My Mom passed away due to AL Memory Care negligence after less than two days at the AL. What would you have done?


We made the difficult choice of putting Mom in an AL facility with memory care because of her severe dementia. I told them she could not walk but often forgets that she can't walk and tries to get up out of bed or the wheel chair. They said they were going to put her in a low bed with a crash mat which never happened. Mom got up during the night and fell and broke her hip. She went through the surgery with no problem. Then I get a call from the surgeon telling me that my mother fell off the operating table (while under anesthesia) but did not get hurt. A week later when my brother and I were vistiing Mom she passed away. One minute we were talking to her and the next minute she was gone. After her death I received a bill from the AL for over $8,000. It included the next month's costs. I called the ED at the facility and she said she was going to go over the bill and send me another through May 9th. My Mom dies May 7th. When I asked her why she said because her clothes were still in the room. I told her I would decide if a needed a lawyer when I received the next bill. A week later I received call from the ED telling me they were going to forgive the whole bill. I thanked her. I miss my Mom terribly. She lived with me and now I feel so alone. What would you have done if you were in my position?

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I know at the place my mom is, when she dies I have X number of days to clear out. It's in the terms & conditions of the contract. It's important to know these little detail rules ahead of time.
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At least speak with an Attorney regarding the hospital fall. Hear what he has to say. If it was me it would haunt me forever if I didn't at least get my legal questions answered.
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Again, thank you for all your input. My mother's death certificate said she died from aspiration. I doubt that was the cause because her doctor told me that day that she had a blood clot in her calf. My mother also had a living will and a DNR. My mother was an amazing woman with a great sense of humor. She knew there was someting wrong with her. She use to tell me that her brain is all mixed up. When I told her she had dementia she said "Well I don't want dementia!" I know she is at peace now with our Lord and my Dad.
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GinGin1044, I'm so sorry for your loss and I wish you comfort.

It seems clear to me that you are not interested in financial compensation but that you have a good many unanswered questions. And I do think you are owed explanations.

What I'd suggest is that you write down all the things you are left wondering about - such as why her falls risk wasn't better managed after you had made it so clear; and what exactly happened during her surgery - and put them in letter form to the ALF, the hospital, and the regulatory authorities for your area.

You are entitled to know what went on, and people should come forward with proper answers to your questions. I hope you get a respectful reply from the people who, after all, were paid to take professional care of your elderly, vulnerable mother and let her down.
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My condolences for the loss of your mother. I'm surprised that the surgeon would volunteer the disturbing information that your mother fell off the operating table while under anesthesia. Was there an earthquake? If there wasn't, something's very fishy. Knowing that your mother fell (or was dropped) while she was in the care of professionals who should have been looking out for her health and well-being must be extremely distressing to you. I strongly suggest consulting with a medical malpractice attorney. The initial consultation should cost nothing, and it might give you some idea of what, if anything you want to do next.
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I am so sorry for your loss and your sadness.

As to any pursuit, here are my thoughts, based on having worked for medical malpractice attorneys (among other practice areas) and also having had to get aggressive with various medical facilities at one time or another in the care of my parents.

But first, what was the specific cause of death listed on the Death Certificate?

1. I doubt any attorney would consider a case against any facility for a woman of your mom's age. Attorneys are in business for profit as well as personal satisfaction. At that age, there normally wouldn't be much longevity left, so the question would turn on 2 issues:

a. Was the care consistent with the standard of care for people with similar diagnoses in that geographic area, and

b. What are the actual losses for someone who had probably already lived longer than statistics would predict and had severe dementia?

Loss of life earlier than statistically normal is one of the factors considered in any malpractice award.

In addition, expert witnesses would be hard to find, and one at least would be required for any litigation.

2. If you do want to take action against the nursing home, order a copy of your mother's entire chart. It would be best to have a nurse or geriatic doctor review it to determine what misdeeds might have occurred, but again the issue arises as to what any potential gain could be had given her age. And I suspect most doctors or nurses would not want to spend the time reviewing records knowing that any litigation wasn't realistic.

