Many facilities offer multiple levels of care depending on the needs of the patient: skilled nursing care, assisted living and independent living options. The variety of services can be great for patients who may desire to remain at a facility for an extended period of time. If, and when, the patient requires more assistance they can simply move from one area to another with a fair amount of continuity.
It should go without saying that even the most independent patients at these one-stop-shop facilities are still dependent on staff and their colleagues for some assistance and support. Even folks living in an independent living environment are there because they can not or choose not to live in their true homes.
The Journal Sentinel reported on situation at a Milwaukee independent living facility that highlights the problems encountered by an injured patient at the facility. Like many independent living facilities, Clement Manor has multiple levels of care for patients depending upon their needs.
However, even the ‘independent living’ apartments are equipped with pull-cords that a resident can use to contact staff for assistance in an emergency situation. Implicitly, by having the pull-cord in the patients room, there is an understanding that staff can– and will, attend to patient needs when they are notified.
A lawsuit filed against Clement Manor and its sponsoring entities School Sisters of St. Francis and School Sisters of St. Clare alleges staff at the Clement Manor facility acted ‘inexcusably and unconsciously’ when they ignored a patients call for help — for more than four hours. The delay in response to the patients injury is alleged to have contributed to the patients death due to her uncontrolled bleeding.
An investigation into the incident by local police determined that the patient’s pull cord was activated at 12:25 a.m on February 15th after the patient somehow cut a varicose vein. Despite a visual and audible alarm at the attendants station, no assistance was provided until 4:34 a.m. when the patient was found dead in her bathroom from uncontrolled bleeding.
Independent Living Facilities & Lack of Regulation
If the patient’s family can establish that this independent living facility acted negligently in responding to the patient’s request for help, a jury will then asses damages against the facility. However, this situation may be more difficult that you would think given the fact that there really is no regulation– and really no formal ‘standard of care’ for this patients family to base their claims on.
Certainly, as our population ages and as more and more living arrangements are introduced, we need to impose standards to help protect those who may be unaware that they really are testing uncharted waters.
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