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Nursing Home Lawsuit Filed After Resident Left in the Heat

Our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers often remind community members that elder abuse does not always involve direct, physical harm as is evidenced by an article in L.A. Now. A lawsuit has been filed against an assisted-living facility alleging that the responsible parties left the 89-year-old woman, Loretta Hooker, outside in the scorching heat. Hooker began living in the facility in April 2010 due to her weak physical condition and progression of mild dementia. Her son moved her into the facility due to its increased security for patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia as she began needing greater assistance with day-to-day tasks.

In August of the following year, the son found his mother on the patio, unresponsive. She was taken to the emergency room where doctors stated that she was in cardiac arrest. Doctors unsuccessfully attempted to lower her body temperature, but she was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. Doctors determined that the cause of death was cardiovascular disease and hyperthermia. Her existing cardiovascular problems were triggered when she was left in the heat.

The nursing home neglect lawsuit, which was filed in June 2012, states that Hooker’s body temperature was 103.3 degrees when she was pronounced dead. The facility is accused of elder abuse, neglect, and wrongful death. Medical and funeral expenses as well as compensation for pain and suffering are among the damages sought.

An investigation of the facility was undertaken by the California Department of Social Services. Although there was reason to believe that neglect had occurred, the Department took the position that there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone with a crime. The facility received a citation, which it subsequently attempted to appeal. Our Illinois nursing home neglect lawyers know that criminal charges are very rare in these situations and whether or not charges are filed is not connected to subsequent civil lawsuits.

The problem with any form of abuse is that it is often part of a cycle. Hooker was found in a similar state prior to this incident. She was left on the patio where her son found her in a weakened state. She was unable to get back inside without assistance, and her son was upset over the hazardous environment of the assisted-living home. He brought his mother inside, complained to the supervisors, and scheduled a meeting with the executive director of the facility. The second incident, taking Hooker’s life, happened one week later, prior to the scheduled meeting.

Even after complaints regarding negligence, supervisors left Hooker in the same condition a week later. The son’s attorney summarizes why this problem occurs by stating, “This case is all about the tragedy that occurs when elder care facilities put profits over their sacred responsibility to do everything possible to protect and enhance the lives of the people entrusted to their care.”

Whether neglect occurs due to putting profits over responsibility or due to plain negligence, it is important to research the history of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities prior to placing loved ones there. One common thing to look for includes whether the facility has been involved with numerous lawsuits alleging neglect.

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