencies. Instead, most seniors suffer in silence, living out their golden years in pain and depression.

Yet, one way that those unreported cases might be influenced is by setting the the example via significant punishments for those actually caught doing wrong. The deterrent effect may work to prevent some neglect, with wrongdoers knowing that they could face serious ramifications for their conduct.

More Criminal Charges for Egregious Caregiving Lapses
For example, in what is being reported as a first of its kind prosecution, an elder caregiver who was supposed to provide support at a senior living home is facing manslaughter charges following one resident’s death. As reported in the Sacramento Bee, the 88-year old resident in question had lived in the senior care facility managed by the defendant since 2007. The senior passed away last June, and it was soon learned that the death was caused in large part by massive bed sores that she developed while living at the facility. Essentially, a few of the bedsores, particularly on her buttocks, were so severe that she developed sepsis. Sepsis is a far too common cause of death for nursing home residents related to severe bodily reactions from germ or bacteria infections.

Sadly, no one seemed to care about the woman’s condition until it was too late. An emergency room doctor who treated the senior explained that the bed sores were among the worst he had ever seen. They were of the “Stage 4” variety--the most severe category.

The facility where the senior died is somewhat unique, as the caregiver is only licensed to provide support to six residents at a time. However, the operator explained that she usually only kept two to three residents. Even that proved to be too much, as the awful conditions this woman was forced to live in testifies to. The elderly woman’s family in this case was paying several thousand dollars a month to the defendant in order to provide the close care that they thought their loved one needed. Little did they know that the woman was instead being ignored, allowed to develop the painful bedsores which ultimately took her life.

In defending the pursuit of criminal charges in this case--and in similar matters--the state’s attorney general explained, “We know abuse of our elders is becoming more pervasive, so we must become more resolute in our protection of them."

If convicted of the charges in this matter, the care facility operator could face serious sanctions. Currently in jail on $300,000 bond, the defendant could be sentenced to as much as twelve years in prison for the elder abuse charge and another four for involuntary manslaughter. The criminal charges included special allegations because the elder abuse involved great bodily injury and death.

See Other Blog Posts:

Importance of Death Certificates

The Dangers of Bed Rails