If there were negligence, would you want to prolong the issue in litigation or move on and remember your mother without the difficulty of legal fights?

Sorry, but unfortunately malpractice ligitation is based on bottom line issues as well as negligence issues.

People who haven't worked on litigation or been parties to it will not be able to know how emotionally unsettling it is. It's not something I would want to deal with after a death.

3. The hospital is a different story. I see no way she could have fallen off an operating table, especially under anesthesia. There's definitely something amiss here.

It's my understanding that restraints are used to secure the person in place, in part to prevent any unexpected movement. If she was PROPERLY anesthetized, how could she have moved enough to fall off?? Did she levitate?

4. You could send a written request (by cert. mail) to the hospital records department and order all her records from that surgery. Again, the task of finding someone knowledgeable to review them is an issue. But it might provide some insight into the alleged fall off the table.

5. If negligence or other malfeasance was determined during the review, you could contact the hospital administrator and advise of your dissatisfaction and intent to file complaints with any and all appropriate agencies.

Still, the issue arises as to what would be personally gained, but if there was negligence, you would be exposing bad medical practices and perhaps creating an environment for further review and correction, and perhaps saving someone else's life.

If I were you, I would follow up with the hospital by ordering the records, if for nothing more than finding out how the fall occurred. And believe me, it better be documented in the records!

So often I hear "sue them!" as a way of righting wrongs, or getting personal satisfaction. Anyone who has enough money for filing fees can institute a suit, but that doesn't mean it won't be dismissed through motions and evaluation of whether there's a valid cause of action. And judges can assess frivolous filing fees against the plaintiff, and defense counsel can ask for reimbursement of its costs by the plaintiff as well.

I hope this is a consoling thought even though it may sound a bit harsh ....your mother likely lost some time from her life, but with severe dementia, it wouldn't have been quality time and at some point would be just the opposite. She's been spared that now.

When my mother died in a dementia unit of a SNF, I suspected it was because she (and my father and I) had been exposed to an unknown contagious disease from her roommate who had been coughing excessively from something which she didn't have when Mom was first put in that room.

I developed a severe sore throat and cough, and Dad ended up hospitalized the next day with CHF and pneumonia.

I was livid that the roomie hadn't been moved out earlier, as I was sure that her violent hacking had spread something to Mom and caused Mom's death. My sister who was a psychiatric nurse asked me what I expected to gain if I went after them legally.

Mom had some dementia, had fallen several times and was afraid to walk or even stand. Her quality of life was severaly compromised. All she had to live for was visits from the family, but otherwise her days were lacking in anything positive, even though the facility was beautiful, had good therapy programs, etc. Given her fear of falling and even walking, she had nothing to live for.

After thinking it over, and 12 years later, I am glad that she was spared any more suffering that she had already endured, and glad that I dropped the issue of any kind of legal action.

Hope this helps.
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So sorry for your lost. I can just imagine how heart breaking it must be.

Just curious, what was the cause of death for your Mom? Was it surgery related? Or was the cause from the fall from her bed or the fall from the operating table? Or both? Or because of her age the surgery was too overwhelming? Or was it some other ailment or just her time to go?

As for the fall in the nursing home, think of it this way.... what if your Mom had fallen out at bed at home and broke her hip?
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You said " called the ED at the facility and she said she was going to go over the bill and send me another through May 9th. My Mom dies May 7th. When I asked her why she said because her clothes were still in the room. I told her I would decide if a needed a lawyer when I received the next bill. A week later I received call from the ED telling me they were going to forgive the whole bill"

Yeah, I'll bet they did. they know they were wrong and they were trying to calm you down. Don't take it, Please.
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If you can bring yourself to do it, please sue them. No, it will not bring your dear Mother back, but it may save others. They are wrong and it is egregious.
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People who are 96 are bound to fall and when they do something breaks. I don't see a problem with the ALF, but I was totally shocked that she fell off the operating table. Holy smokes I would report that to the joint commission right away. If you are thinking of suing, forget it, you won't get much for a 96 year old. But the fall in the OR should NEVER happen, ever ever ever.
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