The day of reckoning may be rapidly approaching for the owner of an assisted living home in Arizona. Authorities have charged Lydia Zagrean, with two counts of felony elder abuse after an episode of apparent physical abuse came to light involving an elderly resident at her family. According to reports in azcentral.com, the criminal charges were brought following an investigation of the sudden death of a 74-year-old womanwho’s death was attributed to a brain hemorrhage caused by ‘blunt-force’ trauma. If convicted, Ms.Zagrean couldfaced more than 12 years in prison.
Even before the medicalexaminersreport was disclosed, the situation drew the concern of the resident’sdaughter whomhad always identified her mother as a healthy and physically active woman during her stay at the assisted living home. Consequently, when the resident’s daughter was summoned to see her mother at the facility– due to a substantial decline in her condition, she immediately became suspicious of the situation. While Zagrean blamed her patient’s condition on a series of repeated-falls, medical workers found extensive injuries during an exam of the woman including:
- Deepbruisingon the chest, torso
- Wrist fractures
- Genital lice
- Facial laceration
A clean record
Despite the alarming findings documented by authorities, the facilities file was noticeably sparse. In fact, there was almost no records– relating to the prior concerns at the facility itself (or Ms.Zagrean).
Indeed troubles can develop at anytime. Issues can arise at some of the most heralded facilities which have long-standing track records of good care. As a lawyer who has been involved in cases involved injuries and abuse at assisted living facilities and other types of alternative care facilities, I find the overall lack of any meaningful inspection policy or enforcement protocol by regulatory agencies to be alarming. While the issues described in the above context could arguably happen in any facility– no matter how closely the facility is monitor– I tend to believe that facilities simply operate differently when they know someone is looking over their shoulder.
Time to expand inspections of alternative care facilities
Assisted living facilities, residential care facilities for the elderly and other types of alternative living arrangements for the elderly have witnessed immense growth over the past decade. I relate the expansion of this ‘alternative seniorcare’ industry to a convergence of factors including: a growing senior demographic, a disdain for institutional nursing homes, and a prevailing view that the least restrictive care environment is preferable.
I’m a huge proponentforindividual choice, but when it comes to selecting an appropriate care facility, the lack of meaningful categories and facility regulations leaves many seniors and their families without the necessary tools to make informed decisions. While state budgets for senior care continue to be reduced, lawmakers at the municipal, state and national level need to consider implementing new measures to protect many unsuspecting seniors from exposure to abuse and neglect at facilities which may not have been in existence at the time present regulatory measures were put into place.